Social media teems with cranks. Nowhere is this more evident than where issues of historic child abuse are concerned. The cranks who prey on this important issue exhibit an extreme and malign form of “groupthink”. Anyone who does not share their distorted views is a target for vitriol.
The stock-in-trade insult of these cranks is that anyone who questions extravagant accounts of alleged VIP “paedophile rings” in UK political circles is a paedophile apologist, a paedophile “enabler”, or a toxic troll who attacks “victims” i.e. does not accept blindly and at face value the claims of accusers.
Such crude and nasty slurs are a calculated misuse of language to caricature and demonise opponents, to shut down debate about matters of general interest, and to intimidate and silence critics.
Exaro, the now-defunct “fake news” agency, encouraged this slurring of opponents and critics. Now this form of attack may sound crazy. But in fact, it’s not. It’s a very specific Stasi tactic, known as Zersetzung.
What is Zersetzung?
The German historian Hubertus Knabe called this technique “diabolic”. It is a form of targeted oppression and psychological destabilisation of political opponents, instead of interning or prosecuting them. It is intended to humiliate and isolate people:
The goal was to destroy secretly the self-confidence of people, for example by damaging their reputation, by organizing failures in their work, and by destroying their personal relationships.
Directive 1/76 lists the following as tried and tested forms of Zersetzung, among others:
a systematic degradation of reputation, image, and prestige on the basis of true, verifiable and discrediting information together with untrue, credible, irrefutable, and thus also discrediting information; a systematic engineering of social and professional failures to undermine the self-confidence of individuals
The eminent reporter Luke Harding has written of this in his book “Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia”. He has personal experience of how Putin’s Russia applied similar tactics to foreign diplomats and journalists working in post-Communist Russia:
As applied by the Stasi, Zersetzung is a technique to subvert and undermine an opponent. The aim was to disrupt the target’s private or family life so they are unable to continue their “hostile-negative” activities towards the state. Typically, the Stasi would use collaborators to garner details from a victim’s private life. They would then devise a strategy to “disintegrate” the target’s personal circumstances – their career, their relationship with their spouse, their reputation in the community.
Now, I regret to say that I have also had direct personal experience of this. Watts, via a disinformation troll based in (wait for it!) Germany, has sought to smear me from 2015 onwards, by emphasising details about a cousin of mine who is much older than me and who, entirely fortuitously, has been a friend since university of the falsely accused Harvey Proctor. Watts used to work for Press TV – the affiliate of the Iranian State Broadcasting Corporation.
Goodwin, the German troll, tweets about me and members of my family (some now deceased) virtually non-stop, pretending to be obsessed with my cousin. He is not obsessed – he is doing this deliberately.
Decades ago, my cousin was involved in a case involving Iran. Now, none of this had anything whatsoever to do with me. Watts & his rancid band of conspiraloons like to pretend that there are “links” where, in reality, there are none. Their aim is to smear by association, to harass and intimidate.
I am as sure as I can be that Watts has been stirring that particular pot. Goodwin (as others have noticed) is Watts’ Grima Wormtongue.
Now, let’s get back to Sheahan, another one of Watts’ little helpers, also conveniently located abroad. According to her LinkedIn profile, Sheahan is retired and hangs out in Mugla, Turkey.
Ah, I hear you cry: Turkey! A despotic regime, known for its oppression of journalists, lawyers and political opponents. That Turkey.
Sheahan’s online persona
Sheahan has blocked me on Twitter for years, and vice versa. When she began tweeting, she was hectoring PM David Cameron about “paedos”. She signed her tweets Clare Sheahan. No intelligent person would pay any attention to her output, which is repetitive, clearly obsessed, and often very nasty.
She uses the word “nonce” to describe those convicted of sex offences (meaning prisoners segregated for their own protection). This is the language of vigilantes.
Whether Sheahan is a victim of abuse herself (as she alleges) is beside the point. Her tweeting is inflammatory and malicious, and sometimes threatening.
She is not associated with any reputable organisation, only with the convicted paedophile Carl Beech, the vicious anti-Semite and Icke-fanboy Alan Goodwin, the failed accuser in Operation Ruffle (Esther Baker), and – of course! – Mark Watts.
Sheahan featured, together with other supporters of Beech and Exaro, in an exhibition which Beech curated called the Wall of Silence. It launched at Colston Hall in Bristol on 5 January 2016, with support from the Southmead Project. Both Beech and Dr Elly Hanson (of Wiltshire Police’s Operation Conifer) spoke at the launch.
Sheahan appears obsessed with the idea of “cover-ups” of VIP abuse. She sometimes used the hashtag: PAEDOBRITAIN. She has been calling for arrests of those allegedly involved in a non-existent Westminster paedophile ring for years.
She is also a fan of the extreme anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, David Icke. Icke is a nasty fascist. He preaches that there is a Jewish plot to control the world. He appeals to extreme right and left alike.
Since the 1990s, Icke has also promoted bizarre claims that the British royal and political establishment is infested with a vast paedophile ring. He has claimed that the former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath, was involved in Satanic Ritual Abuse. That is a deranged fantasy.
Sheahan has viciously abused Ann Widdecombe for standing up for the late Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, repeatedly calling her a “bitch”.
Sheahan’s abuse of me
Sheahan’s attacks on me are even worse. She regularly heaps abuse on me, calling me “evil”, “moron”, “bitch”, “superbitch”, “evil bitch”, a “massive bitch”, “a cold calculating bitch”, “low lifes”, “scum”, “bag of poo”, “degenerate”, and “paedo apologist”, for years now.
Her tweets to me includes malicious threats and communications, such as:
Get off twitter bitch
Will this account @BarbaraHewson be getting a ‘Bitch of the Year Award’
Crawl back under a stone, you bitch
Report the bitch Thanks
This woman is a vile, vindictive, shameless, spiteful, evil, bitch!
She’s just a bullying, spiteful, nasty bitch who gets her ‘kicks’ destroying decent people
A lot more to come out on this evil bitch….this is just the ‘start’….
Barbara Hewson is a vile, nasty piece of work…
What a BITCH!!!!!
No lets get this bitch on Twitter dealt with once and for all !!!!!
She has also tweeted: “I wouldn’t leave a child alone with you.”
As any reasonable reader can see for him- or herself, such tweets about me are obviously illegal.
Sheahan has also been calling for me to be disbarred since 2016, in a grossly inflammatory and abusive way:
I’m noit [sic] ‘encouraging’ her, I intend getting the degenerate struck off for a 2 year hate campaign against CSA survivors/campaigners
If this ‘degenerate’ needs help stuffing her disgusting comments where the sun don’t shine, I am always available & ready to help.
Hearing horrific stories of childhood sexual abuse every day. To have degenerates speaking like this in our society is beyond sickening
She refers to me as ‘The Lunatic Fringe’. What I think of this degenerate isn’t printable. Unlike her, I am a ‘lady’.
This degenerate wants to play with survivor’s minds. Thats how it gets its kicks. What a bloody sick world we live in with people like this
A ‘degenerate’ who refers to child sex abuse survivors coming forward as ‘Mucho Whinging’ doesn’t like being referred to as a degenerate!!!
When a degenerate paedophile apologist refers to you as ‘the lunatic fringe’, you know you are doing something right !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyone who says survivors of horrific sexual abuse are ‘mucho whinging’ is a degenerate. For the record, that is the ‘polite’ version!!
ON BEHALF OF SEXUALLY ABUSED KIDS EVERYWHERE – If this disgusting degenerate isn’t struck off, then there is no justice in this world.
I’d call someone who calls child sex abuse survivors ‘Mucho Whinging’ & campaigners ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ a degenerate. Retweet if you agree
The word “degenerate” is a political insult used by the Nazi party, and by the alt-right today. Sheahan’s claim that it is polite is disingenuous.
Sheahan’s wilful misinterpretation
Sheahan seems obsessed by the words “mucho whinging” and “lunatic fringe”, which are in fact commonplace expressions in the English language.
She has repeatedly and falsely claimed that I called victims coming forward to disclose abuse “mucho whinging”. That is a wilful misinterpretation. It goes back to 4 August 2016, when the New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard resigned abruptly as Chair of the IICSA. She clearly had had enough. This was a major news story.
Goddard’s resignation upset some campaigners, who sought publicity to complain. One group complained that she did not consult them before resigning.
I was in Ireland at the time. I made a mildly sardonic comment about “mucho whinging” i.e. the reaction to Goddard’s resignation. This was an Article 10 protected exercise of my freedom of speech.
Sheahan’s explosive overreaction to a passing remark by someone at the other end of Europe – which was not even addressed to her – was absurd. She alleged that I had said something which I had not, in fact, said, which is classic straw-manning. It also makes one wonder about her grasp of written English, incidentally.
I only recall my tweet because of the fuss that she made, and continues to make about it. In truth, her continual petty griping about this is mucho whinging!
As for the expression “lunatic fringe”, this is a commonplace term for extreme crankdom. Sheahan, who admires the appalling Icke, richly deserves this description. Indeed, the eminent legal blogger Matthew Scott has told her:
The phrase I would prefer to “lunatic fringe” is “deluded and dangerous conspiracy theorists.”
Sheahan’s @sunnyclaribel account
Sheahan claims ownership of this account, although it is unclear who operates it on a day to day basis. It tweets from Turkey. The Sunny Claribel persona is a “bikini troll”, intended to sucker in vulnerable groups. Its massive output is matched by its vacuous and often nasty content. Volume does not mean quality, where this account is concerned.
Its output is clearly automated, and it must have multiple operators. Its output is extraordinary: 303, 000 tweets from May 2013. It operates virtually 24/7, and sometimes issues several tweets a minute. To put this in context, I have tweeted 114, 000 times since March 2011 on my personal Twitter account. Sheahan is clearly not the only person operating her Twitter account, therefore: that much is obvious.
Its vast output exceeds that of the BBC’s World News Twitter handle @BBCWorld: 291, 000 tweets from February 2007. The Kremlin-backed @RT_com Russia TV has only achieved 293, 000 since August 2009. The Twitter handle @CNN has tweeted 228, 000 times since February 2007.
This troll account is a professional operation of some sort (albeit one that is clearly rogue). I can only speculate about who may be really behind it. However, it is common knowledge that there are Russian trolls at work, whose aim is to create an atmosphere of anger and division online.
The recent scandal over Cambridge Analytica and SCL has also highlighted that some comms companies engage in political trolling for clients, who may be state or non-state actors.
Now, surprise, surprise: Exaro’s former director is Tim Pendry, a former Labour spin-doctor who runs two comms companies, PendryWhite and TPPR, serving non-Western interests. His LinkedIn profile states that he worked on economic modernisation in Russia in 1992. Pendry also rushed to defend Russia after the chemical weapons attack on the Skripals, on his blog (recently locked).
My hunch is – for what it is worth – that “Spambot”, as Sheahan has been nicknamed on Twitter for her endless spamming, is a botched prototype for a crude form of astro-turfing or online “influencing”, designed to promote belief in alleged VIP “paedophile rings” in UK political circles and to destabilise the UK Government.
Pendry’s, Sheahan’s and Watts’ succcess in that regard have been nul points. Their botched attempt at the mother of all VIP abuse scandals foundered under its own falsehoods and absurdity. How sore they must be. And so they want a scapegoat.
Well of course they do.
Her Twitter page links to a blog hosted in Turkey: sunnyclaribel.wordpress.com .
This appears to be a crude dummy site, headed: “4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site”. It displays animosity towards me dating back to 2016.
On 25 September 2016 (Sunday), she wrote “My thoughts on Barbara Hewson….”, calling me a “bullying paedophile apologist”.
One whole day later (Monday), she posted a further diatribe, “My view on Bullying Paedophile Apologist barrister Barbara Hewson”.
Her blog’s initial titles from 2014 display an obvious obsession about VIP paedophilia:
The disturbing case of Scotland Yard, the demoted DCI and the VIP child-abuse ring
Operation Cayacos: Is this the beginning of the end for Filthy Britain?
Why are the police covering up VIP child abuse?
Why a Whitewash won’t wash
But she never actually wrote any content for these dramatic, orphaned headlines. Maybe it all got pumped out by Exaro instead?
Sheahan always uses the same formulaic phrases in her repetitive attacks on me. This is obviously scripted. She has a very idiosyncratic use of apostrophes or, as they are called, scary quotes. For example, she has alleged:
Barbara Hewson has run a ‘hate/abuse’ and intimidation campaign against child sex abuse survivor, campaigners & anyone who makes comments on her DISGUSTING tweets.
She has spent her evenings ‘tweeting and deleting’ abuse to get her ‘fix.’
This is as potty as it sounds.
Now, the only other person I have noticed lately using scary quotes is one Shy Keenan (posts passim).
As well as being an Icke fan, Sheahan’s @sunnyclaribel account also tweets and retweets other notorious anti-Semitic accounts e.g. the appalling Holocaust denier @calamiTcat, whose operator (perhaps significantly) used a Russian e-mail address; @CDavisRusso, who has tweeted “Unlike some I do believe Jews were killed during WW2 as a punishment from God”; and the German anti-Semite @ciabaudo who works for Miele HQ as a translator.
It is enthusiastically supported by the Hollie Greig campaign in Scotland. This group is notorious for making false abuse allegations against prominent people. Its leader, Robert Green, was convicted of harassment in 2012. He tried to get the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police to pursue allegations of Satanic Ritual abuse against the late PM, Sir Edward Heath.
Draw your own conclusions. But look out for Watts’ fingers in this pie.