The story is effectively this: Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph produced an article last Sunday, which was, I believe, poorly researched and entirely wrong in its thrust. He alleged that Mervyn Barrett's campaign to be the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire was being secretly backed by American neoconservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatisation. His story was largely based on statements by a "Matthew de Unger Brown". I happened to know Matthew from personal experience of his fraudulent activities on and off line. I saw Gilligan's piece last Monday evening and revealed what I knew about the fraudster on my blog at Tuesday lunchtime. I cannot blame Gilligan for not having the personal knowledge that I did, and was relatively generous in the way I referred to his piece. I said I suspected my post touched only on the "tip of the iceberg" about Matthew and got in touch with Gilligan to offer him more information and help to get to the bottom of the matter.
Instead of taking me up on my offer, and having read my post, Gilligan made a decision. This was to continue with the thrust of his original story, rather than consider if he had been duped. He suggested that he himself had suspected that Brown might be a fraud, but could not say so for legal reasons. He referred to me as "an anonymous blogger" in the piece. After Barrett resigned and made a full statement confirming that Matthew had defrauded him, Gilligan said that he was cynical about this and said that something about this did not "ring true". In responding to comments to that story, he first claimed he did not receive my emails offering assistance, and then said he did not consider talking to me because he could not establish my identity. He also said he was not sure he would have taken any information I gave him seriously. He then launched into a sustained set of attacks on the blogging fraternity generally.
The net result of this is I provided a substantial amount of additional material and leads to the Sunday Times, whose proper investigative journalism team has produced a full page feature for today's edition. My impression of Gilligan is of a rude man who needs to realise that bloggers and journalists should work together for the greater good, rather than patronising those who share a common interest in revealing the truth in the public interest. He also needs to realise it is a better person who admits that he makes a mistake and works to correct that, rather than being blinded by his own pride.
Gilligan's First Article
Now let's go to the detail. On Friday 19 October, Gilligan reportedly spoke to "Matthew de Unger Brown" the campaign manager of Lincolnshire's then high profile PCC candidate, Mervyn Barrett. Last Sunday, 21 October, Gilligan published an "exposé" [click for link] about Barrett's campaign.
My summary of the article is as follows:
1) it suggests secret neo-conservative US lobbyists were behind Barrett's campaign;
2) the campaign was run by the "Fund for the New American Century", funded in part by a variety of corporate donors with an interest in police privatisation;
3) the Fund's chairman is Matthew de Unger Brown who was Barrett’s special adviser, campaign manager and press spokesman;
4) "Investigation" of Mr Barrett’s campaign website reveals that it is registered to a NewYork and Washington-based political action committee called MatthewPAC.
I believe the entire thrust of the article to be wrong and based on deficient research by Gilligan.
As I said, to be fair to Gilligan, he does not have the personal information that I do on Matthew. I have met him in one of his many guises and have been following his fraudulent activities for some time, having been a victim of them. A generous way of looking at Gilligan's first article is that it was based on incomplete work and he jumped the gun by publishing it when he did.
I set out what I know about Matthew Brown on my blog post on 23 October. I was rather too kind to Gilligan when I stated that I wasn't sure that the Telegraph got the story "entirely right". I stated there was a strong likelihood that the fundraising group MattPac doesn't exist and was in fact a figment of Matthew's imagination. This assertion is based on evidence which I hold. In effect, I believe Gilligan unveiled a fraud in the national press (for which he is to be applauded), but only by falling for a fantasy of the fraudster.
|The fraudster Brown this time fantasising about standing for the US Senate|
Gilligan's Second Piece
After I had published my blog, Gilligan followed up his 21 October piece with this somewhat extraordinary article on 23 October. In it he says he had:
".. originally hoped to write more on Sunday about the very curious phenomenon that is Matthew de Unger Brown. Most of it, unfortunately, had to go for legal reasons. There are, for instance, various pages on the internet claiming that his real name is Matthew Brown, that he has been convicted of fraud, expelled from the Tory Party, and has pretended to be various incarnations of British and European aristocracy. Matthew neither confirmed nor denied these claims when I put them to him on Friday. Cuttings searches do show various “Matthew Browns” convicted of fraud – but it’s a common name, and it could quite easily have been someone else. It would have been hard, therefore, to label him explicitly as a fraudster in our news story."
The key points to note are that Gilligan claims to have been aware that Brown might be a fraud and claims to have put these allegations to him in person on 19 October. He says that Matthew did not deny the allegations, but nonetheless Gilligan published his piece on 21 October, without mentioning either of these facts.
Gilligan also claims to have known that neither the "Fund for the New American Century", nor its political action committee arm, "MatthewPAC", were registered with the US Federal Election Commission. He noted they did not have much presence online. This last statement is quite an understatement: its website is a single page. I am surprised that a serious journalist could take it as evidence of the existence of this organisation, if this is what Gilligan did. I certainly can find no other proof of its existence anywhere and Gilligan himself now claims he had his doubts. Nonetheless, despite these doubts, Gilligan chose to publish on the Sunday Telegraph's website a piece that made the four points I have summarised above, as fact. That piece appears, to me, to be based entirely on the evidence of the words of a suspected fraudster and a one page website of a body not registered with the US FEC.
I also do not quite understand why Gilligan states that the existence of allegations of fraud surrounding Matthew could not be mentioned on 21 October "for legal reasons", but the same author in the same publication could mention them by 23 October a few hours after I published my blog post.
Mervyn Barrett Withdraws from the PCC Election
A day later, on 24 October 2012, Mervyn Barrett announced his withdrawal from the PCC race with the following statement. The statement strikes me personally as a very sincere, heartfelt and deeply upsetting piece. In it, Barrett stated that he been the "victim of a bizarre and hugely embarrassing deception by the person who was acting – and I use the word “acting” quite deliberately – as my principal adviser and campaign manager until Saturday." He is of course referring to Brown, the fraudster whose previous activities I had set out.
Gilligan updated his second piece with this information and commented "Call me a cynic, but something about this still doesn't wholly ring true. Barrett has been campaigning for almost three months – can he really have suspected nothing until the Telegraph came to call?"
I think that is unfair and on a personal level it is deeply unkind. Numerous people have testified to the good character and integrity of Barrett. I have no evidence whatsoever to suspect his honesty. Of course no one knows for sure if is he lying, but I do not understand why Gilligan decided to publish a comment airing doubts about the truth of Barrett's statement, without giving solid evidence to back that up. On a human and journalistic level I'd say it would show better judgement to hold those suspicions back until evidence could be found and published.
Pond Life: "Anonymous Bloggers"
I blog under the name "Peter" and appear on Twitter with the user name "PME2013". You can see my reasons for choosing to do so on this post. However, my identity is not exactly a well-kept secret. I have posted from my Twitter account to the New Statesman website, where I blogged last month, and to an American tour company where I also blog regularly under my full name.
In his piece of 23 October Gilligan referred to me, perhaps a little dismissively, as "an anonymous blogger who claims to know" Matthew. My interest in looking at this point goes beyond his somewhat belittling description and to the honesty and integrity of a journalist at the Daily Telegraph.
Peter Savage picked up on this description, on the evening of 24 October:
That is entirely untrue: Gilligan knew my full name at all material times. I emailed Gilligan a link to my post 5 minutes after publishing it, at 14.54 on 23 October:
The following day at 15:19, I sent a second email with some more information on the story and the following offer: "I am happy to help you in any way I can and to provide any proof of my identity etc if you require it." I gave Gilligan my full home address, and telephone numbers in this second email.
Gilligan claims not to have received my emails. I did not receive a notification that they had bounced back, but leaving that aside, separately Gilligan had emailed a partner at a City law firm on the morning of 23 October. He asked if she had any leads on the story. She happens to be a personal friend of mine. She responded at 14:59 that day:
Gilligan acknowledged and responded to this email within 10 minutes, at 15:08 on 23 October.
|[Name of my friend redacted]|
All I can conclude is that Gilligan did not want to establish my identity, not that he could not. He either needs a lesson in the meaning of the use of modal verbs, or one in honesty. My own guess is that he did not want to talk to me, because having read my post, he was aware that he had been taken in by another of Matthew's frauds and was embarrassed. He therefore falsely claimed he could not verify my identity.
I'd also like to pick up again on the fact that Gilligan seems very happy to doubt my words (remember I was recommended to him by a personal friend who is a partner at a City law firm), and to cast doubt on those of Barrett. By contrast, Gilligan thinks the words of Barrett's official spokesman count "for more". That spokesman is the person whom he describes as "the very curious phenomenon that is Matthew de Unger Brown" and about whom he claims he was aware there were fraud rumours circulating on the Internet. This shows curious judgement on the part of a national journalist.
Gilligan's Rapid Twitter Searching Abilities
Gilligan also claims to have found my blog through a Twitter search:
My blog was published at 14.49. I first publicised it by a tweet (below) at 14.51. He would have had to be at his desk searching for the name "Matthew Brown" that I used to find it. It would not have shown up for anyone searching the name "Matthew de Unger Brown", which is how Gilligan has always referred to him.
Gilligan was also jolly quick to find it from a Twitter search, because my email alerted him to it three minutes later at 14.54. Even if he didn't receive that, my friend's email alerted him to it eight minutes later at 14.59. Therefore if he really did find my blog as a result of his own research on Twitter, carried out before he received these emails, he truly deserves the hashtag #ImpressiveSpeedyJournalist.
Alternatively, make of Gilligan's claim what you will.
Bloggers "Go with any old stuff they find on Google"
In this case, I would have to produce a whole set of material that I have to hand, much of which is already on a disc given to Suffolk Police. I was quite happy to provide any of this to Gilligan to help him with his story, but it is not something I can readily publish on a blog. Much of it is emails between me and Matthew, as well as a whole set of screenshots. In my own mind, however, I was absolutely satisfied that I could back every single line of my post up.
I do also think anyone reading my post could reasonably assume that despite the story being fantastic, it is backed up on its face by enough screen shots, links and other material to give it some amount of credence. It is plainly not a work of fantasy: there is a difference. A blog does not receive over 300,000 hits if it routinely publishes nonsense. His comment is, I believe, simply indicative of his completely dismissive and condescending attitude to bloggers in general. I do not "go with any old stuff I find on Google", as I shall demonstrate below.
A Lesson For Gilligan In Research
Gilligan's comment about Google searches is presumably referring to Matthew's fraud conviction in 2004, which I refer to in my post. Gilligan dismisses this as not being a proven link because Matthew Brown is a common name, and it could quite easily have been someone else.
He is correct, which is why a responsible blogger or a thorough, investigative journalist would look for other evidence such as conducting a search of paper copies of newspapers to see if there is provable link.
If Gilligan had done the latter he would have found around 8 reports about this particular story at the time. The one below, from the Scottish Daily Mail, produces a photograph that shows exactly which Matthew Brown was involved, together with his month and year of birth (August 1984). This is the Matthew Brown, who is the fraudster who has recently worked as Barrett's campaign manager, whose image has appeared in the media, and whom I have met in person.
I therefore find it offensive that Gilligan is lecturing me about research and evidence, when he could have found the above evidence himself with a very small amount of work. There is also a great deal of irony about the fact that the only evidence I can find for the existence of MattPac is a shitty one page website that comes up after a Google search. More about that in a moment.
Gilligan also says he was aware, before my blog was published, of various pages on the Internet claiming that Matthew's real name is Matthew Brown, that he has been convicted of fraud, was expelled from the Tory Party, and has pretended to be various incarnations of British and European aristocracy.
How interesting. I can't find any such pages, and I've spent quite a long time looking. I did have them, screenshot from 2008, but I cannot find them in searches four years later. I'm particularly interested in two things:
- Any page on the Internet that relates to Matthew's alleged expulsion from the Tory Party. I've only ever seen it on his fake Wikipedia entry as "Sir Matthew Brown". This was deleted in April 2008, which I screenshot at the time and have since held privately. I can't find a retrieved or cached copy.
- Any page on the Internet that claims Matthew pretended to be a member of the European aristocracy. The sole example that I know of his claiming this was a handwritten card which we discovered signed "Paris, Prince von Thurn und Taxis" that he left at Thornham Magna church in Suffolk.
A Lying Blogger Who Can't Read Properly
When challenged in the comments section on various points about his second story, Gilligan behaved extremely rudely to me. He condescendingly asked me "for a second time.. to read what I said properly". He said that given my "repeated misrepresentation of what I've written", he is not sure that if I had provided him with more material he would have taken it seriously.
As if this were a matter of terrible importance to his pride, Gilligan wrote that I was prompted by his story to publish my blog post. I responded that "For the record, your piece did not prompt me to write my blog. I have had the material linking the real life fraud with the fake QC profile and fake MattPac profile for some time. An email exchange with Matthew prompted me to publish it. I thought it would help you with your story: instead you have responded with personal rudeness and a complete lack of grace."
He responded to his by doubting my honestly: "Nor, frankly, do I believe your claim that your blog wasn't prompted by what I wrote." Sigh: not for the first time do I have to publish something to prove to a dick on the internet that I'm not a liar:
Gilligan seemed a natural port of call because his article, for all its poor research, did undoubtedly have the effect of Barrett resigning. My story was therefore now of much greater public interest, but Gilligan's article did not "prompt" me to blog. My annoyance at Matthew did. As matters turned out, I did not speak to Gilligan, but blogged myself. It's a minor point but it shows up Gilligan's vanity and his willingness to doubt perfectly decent people's integrity, on a national newspaper's website, with nothing to back it up. He is wrong.
Matthew and MattPac
I had possessed all of my material on Matthew for a long time. I made the link between Banffers QC and Matthew, who had defrauded me in real life, at a pub with my barrister friend Adam on 24 August 2011. I was alerted by Adam to a new fake twitter account in which Matthew was posing as the CEO of MattPac, together with a related Facebook page, Wikipedia entry. Finally I found the MattPac website on which Gilligan seems to have placed so much reliance. I took a day or so to prepare my approach to Matthew.
I emailed him on 26 August 2011 and put to him (amongst other things):
His response was:
Note the line: "On-Line... I have let my imagination have free rein". As a result of this exchange, Matthew deleted all Internet presence of MattPac, a process which was completed by 23.00 on 27 August 2011. I am not persuaded that had MattPac in any way been a real fund, Matthew would have deleted all presence of it in August 2011.
Matthew also agreed to disappear for good from Twitter, to leave my friends alone, to keep away from my home area, and to pay me £25 a week off the £1080 CCJ I held against him. He broke at least three of these four agreements.
|HM Prison Wayland|
Further, I now believe I know why Matthew was "away from it all in 2010": this letter in "Inside Time" suggests that there was a Matthew Brown at this time in HMP Wayland. Inside Time is an online publication for prisoners. In it the author writes about his Roman Catholic faith (a common theme from Matthew's Banffers days).
Again, Gilligan might huff and puff that it's a common name and you can't rely on an internet search. I agree that it isn't definitive proof (though I do have three other pieces of evidence to back this up) but it is a useful pointer for a proper investigative journalist to search official records. I have not been able to do so (I am a mere "anonymous blogger"), but should I be correct, we would have to believe that Matthew came straight out of prison and a year later set up a neo-conservative political fund with offices in New York and Washington, and was appointed its "global CEO " as he claimed (on Twitter).
MattPac? I am quite sure it does not exist for all of the reasons given. Given its existence is the very heart of Gilligan's first article, he should have done more research and not been so ready to publish. This is shoddy work, Gilligan, and to use your words - it is not good enough!
Best in Breed: A Lesson For Gilligan
Finally, we move to Gilligan's sustained assault on bloggers and blogging. All of it is of course made - deliciously - from a blog, the irony of which has been noted by plenty who saw the exchange.
I understand that Gilligan's employers are keen to develop blogging as a future business model. They perhaps ought to send their employees on some courses to understand the medium better and to not display such obvious contempt for it:
This tweet was one in a series between Gilligan and the respected journalist, blogger and lawyer David Allen Green. What I think we saw was a clash between old and new: the pompous voice of (not terribly impressive) investigative journalism sneering down its nose at the new medium of blogging. As DAG pointed out to Gilligan: "Your bluster and arrogance in response to critical comments is misconceived. But it also short-sighted. The more sensible journalists now work with and not against bloggers in their respective areas."
He is absolutely correct in the last respect: I have received a lot more information on Matthew from all sorts of people who have seen my post. I have forwarded it all, along with all the source material that backs up by post, to Robin Henry at the Sunday Times. Robin is not of Gilligan's "breed": he is charming, polite and has fully acknowledged my contribution on Twitter. Robin and his colleagues have apparently done an excellent job on following up leads from this and there is a full page spread published on Matthew today. As I suspected, my knowledge was the tip of the iceberg.
It is a valuable service that all this has now come up and I look forward to reading the story after I've published this post. The Sunday Times can reach a far wider audience than my blog and can warn people of Matthew's activities. Matthew fully deserves the exposure. It is an excellent demonstration of what DAG talks about: bloggers and journalists cooperating to get the truth into the public domain. Andrew Gilligan has nothing but his own rudeness, condescension and arrogance to thank for the fact that the piece is not in the Sunday Telegraph.
UPDATE: Quite remarkable. Alerted to the above, here is Gilligan's rude response. I have reported him and await the Telegraph's reply. I read this as a defamation of me by the Daily Telegraph, on their website, which is read by tens of thousands of people: