DEPHER – THE CURE OR THE CAUSE?
A glimmer of hope. Restoring faith in humanity one broken boiler at a time. James Anderson, aka Depher, gained the attention of public and celebrities with life saving acts of charity. Fixing boilers for vulnerable pensioners who’d spent months in the cold. Providing food for hungry families and a shoulder for those struggling with mental health conditions, something James has experienced himself.
I came across James during the pandemic and was moved by his selfless acts. I’d share his posts and encourage others to do so. Relying on donations from the public, James would Tweet about the people he helped, sharing their pictures, often holding an invoice for a zero owed balance. It gave me the ick but I pushed it to the back of my mind, figuring the pics would help raise awareness and funds to continue his good work. Work that was endorsed and financially supported by people like Hugh Grant and Jeremy Corbyn.
Still the images didn’t sit well. Most of those pictured were elderly and frail, some looked confused or uncomfortable. It felt wrong and I started to share his posts less, especially after a post where he described interrupting a client’s suicide attempt. I felt it crossed a line. There was another occasion where James used his huge platform to blast someone for not paying their bill. I quietly noted the behaviour. James Anderson was not my problem. Until he was.
In April 2021, myself and a group of Black women called out racist comments from a prominent ‘socialist’ account. To avoid accountability, Jamie Kay triggered a chain of events that would see us racially abused, doxed and threatened. For almost 18 months, dozens of single purpose hate accounts have targeted us and our supporters with unfounded smears and acts of intimidation. Much of the abuse has been sanctioned and organised by other high profile socialist accounts, intent on ruining our reputations to save theirs.
One of our supporters, who advocates for people struggling to access benefits, was subjected to abuse and smears accusing her of exploiting the people that she helps. When Milly pointed out valid issues with a scheme giving slow cookers to people experiencing food poverty, trolls took the opportunity to use James Anderson and his platform to further malign her.
The racists claimed that Milly was trying to cancel the slow cooker drive and was taking aim at James Anderson and Dr Heald who were promoting the scheme. Heald relished in the drama, hyping up the situation and summoning all of his middle class caucasity to reject the views of people experiencing poverty. To prove how much he truly wanted to understand, Dr Heald came up with the ‘Universal Credit Challenge,’ a social experiment where he and a bunch of posh twats would cosplay poor people for a whole two weeks. Dr Heald’s attempt to offset the concerns of people experiencing poverty could never provide any real insight into their lives. Infuriatingly, those very people had gathered to share their lived experience, but Heald dismissed them as trouble causers, regurgitating the smears of racists and tagging in Jack Monroe in a failed attempt to draw her followers into the growing dogpile. Heald also tagged Depher.
James immediately became defensive. We presented clear examples of the racial abuse from the accounts that who were now pitching him against us. Instead of unfollowing and distancing himself from the hate campaign, he used his platform to attack victims of racism. Tagging us with the Home Office like they were gonna round us up and deport us. Warning us that we were being watched by people in ‘high establishment’ and forming a shield around himself with his charitable acts to reinforce his followers’ unconditional support. James flooded his timeline with images of his vulnerable clients. He dropped donations to Black charities and posted a succession of images of Black people he’d helped. It was a cringeworthy spectacle that would horrify anyone with any sense of racial awareness. Fortunately for James, it went over the heads of most of his followers.
James Anderson had been sainted and sanctified in the court of opinion, by a public that still believes those who perform incredible acts of charity should be protected from scrutiny. There was uproar when Jas referenced ‘Saville’ to warn of the dangers of unconditional support and while physical and sexual abuse is the extreme, James Anderson used his position of trust to lie and encourage people in power to punish us. His inflammatory comments led to threats to hunt us down. James didn’t blink at the thought of us coming to harm. His sinister response gave us genuine concerns, so we started to dig.
The first confirmation that James Anderson is not the person he claims to be was a single post about Jeremy Corbyn, calling him an ‘idiot’ who shouldn’t be allowed to run anything. It was 2016 and James Anderson was firmly positioned against the socialism that now funds his charity work. There was proof that Depher had spent the period running up to the last general election, sowing seeds of division and fertilising the grounds of the hostile environment.
Before finding favour with Hugh Grant and the Corbyns, James was flirting with Farage, boycotting supermarkets that stock Halal meat and blasting Black Lives Matter for ruining his football. There was no watershed, no attempt to acknowledge that his views had helped to usher in the nightmare we’re now living. Never distancing himself from the figures and ideologies that helped hatred to thrive and encouraged voters to trade human rights for blue passports and white privilege. As we count the cost of these political misadventures it’s vital we challenge the mindset that led us here and for this reason, James Anderson deserves scrutiny.
Many would prefer to believe that James’ work with vulnerable people has softened his right-wing views or that they should be overlooked so that he can continue his valuable work. Even I’ve had to ask myself if there’s any benefit to holding him to account, given his impact on the lives of those experiencing poverty. I concluded that should be a driving force in ensuring that he’s worthy of the trust and privileges bestowed upon those we call hero. Cos when we don’t, vulnerable people get exploited or hurt.
When @BlackWontCrack didn’t yield to the attacks, James turned to emotional manipulation. Someone he was ‘supporting’, he informed us, had attempted to end their life. ‘If he dies’ Depher warned. ‘It’s on you.’ James claimed that he had been so busy arguing with ‘trolls’ that he’d missed a text from a person who was contemplating suicide. James told 50k followers that we were directly responsible for this man’s fate. It was such a violent act, so undeniably manipulative. A huge breach of trust. James may not have named the individual, but he used their pain to incite hatred towards us.
The run in ended with James attempting to burden us with responsibility of his own mental health struggles and a declaration that he would be leaving Depher CIC as a result of our ‘bullying.’ Within days he was back, papering over the cracks with more pics and boasts of his good work. He withdrew from the smear campaign without apology, maintaining the narrative that he was tricked into getting involved and unduly attacked. Things got back to normal pretty quickly for Depher, once he stopped spreading malicious lies about us, but we all knew that his recent behaviour and past bigotry would become a problem if left unchecked. No one on the left wanted to do the checking.
This weekend I was surprised to see a James Anderson Tweet on my timeline. We’re mutually blocked and most of my followers don’t fuck with him. It was the type of Tweet that hurts my head, one of those painful attempts at presenting an outrageously right-wing view as a legitimate concern. To make matters worse, Anderson posed the comment as a question ‘from a friend’ on a Martin Lewis Twitter thread about the Cost of Living Payment. Anderson’s ‘friend’ wanted to know why only unemployed people on Universal Credit are receiving the £650 payment while ‘the workers get nothing.’
It was a dog whistle. Fuck his explanation that this was a genuine question posed by a friend who exists outside of his limited imagination. James works with impoverished people every day but we’re expected to believe that he doesn’t know that many people on Universal Credit are in work? Supposed to accept that he couldn’t answer that question without the help of a celebrity economist? How can a man who fights poverty be so out of touch with the cause that he supports? How can he not see that his own views are a contributing factor?
Since the @BlackWontCrack campaign was forced into existence, any views we express are blown out of proportion, our condemnation of Anderson’s comment to Martin Lewis was no different. James used our mild response to claim that he was the victim of a bullying campaign and true to form, started tagging police forces and sanitising himself with gut wrenching client stories. Tellingly, he chose to avoid accountability for his bigoted social media posts by claiming that we’d faked the screenshots. Here’s a link to the image of the golliw*g pic he shared on Facebook.
The cracks are showing. James Anderson is at war with himself. With one hand he fights a monster that steals from the poor. With the other he feeds it anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalism. His parading of the grateful poor went unchallenged and now his clients’ images and struggles are being used to throw his followers off the stench of his political views. Should he be condemned like an old boiler? Or do his good deeds outweigh the toxic views that malign poor people, Black Lives Matter, Muslims? Can the smell be ignored for the sake of those who will go cold and hungry this winter? Or is it just a matter of time before he blows?