Keelan Balderson of WideShut.co.uk joins the program today to discuss examples of child abuse witch hunts in the alternative media and how they can go very poorly. We examine the Hollie Greig case, where a Down’s syndrome girl was allegedly abused by a high-ranking pedophile ring for years, and how it spread through the alternative media without people verifying basic facts (like whether the victims were born at the time or whether the accused actually existed). We also talk about the recent allegations of child abuse in Hampstead, and what these stories tell us about how the alt media functions and how we can improve our own open source investigation into these topics.
TRANSCRIPT and SOURCES:
JAMES CORBETT: Welcome ladies and gentlemen, welcome. This is James Corbett of corbettreport.com it has just turned the 10th of April, 2015 here in Japan and today I’m joined on the line from the UK by our guest Keelan Balderson and if that name rings a bell to you from a previous Corbett Report interview then congratulations because you have an extremely good memory. Now, I’m looking at interview 300 on The Corbett Report website, that was now 4 years ago. So it’s been 4 years since we’ve talked to Keelan at that time we we’re talking to him about the 7/7 bombings. He did some very important work on that including a documentary called ‘7/7 – The Big Picture‘, that I hope listeners will already be familiar with and if not I hope they will check that work out at WideShut.co.uk, Keelan Balderson thank you so much for coming back on the program today.
KEELAN BALDERSON: Thanks James, it’s a pleasure to be back after 4 years.
CORBETT: Yeah, well a lot of catching up to do. As I say you are at WideShut.co.uk and I’ve noticed a series of posts that you’ve done in recent months on a very interesting and I think a timely topic for an investigation that we’re doing at corbettreport.com as listeners may or may not know. Back in January I started an open-source investigation into ‘Pedophiles In Politics’, looking at some of the breaking headlines around the VIP pedophile ring in Westminster and the Epstein case in the Unites States and of course that opens the Pandora’s Box into all of the other political pedophilia scandals that have been uncovered over the years.
So we’ve started that open-source investigation at corbettreport.com and after months of accruing data, going through data, sifting data and trying to make it into a narrative I will be releasing the podcast of that investigation very shortly. But before that happens I wanted to talk to you Keelan about the work that you’ve been doing recently on the Hampstead children’s abuse allegations that people may or may be familiar with and also an investigation that you did now 3 years ago into the Hollie Greig case. So these are a couple of cases of alleged child abuse that were picked up and heavily promoted in certain sectors of the alternative media despite the flimsy and even non-existent evidence to back up a lot of these accusations and that’s what I want to concentrate on today.
So for people who may not have heard of these cases why don’t we start with the Hollie Greig case. Which again I know you did cover a few years ago now so I will call on your memory to try to dredge up some of the details of this but for people who are unfamiliar with that case why don’t you tell us just the details of what that case was and what is was about?
BALDERSON: Sure, the Hollie Greig story it first really emerged on the internet in late 2009 – early 2010. It was basically an allegation that this young Scottish lady called Hollie, she was an adult in 2009 and she’s also a sufferer of Downs Syndrome. Which is basically a condition where it keeps you at the mental of a child, also it’s learning and social difficulties and what not. It was claimed by Hollie’s mother Anne and a man named Robert Green that from the age of 6 until basically her late teens she was the victim of a pedophile network.
Now, this so-called ring allegedly involved a father, a brother, friends of the family but also people with a high-standing in their local community there in Aberdeen. So a teacher was named and shamed, a police officer, a sheriff which in Scotland is like a mid-level judge. Ultimately upwards of 20 or more people were named and shamed online. Their names were printed on leaflets and were passed around the local community. Letters were sent to people’s addresses outlining these allegations and it was a very emotive story. This idea that somebody with severe learning difficulty could be targeted so horribly by this so-called network. It does make you want to do something about it and it really blew up online. The story went viral in much the same way that many of these emotive stories go viral and you can think of Kony 2012 and all that kind of thing. We had the ‘Google Hollie Greig’ campaign that came off the back of this. People would change their internet profile pictures to just the words Google Hollie Greig, I’m sure many of your listener probably saw all of that and it was spread all over social media.
But people also took to the streets, they went on marches handing out all of the leaflets and things. Robert Green, as I say who was the main spokesperson of this, he did video conferences and traveled from town to town, village hall to village hall trying to spread the story and a lot of alternative media also picked up on this and gave Robert Green and Anne Greig free reign to say what they wanted really but when you get down to it nobody really seemed to ask the basic question, was this story true? Is the evidence there? Is what supposedly happened to Hollie is it true? No one really put it through a critical lens or even tried to verify anything it was really said but it really did snowball into quite a big campaign for a year or two there.
CORBETT: It certainly did until such point that some people really did start to put it through that critical lens as you say and discovered that not only was some of the evidence was flimsy but some of it was non-existent. Literally non-existent including some of the people who were accused of being in this ring literally do not exist. Tell us about some of the details that problematize this story.
BALDERSON: Yeah so I’ll take you through how I go into the other side of the story. We’re talking perhaps late 2010 maybe 2001 not really sure now that it’s been a while but I came to the conclusion that I didn’t know what happened. It wasn’t necessarily that I knew the story was false but I’d just not done the legwork to verify the facts and make sure that what I was reporting was true. So I made that decision because early on I’d jumped on the bandwagon but I made the decision quite quickly that ‘Hang on, maybe I’m jumping the gun here’. So I took it all down from my website quite early on and it wasn’t until a good few years after that that the idea that the story might not be true began to surface a little bit more prominently. Lot’s of other people were having doubts, it was popping up on Facebook, groups were being started to talk about it and what not.
So I basically just had a look at what people were saying and it quickly became apparent that Robert Green, the spokesperson for the case, he was being very loose with the things that he was saying. Fro example he made claims quite often that people with Downs Syndrome can’t lie. It’s a ridiculous thing to say really there’s no genetic condition or disease that forces people to tell the truth. Whether they know what they’re saying is the truth or not, no one is compelled to tell the truth no matter what kind of problem they may suffer from. So it was all kind of dubious things like that and in the process of the looking at these ideas I got in contact with a group of people who originally supported this story, they were kind of in the inner-circle and involved with the campaigning and they were some of the people who were really close to what was going on and they made the decision to walk away because they were discovering all sorts of different details that weren’t really adding up, there was spin going on. The side would claim that ‘We have this kind of information’ but they wouldn’t release it and those that did get hold of documentation they determined that there’s more plausible explanations for some of this.
So, just a few examples of what I’m talking about, the sheriff who named and shamed. It was alleged that the abuse was taking place at his sister’s house. So some research was done and it came back and it was revealed that well he doesn’t have a sister. So they (Green and Greig) backtracked and said ‘Well no, it was his sister-in-law’ but he doesn’t have a sister-in-law either. So you have to wonder well if it happened at his sister-in-law or sisters house and he doesn’t have any of these well is there really a house and no one really described where this house was.
There were certain names of people, as you say, who were allegedly involved in the case and when you do some basic checking on public records and such, these people names they’re not just not real people. They’re just random names that were thrown out there.
There’s another point, it was alleged that Hollie’s Uncle was brutally murdered because he discovered the truth about this case. Turns out when you look at the coroners report that he actually took his own life for unrelated reasons. He gassed himself in his car, it’s a relatively common thing sad enough and the only physical damage that was recorded was from a passerby who noticed what was going on, saw this guy in his car, the car had caught fire by then, he pulled him out did CPR to try to get him breathing again and that caused a certain amount of damage. I guess you could say we don’t know 100% that that’s what went down but that was what was on the coroners report and over time you basically start to see that all of these points that were initially made in the beginning of this case, they become less convincing, they can be explained away in a more plausible manner and you start to see how some of this stuff was spun or misrepresented. The overall story just basically fell apart.
So I as I say was in contact with this group. I spoke to 2 of the ladies that were accused by Anne Greig and Robert Green. They seemed like perfectly normal people they explained to me how their lives were absolutely ruined by these allegations. One of the ladies had to close her business because of all the rumors and gossip about it and she maintained that she never even met Hollie in any real way until she was 18. So how could she have been there when this supposedly happened from 6 years of old. There’s so much unsubstantiated information that just ran out there with no second thought.
CORBETT: There certainly is a great deal of that information and having just re-listened to a podcast that you did back in 2012, having just re-listened to it I would recommend people to do that, where you talk about this information, where you interviews with some of the accused. You’ve gone over this and you’ve pulled interviews with the BBC reporter who was going to run a story on this but didn’t end up doing it and his confrontation with Robert Green on-air. Some very interesting and important information there so we’ll put a link in the show notes to this interview so people can listen to that entire podcast and really get the overall sense of this story and I think tellingly around the time that the podcast that you did was assembled and some of this information was really starting to come to the fore, we’ve seen almost all of the people who were associated with this campaign back away from it and not necessarily denounce it, not necessarily retract what they were saying but not so many people are on-board with that campaign anymore tellingly I think.
BALDERSON: Yeah there were so many talking heads in the alternative media I mean we don’t really have to name them but they were there at the beginning campaigning for it, pushing it on their websites and going on radio shows all over the world, using it as an example for whatever they had going at the time. It was interesting to see how whoever was talking about the story kind of had a different spin on it. One day it was all about Satanism and the Satanic elite that rule the world and then another day it all about Freemasonry. Certain outlets made it more about how the courts are probably not up to scratch and how all that’s a mess. It was almost like the perfect case that people pulled in different directions and when it became apparent that actually there’s no evidence for any of it, yeah they kind of back-pedaled and didn’t really even acknowledge that maybe they were wrong. I mean I did jump on the bandwagon to begin with and it’s not surprising why people did. It’s not like the state has a brilliant track record when it comes to things like this and all of sorts of different things but at least acknowledge that maybe you got it wrong and let’s talk about this and sort it all out but people have their own agenda’s and they just quietly stepped away from it.
CORBETT: Well speaking of which we’re seeing a similar or at least a relatable phenomenon going on as I say in recent months with this Hampstead child abuse allegation video that went viral online and got a lot of attention and I think we’re seeing if not a directly analogous but at least similar situation playing out with that and one that you’ve been exposing I think quite well with some very exhaustive research you’ve been doing on a series of posts again up on WideShut.co.uk right now. Would you like to give us a short synopsis of the Hampstead case for those who haven’t heard about it?
BALDERSON: So, much like the Hollie Greig case (is) this recent Hampstead case. Hampstead is a place in north London and it was very a product of the social media viral phenomenon of how information spreads really quickly. Videos emerged online in early February of these two children making these really horrific allegations, implausible allegations if we’re honest but really horrific and just weird and creepy stuff about a Satanic cult who were operating out of a school and also in the nearby church near the school. Cooking babies and eating babies in a secret rooms in McDonald’s and making shoes out of baby skin and all this kind of stuff and the videos really spread like wildfire all over social media. Immediately certain websites wrote articles about how this was another example of the Satanic elite.
But nobody really considered, first off ‘Is this true?’ but also these are young innocent children. Regardless of what may have happened should we be spreading their faces all over the internet and crudely cropping them and pasting it on your blog and putting all their details and their names out there on the internet? It’s just a bit weird and people were just running with this story without verifying anything that was said in the videos and eventually it did turn out that the police did investigate the allegations. They interviewed the children and they went to this so-called church where some of this abuse was supposed to of taken place. They drove to some other locations and addresses that they children said and they didn’t add up to what they were claiming. Sadly the children were medically examined which is something that comes up a lot in these cases, people overlook this side of these crime stories that when you make allegations like this children are medically examined and that itself is intrusive and not a nice experience for children but they were medically examined and it was determined that the evidence was basically inconclusive. What they found in the children and what was released in these reports, you find the same kind of things in children that haven’t been abused so it’s not a conclusive picture. They interviewed the father who was supposed to be the leader of this Satanic cult, they interviewed the mother who was originally making the allegations. Ultimately in the third interview with the children after they had checked out some of these locations, interviewed the mother and father and tried to see what was going on here, the children backtracked on the allegations they revealed that they sufferef physical violence at the hands of the mothers recent partner and they were basically forced to make up the allegations by the mothers partner.
What’s really annoying about all this is you have all of these people clinging on to the original videos that they saw on Facebook and what they believed right away in the first day that these things came out and have clung onto that the whole time. And these have been abused they’ve been violently abused, hit with spoons, slapped around the ear and stuff like that and people are ignoring that because they would rather believe these frankly impossible allegations about this Satanic cult that nobody else has even come forward to say it happened so it’s a sad situation.
CORBETT: It is an exceptionally sad situation and you point to some of the aspects of even just spreading and making these types of allegations and spreading them without actually researching them. You’ve pointed already to some of the ramifications that this has on the people who are accused obviously and the children who are really pawns in these types of games that are being played often in custody disputes where one partner alleges abuse by another in order to get custody, things of that nature.
Let’s delve into this in a little bit more depth though. What is at stake? Why should we be so concerned about fidelity to journalistic practices and the claim to the truth in cases like this when we know that there is corruption and things that go on in the courts so shouldn’t we just be spreading this information to get people aware of this type of corruption that obviously is happening, whether or not it is happening in these particular cases.
BALDERSON: Well I think we’re in a very unique time right now where each and everyone of us potentially can have a voice that could be spread to thousands and thousands of people online. Something you might of just discussed with a few friends down the pub 20 years ago you can know spread to thousands of people on Twitter and Facebook. The nature of the internet has allowed people to have more of a democratic voice and I think that is a good thing. It makes the democratic process more engaging. We don’t have to rely on the mainstream media or the government to be the purveyors of truth. If something isn’t investigated right or we think it’s not being analyzed in the right way or whatever, we can do something about it. We can look at it ourselves and present a different side. That’s very much what The Corbett Report is and what I do at Wide Shut, we try to pick up the slack where we think the mainstream media has failed.
At the same time if we’re going to replace the mainstream mechanism of news or the way police investigations are done, if we’re going to do our own inquires or whatever online. You kind of see it on Reddit where people identify criminals that have not been identified through the regular channels, Anonymous or whatever they hack things and they get evidence about crimes that would normally go unnoticed, there is this mechanism. But if we’re going to go down that road and if were going to get to the point where we’re going to be in the streets protesting and putting people’s names out there like vigilante’s, we better be damn sure that we’re correct with the information. We’d better have the evidence and a solid foundation from what we believe in. We’d better hold ourselves to higher-standards than the mainstream because if we want challenge them and say ‘Look, you’re doing it wrong, I can do it right’, then do it right or else what are we really accomplishing?
I guess my fear with cases like the Hollie Greig case or these recent allegations of a satanic cult is that people have failed in doing that in a spectacular way and they’re drawing conclusions and campaigning based on nothing more than a couple of Youtube videos or something they’ve heard on an alternative media outlet. If we’re that careless and I say we but if people are that careless you might just being giving the State the perfect reason to clamp down on the internet. If we don’t use these tools wisely then they might just take them away from us. There’s that old saying ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, if we’re going to use these tools then let’s be responsible about it. Let’s make sure we’ve got everything nailed down before we run off like headless chickens. Share, share, like, like, like just think about what you’re doing before that.
CORBETT: That is such an important thing to reflect on because obviously The Corbett Report is very much structured around this idea of the fact that we are in this incredible age where we do have a voice, we do have a growing amount of power to help spread awareness of various issues to really change the societal conversation and I usually frame this in a positive manner because I think it is positive and hopeful on the balance but it does come with such responsibility that we literally can start witch hunts that will prosecute and will lead to whatever kinds on consequences that can only be thought of at this point. Take a case like the Hollie Greig case that’s tragic enough for the people who have been falsely accused in a case like that but then imagine that magnified thousands of times and you start to get a sense of what can happen and in fact you mentioned Reddit identifying criminal suspects well we did see that during the Boston bombings where we had some people who were identified by some of the sleuthers on Reddit as being the perpetrators of the Boston bombing and it turned that one of them had been missing for weeks before the bombing and ended up dead and his body had been decomposing to the point where he was dead before the bombings took place. So he clearly was not responsible and yet he was identified by name and people were harassing his family because they caught those details by sleuthing around on Reddit and things of that nature.
It’s not hard to imagine this can go very, very wrong and I think this relates back to what you identified earlier as the Kony phenomenon. Where we are in an age where people tend to think that simply just re-tweeting or simply posting something to your Facebook is almost a stand-in for not only actual research but actual activism as well and I think we have to be aware that yes it does have an effect when you spread this information but if you are not 100% or at least as sure as you can be about the information you’re spreading especially when you’re identifying individuals by name who can have their lives completely turned around by this type of information being spread. I think that if we don’t reflect on that fact and don’t realize the power that we have here it could go in a very, very bad direction.
So I don’t feel that I have to address this to the audience that had participated in for example the latest open-source investigation on ‘Pedophiles in Politics’ because if people go through the comments on that open-source investigation they’ll find dozens and dozens and dozens, hundreds and hundreds of links to mainstream sources identifying various aspects of some of these scandals. I’m extremely impressed by the amount of research that’s gone into this and the care that’s gone into a lot of these links and these annotations.
But again it doesn’t take imagination to see how this could go wrong. What are some of the principles, rules and guidelines that people should be keeping in mind as we start to engage in this process of taking that power of the mainstream media away and becoming the alternative? What are ways we can avoid the pitfalls and traps that unfortunately all of us have fallen into at some point or another in our lives and could do so again?
BALDERSON: It’s a tough question. I think rumors and false stories have always been part of society I don’t think that’s necessarily ever going to change. It’s probably just human nature but the onus really is on each individual person to try and not get swept up in the hysteria and the emotion of stories when they first hear them. I think that’s a big part of the problem is having an emotional response or a gut reaction instead of taking the time to step back and absorb all of the information and look at through a critical lens and looking at all sides of the story. That even applies to stories that for the most part are true. If you become overly emotional about them you can take it down a dark path that it doesn’t need to go.
I think we also need to be careful about going from ‘mainstream sheep’ to and alternative sheep but keeping the same mentality, the only thing that changes is the source of the information. Just because somebody might no longer have faith in the mainstream media doesn’t mean that somebody who claims to be the alternative media is telling the truth. The same kind of incompetence, the same corrupting forces. Whether that’s greed or some other agenda, the same forces are at play no matter what label you put on yourself. Whether it’s the BBC or Bob’s Truther blog both can be equally biased and incorrect in what they are reporting. I’m not saying that from a high-horse we’re all human and humans are flawed, we get things wrong. But it’s up to the person consuming the information to put it through a critical lens. Likewise just because you might have a certain view of the world doesn’t mean that when you read a story that confirms that view that it’s truthful and that ou should accept it at face value, that’s confirmation bias.
So I think really it’s about being honest with yourself and not getting wrapped up in emotions or particular ideologies or just following the crowd, following the herd. Look I’m not perfect I’ve altered and deleted articles. I’ve deleted videos, I’ve changed things on my website and Youtube channel lots of times because I’ve changed my opinion, I’ve become privy to something else. The Hollie Greig story itself I ran with it in the beginning basically just copied and pasted what amounted to a press release and thought hang on a minute, I’ve not verified this. I’m going to delete it for now and if I get the time to investigate it then I’ll investigate it.
I think what we need to do is just remove the emotions and take the ego out of the situation. If we’re wrong admit we’re wrong, start a dialogue and it just means being a critical thinker. It’s not easy but just whenever you see a story just take a step back and really have a think about it.
CORBETT: I think there’s a couple of things of importance to highlight and underscore there. Firstly, that people can get their entire identities wrapped up with a story and invest so much into it that they don’t ever want to have to admit to themselves that they were duped by it and I think that that can be a dangerous position to be in so I don’t think we should ever commit ourselves to that extent. Secondly, I think the way that I have tried to avoid that type of trap in my own reporting is that I have always considered myself an open-source journalist which is to say that this is open-source intelligence, here’s what my take on this is and here’s the sources I used to construct this, this is where I got my information. Now you here’s all the cookie crumbs that lead me along this path so you guys take it up and see where your research leads you. That’s always been my take on what I’m doing and the path I’m taking and now with these open-source investigations that we started on the website in the past year I’m basically, I mean the analogy of course comes from the open-source software movement where the idea is if you have the source code open to everyone, open for inspection, open for a community to come along, tinker with and makes updates and what have you, then no one individual in there is going to be 100% correct or have the perfect code as it were but the combination of people looking for flaws, looking for problems and talking and arguing with each other and splitting off and trying different things, will in a sense make the process self-correcting at that point. I hope that is the ultimate intention for this type of open-source investigation.
Do you see that type of analogy as having perhaps being a potential model for how this type of internet journalism can proceed or do you have any other ideas for models for the journalism that we should be doing?
BALDERSON: I think you have a good grasp on it because I think some people are too quick to have a position on subject. If I use the Hampstead case for example, people believed in the beginning as soon as the videos went online. If there position was simply ‘We think that this needs to be investigated. This is the information that we have so far. What are we going to do about it? I think the police need to more investigation and follow up these leads’, that’s a sound position to take. But some people almost make their conclusions before they’ve even got the evidence for it.
So, I think the idea that spreading information, starting a dialogue but not necessarily coming to a firm position right away is probably the right way to do it. If you become headstrong and you go out there campaigning because you think you’ve got the truth you’re going to fall up short, you’re going to fall down a pitfall somewhere and you’re going to look foolish. So I think you’ve got a pretty sound way of doing this and of course sources of information we can only go on what there is in the public domain. Sometimes that will be credible sometimes we could be victims of false reporting. Getting everything rounded up into a big bundle and then looking at it is better than just deciding what the truth is based on nothing at all or based on your hunches. I think sometimes people can go in the other direction and say ‘Well because I’m sitting at home on my computer and I’ve not been to Boston or I was not at the site of 9/11 and because I haven’t seen it and I haven’t experienced it and I’ve not met the coroner in this case and I’ve not met the hospital staff or whatever then I’m going to come to conclusion that it’s all fake because I’ve not seen it. You can go down that road of the crisis actors meme. It’s tough from a distance to quantify what’s truthful and what’s not but as long as you asses everything that’s available to you and balance it on the probabilities of ‘Why would the doctor lie? Why would the coroner make something up? Do you have evidence to suggest that they did make something up?’
It’s just about looking at every angle, every bit of information and then perhaps after it’s been sifted through then maybe come to reasonable conclusion. You don’t have to have a firm position.
CORBETT: Yes, I hear what you’re saying. I think this is again this is not going to be a perfect process, it’s not going to lead us to 100% truth every step of the way and it’s difficult to have faith in the overall process that this will eventually lead us towards a refinement, towards truth if we continue to engage in this conversation but that is I think the only way forward for this type of pioneering, alternative, internet based journalism because really it has the chance to be an alternative to the systems of gate-keeping of information that have existed for so long. But those systems of gate-keeping of information at least did have checks and balances which of course were as we know are corrupted and corporately controlled and mouth-pieces for various establishments but they did have those checks and balances in place. I think we need some sort of check and balance in the alternative media as well precisely for situations like the Hollie Greig case or the Hampstead case or various others that we can think about where things have spread too far, too quickly, too definitively and people have mounted entire campaigns without even being aware of the details of the case. That’s the point of it that I think is particularly perhaps not surprising but disappointing is that so many people don’t even really know what it is that they’re spreading. They’re just spreading it because it conforms to their world view.
So again there’s a lot to go through here and I think that the end point here is that no one is going to be 100% certain or 100% perfect but I think we have to be very careful when we are proceeding with investigations like this and it is important to look at those cases where the alternative media has failed and try to improve upon the way the alternative media handled those cases so I think there’s a lot to go through here. I will again direct people to WideShut.co.uk generally and of course to your podcast on the Hollie Greig case as well as your recent work on Hampstead. Are there any other pieces of information or resources that you would like to direct people to?
BALDERSON: Basically everything’s on WideShut.co.uk and at Youtube.com/wideshutuk. I’ve got two core documentaries on there that I like to promote that’s the 7/7 documentary was 7/7: The Big Picture but since then, perhaps a few months after that, I actually reworked it into a new title ‘7/7: What Did They Know?‘ and that basically looked at all the prior intelligence that was available to the authorities before the London bombings. I’ve also got a short film on the riots in England that happened a few years back. So just go to WideShut.co.uk, there’s all sorts of articles on lots of different topics, tonnes of podcasts with guests like Tom Secker who I know you know and all sorts of stuff on there.
CORBETT: Alright, Keelan Balderson we’ll leave it there for today. Thank you very much for your time and efforts.
BALDERSON: Thank James, it’s been a good chat.