(Cross-posted from my blog.)
Strangely for what was a front page "exclusive", the Sun has not so much as a single word to say in today's paper about yesterday's entirely concocted claim that Alan Sugar was on a "hit list" drawn up by "hate-filled Islamic extremists" on a "fanatics" website. Perhaps they'd already noted that the Ummah.com forum had produced a press release which denied the allegations in the strongest possible terms, or maybe they felt they'd already done enough, which they certainly had. Google News links to 174 separate news stories, all of which had their origin in the Sun's original, the vast majority without so much as questioning the Sun's claim or double-checking them. Churnalism, as always, had done its work.
Unfortunately for the Sun, their story has even further unravelled. Their own journalists in this instance seem to have only written the story up, or had it sold to them by Glen Jenvey, a so-called anti-terror expert and former spy quoted in yesterday's report as claiming that the result of the naming of certain high profile Jews on Ummah.com would result in 20 to 30 thugs going round their houses, at the least. Jenvey has an interesting past, and as Tim from Bloggerheads who has done most of the digging with some help from others notes, he's been involved in editing his own Wikipedia page, like all the finest egomaniacs, so nothing on there can be trusted in the slightest. Jenvey's page claims that he studied radical Islam at college, spied on Iran for the United States, and also infiltrated the Tamil Tigers. Again, trusting things on the internet is always unwise, but mikimoose in the comments on Tim's original post uncovered a perhaps more enlightening reason for Jenvey's interest in radical Islam:
Update 16/03/09: Following the latest from Tim have fully removed the claims involving Jenvey's non-existent daughter.
Jenvey is linked with another whole host of interesting characters, the online group Vigil, which claims to be monitoring and infiltrating jihadist forums online, both for surveillance purposes and, it seems, with a view to selling stories onto the national press. Vigil themselves deny that Jenvey is a member, although they admit that they have worked with him in the past. While Ummah.com as noted is by no means a radical forum, it has previously attracted extremist sentiment, and other sites have described it as being part of the so-called Londonistan set-up. For such an apparently sophisticated former spy meant to be monitoring incredibly dangerous individuals, Jenvey's exploits on Ummah.com were amateurish to say the least. While yesterday it was thought that "abuislam", the poster on the original thread that attempted to stir the letter writing campaign up into something it wasn't was a freelance journalist called Richard Tims, this appears to have a simple cover for Jenvey himself. Tims' only post on Ummah.com was to link to a website where you could sell stories, now defunct. Unfortunately for Jenvey, posts on other sites spamming sellyourstory.org point to the fact that the site was owned by none other than... Jenvey.
Tim has noted that "abuislam" had tried on a number of other occasions to troll Ummah.com, hoping to catch some bait, presumably to sell to the newspapers, but he failed on each and every occasion, not getting enough for a story to be weaved out of it. First he posted about the prospective release of "terrorist mastermind" Abu Izzadeen, without getting a single reply. Then he went a bit further, asking whether "marital rape" exists, which did spark discussion, but as you would expect, plenty of condemnation and some others in thread wondering about trolling. Next up was asking where the failed nail bomber Nicky Reilly might have been encouraged into carrying out a suicide attack, again without any luck. Probably most interestingly, especially regarding the Sun, he next tried to ask opinions on the Sun's "Help for Heroes" charity single, done in conjunction with the X Factor. One response was his reward, and that was to tell him that they didn't really discuss pop music. Perhaps this was his attempt to cash in on a previous Sun front page story, where the paper claimed that Omar Bakri Muhammad had ranted about the X Factor's involvement with the charity, suggesting that even watching it was committing a form of "muadaat". After failing with a thread on Prince Harry, he finally struck gold with his posts on letter-writing campaign thread.
The best that can be said for the Sun itself is that it was tricked by Jenvey in alerting them to the non-story in the first place, with them chomping at the bit to concoct from the little there was to go on in the Ummah.com thread a supposed "hate-filled Islamic extremist" threat to Alan Sugar and others, not bothering to investigate whether abuislam's interventions were too good to be true. At worst, the Sun has connived with a supposed anti-terror expert in completely fabricating a threat to some of the most prominent Jews in those country, doubtless causing them undue worry at the very least, all while further demonising British Muslims who were only planning to exercise their democratic right to peaceful protest. Whatever the truth, what has happened here is still a scandal; a newspaper caught red-handed, diverting attention away from the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza to completely spurious and invented threats, purely for its own profit and gain. This deserves to be investigated by the Press Complaints Commission at the very least, although Ummah.com is already considering its legal options. The paper might well yet curse doing business with Glen Jenvey.
Update: Fayruz in the comments on Bloggerheads says that Jenvey has no daughter and that the entire interview was invented by the Saviour Sect. I'm not removing the link as yet but just another thing to be kept in mind.
Update 16/03/09: As above, have fully removed claims involving Jenvey's non-existent daughter.