Useful Innocents

Many years ago, Austrian-American economist Ludwig Von Mises coined the term “useful innocents”; and these words seem highly relevant to the events of the last few days up here. Von Mises claimed the term was used for liberals that von Mises described as “confused and misguided sympathizers” in his 1947 work ‘Planned Chaos.’

Unbeknownst to me, a growing body of people have been gravitating towards a self-styled ‘environmental visionary'; a man claiming to be a millionaire entrepreneur, and playing on both the hopes and fears of people that appear to be ripe for such a ‘messianic’ figure.

If anything, this is the real tragedy of this ongoing Stronsay Inc affair; that seemingly normal folk will abandon all semblance of critical thinking when they want to believe in a thing strongly enough. One might conclude that Charles Mackay’s 1841 classic ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds‘ has never been a more urgent addition to school curricula. “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

Climate change is of course happening; climate change indeed always has happened, and, it will go on happening for as long as the Earth endures. Also, mankind plays some role in that change. Cynically convincing people to be anxious & worry about this constant change is -in itself- immediately establishing dishonesty, and should be a red flag for any sentient individual.

At the same time, to err -or be mistaken- should be forgiven, lest we set a standard that can be met by no-one; but lying -which can serve no lofty purpose at all- is immoral, and should be pointed to wherever one may find it, but perhaps most especially when ‘useful innocents’ are in the process of being manipulated for financial, material or political gain.

The magazine Living Orkney, ran an article this month entitled ‘Millionaire visionary sets his sights on Orkney’.
Having read this shocking article in full, my suspicions were instantly aroused, and where better to look for answers than by merely typing ‘Stronsay Inc’ into a Google search window.

After perusing the surprisingly scant links offered (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Linked-In) it became clear, very quickly, that this ‘company’ did not have a ‘global reach’ as claimed. Christophe Watkins -and his Stronsay Inc- looked highly suspicious in just the first few minutes.

After checking with Broadgate Estates Ltd, it was clear that neither Mr.Watkins nor Stronsay Inc had a business address in Bishopsgate, as is clearly claimed on some of his facebook pages.

The facebook pages state that there is an employee working at the London office which is clearly a lie as the premises are not leased to Stronsay Inc or Mr.Watkins.

A quick check at Companies House and one finds there is no company record of that name.

On Stronsay Inc’s foursquare page there is a company logo with TM (trade mark) after it. I can find no record of Stronsay Inc having obtained a trade mark.

Stronsay Inc do not even have a website of their own.

Stronsay Inc was cited in the Living Orkney article as being influential on the international green policy scene. On further checks I can find no evidence to suggest that Mr.Watkins has any influence, anywhere, let alone the international green policy scene.

Mr Watkins cited to Living Orkney that he was the ‘keynote’ speaker at the Energy-Forum Solar Skin Conference in Bressanone Italy Dec 2011. There is no record of him having been a speaker whatsoever.

As a consequence of my discussions with a BBC Orkney employee, I am led to believe that Mr Watkins has accepted an interview with BBC Radio Orkney on Friday 23rd March 2012. This BBC Radio Orkney employee is fully aware of the allegations against Mr Watkins and his ‘company’ and, at this moment in time, Mr Watkins may still be unaware that he has been ‘rumbled’.

I submit that the ‘journalist’ who wrote this three-page article has in fact written a piece about a fantasy company, and a man intent on preying on the weaknesses of vulnerable people who have been taken in by his deception. One striking aspect of this, is that over one thousand people have not seen the sense of googling his company name & reading the provided links. Or perhaps, they have done so but have not seen what is staring them squarely in the face.

Did it not occur to our Living Orkney ‘journalist’ to do at least a little bit of fact checking before submitting this piece for publication? Consider also that the writer is the editor of the magazine in question, and it truly verges on the unbelievable.

Did he, like so many of Mr Watkins followers, allow the desire to ‘believe’ over-ride any sense of journalistic craft? As a good friend of mine has suggested to me today: “Christophe may be a low-level grifter but he’s a great example of the great and the good being taken in.”

When you have journalism of such a debased sort as this, one might be forgiven for thinking that the third estate is all but dead, and the only hope for any kind of Truth is on the blogosphere.

I, personally, came around to that way of thinking some considerable time ago.

33 thoughts on “Useful Innocents”

  1. Hi OL

    Great stuff, can you arrange to record the interview and publish as an .mp3 file please. It will be a shame to miss the fun!

    Regards

    motm

  2. Fen – Ain’t likely mate…….Me? Enter the bowels of the Beast?

    motm – Will he even turn up? Not sure I’ll be able to record it -if it happens- only a small hand-held roberts radio here. Anyone with suggestions on that score? Perhaps the BBC will make it available for online listening?

  3. I’ve been following the above character with 3 friends for aprox 3 weeks , also came to the same conclusions..you missed the story about him buying 41/41 Cloth Fair EC1 for £6 million ..rubbish of couse. He is supposed to be en -route from Atlanta as i type and meeting his disciples / accolytes in Helgi’s this evening …lets hope he’s turned back. Also the pathetically photoshopped pic of Orkney Library in said magazine made us hoot ,did he copy and paste the turf from the Teletubbies [complete with plastic flowers]?. Many thanks for posting/tweeting your findings as we thought we were going mad !
    [ps have posted something similar here earlier and got lost in the ether ..may turn-up!..fb friend me if you want more info] . Larry

  4. Larry, Welcome & thanks for your thoughts. :-)

    Yes the Pshop roof was particularly funny…..glad I wasn’t the only one who spotted this shyster. Good job, congrats to you and your friends for not being ‘useful fools’. :-)

    Regards,
    OL

  5. Pointman,
    Many thanks big man . . . . ;-)

    “the bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.”

  6. From ‘###’ on my FB: “That Watkins guy was staying in [name of hotel] late last year, claiming a free week’s stay because a wardrobe had fallen on him – a right dodgy geezer.”

  7. We have been living parallel lives it seems, googling the beggar. All of the above covered and more. Don’t judge his facebook ‘friends’ as necessarily being accolytes ;-)

  8. Around orkney tomorrow morning is available on ‘listen again’ til the next morning show as far as i know
    Mr Watkins is in Helgi’s.
    I am sure people are at the very least being misled. I have unfriended him on facebook as i have nailed my colours to the mast on here and i can hardly claim to be a friend of his now. I always thought his lifestyle claims were far fetched. Only when the magazine came out we looked further ( most of it made little sense) and found too many discrepancies.. A global company with no website? And much of the above. We sat on the information…. I was thinking perhaps he would not come here at all, was looking forward to hearing the radio interview. Thought maybe i had missed something….

  9. Hi Lorraine – Many thanks for the heads-up. :-)

    We’ll take good care of your colours, but do stay safe out there…..cultists & grifters can behave in rather unpredictable ways.

    Thanks for the info on ‘listen again’, much appreciated.

    Regards
    Admin

  10. Aye Aye,

    Like many others I also did most of the same forensic checks that you describe in your blog and was bemused as to the absence of e-footprint. If I was in the sooth it would have triggered alarm bells of a terminal nature. However, since this is Orkney where most of us know each other by name or reputation, or can find oot about stuff very quickly I decided to suspend my disbelief until proven otherwise. Mr Watkins has not asked anybody here for anything to the best of my knowledge nor has he tried any scams here. I have met two genuine Walter Mitty’s in my life and if he turns out to be another one he should be pitied and cared for, not ridiculed. If he is just a con-artist then he isn’t very good at it, is he, ref. your blog entry.

    As far as FB security is concerned most normal people have security set to friends of friends access levels. Any scamming/phishing/hacking apps or malevolent scripts are no more likely than in general; internet/email activity and the same level of awareness is always required across the interweb. Works for me.

  11. Hi Simon, and welcome. :-)

    “he should be pitied and cared for”

    Indeed I suggest this on the ‘Stronsay Inc’ thread.

    Regards,
    Admin

  12. Orkneylad, you’re probably already well aware of the #### ##### connection, but just thought I’d mention it. On the Stronsay Facebook page, there’s an entry on ### March, stating that:

    “########”

    #### ##### does appear to be a real person, IMO, and goes by the monicker of ######### on Twitter (although does not follow Stronsay Inc, and neither does Stronsay follow #####.) As a local someone there should know him; maybe he could be contacted as he might be able to shed some light on Christophe Watkins and Stronsay Inc.?

    (It crossed my mind that both Watkins and Stronsay might be fictions created by Mr #####, as part of some sort of hoax, but that is probably very unworthy of me, and I offer my unreserved apologies to Mr ##### if that is not the case!)

  13. Hi Alex – Indeed I think most watchers will be aware of this, as you see I have redacted the name as I don’t wish to prejudice or endanger anyone who may be in a difficult position right now.

    I am aware of Mr ##### and hope he is not in a vulnerable position, and if he’s watching, would wish him to know that his safety is a prime concern.

    We all need help sometimes, even if we feel we can’t accept it from an ‘odd’ quarter……but their is willing support everywhere, even in places you least expect.

  14. G’day OL,

    I noted with interest the comment from Simon Treasure that “Mr Watkins has not asked anybody here for anything to the best of my knowledge nor has he tried any scams here ………. he should be pitied and cared for …….”

    Sorry to disagree Simon, but in Admin’s first post on this matter, Stronsay Inc, tells us that among Watkins many schemes is one wherein – “All he needs is the land, and a ‘community buy-in’ to make some of these ideas possible.”

    That tells me he’s not only after some cheap, if not freely granted real estate, he’s after cash (a buy-in) from the worthy citizens of Orkney.

    Further, in that first post, Watkins claims – “Slowly the reach of Stronsay Inc expanded until we had bases in Europe, Asia & Australia ……”

    Well, unless he’s running a three and a half star Bed & Breakfast in the state of Victoria or a Lawn Cutting & Maintenance business in the Northern Territory, he has NO “base” in Australia.

    While we can all pity delusional individuals who live in their own fantasy world, as Admin generously acknowledges in his introductory article, what is the excuse for the likes of John Ross Scott, a “freelance journalist” & chairman of the Orkney NHS Board who has just been appointed for another four years.

    A parasitic quango-hopping author of utter rubbish who hasn’t made the slightest effort to establish the bona fides of an individual to whom he devotes a three-page article extolling the many “virtues” of his subject’s ‘green’ credentials.

    I may live on a small island on the other side of the planet from Orkney, but we too have seen enough ‘green’ carpetbaggers, delusional Gaia worshippers, tree-huggers, whale-savers, main-chancers, outright con-men and climate fraudsters to last us several lifetimes.

    If some people are genuinely well-intentioned but seriously misguided, then the likes of Scott and his ilk are to be forever condemned for their cynical manipulation of the vulnerable for their own political purposes and financial advantage.

    More power to you OL, you’re doing a brilliant job. Your efforts are much appreciated.

  15. Blackswan – seems the pendulum is swinging down under:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/
    Channel 9’s exit poll is even worse for Labor:

    “Labor could be left with 10 or fewer seats in an election bloodbath, according to an exit poll for the Nine network. The poll gives the Liberal National Party 63 per cent of the two-party preferred vote, to Labor’s 37 per cent.”

  16. G’day OL,

    Thanks for the link – great news isn’t it?

    As I write, the Queensland election vote closed two hours ago. It’s enough to warm an old swan’s heart to watch our leftwing ABC TV News political boffins squirming in their cheap suits as they relate the “bad” news for Labor.

    One reporter said words to the effect – “When the tide goes out on Qld politics, it always goes out a long way. Right now, it’s off the continental shelf” …… ROFL

    With 52% of the vote counted, Labor has only won 6 seats so far, and lost 38 of them. The boffins are saying they’ll be lucky to get into double digit seats won by the end of counting.

    It’s such a pity that in any state where Labor has prevailed, and indeed for the nation as a whole, by the time the electorate is a wake-up to their lies, corruption and mismanagement, that so much long-term damage has been done to our country, our economy and such monumental sovereign debt has been accumulated.

    Let’s hope that these results will be replicated when the rest of us get a chance to throw the Labor Feds out on their collective backsides in 2013.

  17. It is a long way to be making observations from Australia but in simple terms I can put out a press release saying all I need is £100 from every citizen in Orkney to make the world a better place but I don’t think I would expect to get much change out of a fiver, and that would be a bonus.

    Mr Watkins has time to show his credentials or not as the case may be. I suggest that this e-kangaroo judgement is reserved until then.

  18. “Given the deep, abiding and widespread anger of the ordinary Australian over this gross betrayal of trust, I cannot think of a possible outcome scenario at the next general election (and boy, can I think outside the box), which does not produce an evisceration of the ALP and the complete destruction of its green party allies.”

    After the next general election, all that’ll be left of the ALP MPs will be able to go to Canberra in a taxi …

    Pointman

  19. “Mr Watkins has time to show his credentials or not as the case may be”

    Mr Watkins has shown his credentials, they have been refuted by Broadgate Estates Limited.

    Regards,
    Admin

  20. 17:04 24/03/2012

    Stronsay, Orkney Office
    16 hours ago
    “The Stronsay page [London HQ] is now offline whilst the move to the new Orkney office is completed. This page however will continue as normal.”

    Our Mr.W hasn’t gotten around to this one yet:
    https://foursquare.com/v/stronsay-inc/4e146d78b3ad51e832e9b09f
    [stronsay, inc 201 Bgate (Primrose St), London, EC2]

    But heck, you just can’t get the staff these days……I was going to suggest he wake up Adam Benton but “The page you requested was not found” . . . . poor Adam has been working like a dog & now laid off!! Not even a ‘thank you for all your hard work’, Poor lamb.

  21. Gee Simon, you don’t need to keep things in “simple terms” when ‘speaking’ to an Australian …. we can understand whole strings of syllables.

    You’ve cleared up a few things nicely – thanks.

    Scott was suspected of being a lazy journalist and editor by failing to verify the credentials of his subject in a three-page spread but he is now confirmed as a lazy journalist by simply publishing a “press release” thereby failing in his editorial responsibilities as well.

    A kangaroo isn’t on the Australian coat of arms because he’s cute and cuddly. He stands beside an emu, a great flightless bird with both feet planted on terra firma and neither creature is capable of taking a backward step.

    Regards to all in Orkney,

    Skippy.

  22. I am the organizer of the Energy Forum on Solar Building Skins in Bressanone, Italy. I want to confirm that Christophe Watkins was not invited as keynote speaker to our conference last December. So far, all our keynote speakers were architects.

    Best regards
    Andreas Karweger

  23. Dear Mr Karweger,

    Many thanks for confirming this, it is much appreciated.

    Best regards,
    Admin

  24. His name isn’t even Christophe Watkins…it’s Christopher Watkins…and he was always a bit of a peculiar child who wanted to be bigger than his origins of Thomson, GA, where we attended school together.

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