Conspiracy theories last week pitted The Camberwell Arms — a high quality, award-winning gastropub on Camberwell Church Street — at the centre of a fake news story in the aftermath of the row surrounding a recording made by neighbours of Carrie Symonds, Prime Ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson’s girlfriend.
As reported by London News Online, Eve Leigh and Tom Penn who identified themselves as those who made the recording — in which Johnson’s conduct led to them calling the police — have no involvement with or relationship to the Camberwell Arms. The Camberwell Arms is owned by Michael Davies, Frank Boxer, and James Dye.
“It was just made up — started on Twitter — a literal fabrication,” Davies told Eater today. “There is zero connection [between Leigh and Penn and the pub] apart from that we’re in Camberwell.”
It is understood that the story was fabricated by an anonymous Twitter user “Viscount Braithwaite,” whose tweets are now protected, and whose bio contains the following words: “I am Viscount Braithwaite, Earl of Cheshire. 1726 - 1801. Now dead. Come back to haunt the Left.”
The original tweet, wrongly, stated: “BREAKING: As the faux outrage over Borisgate continues to grow, I say the commie couple next door have a lot to answer for gleefully leaking it to the Press.
“It like me leaking that the man owns the Camberwell Arms gastro pub on Church Street in SE5. I wouldn’t do it. Whoops.”
The pub owners contacted Braithwaite, telling them that they had no relationship to Leigh and Penn and that it was having a bad effect on their business. Davies said the tweet had been deleted but that the story, which quickly disseminated across the the alt-right sphere, and inspired by a call to ‘Go on Tripadvisor do your worst,’ led to a number of fake, disparaging one-star reviews both on Tripadvisor and Google Reviews.
Other Twitter users, including ‘John Nolan’, an apparent Brexit Party advocate, had shared the directive on Monday 24 June to avoid eating “at the Camberwell Arms in Church Street, SE5. The food is shit and so are the people who run it. (Boris two neighbours)”
Later that day, Nolan tweeted a partial correction, but has not deleted the original tweet. In it, they conceded that the information regarding the ownership “is actually not true.” They did however double down on the bizarre declaration that the “food is shit.” Adding also that the “atmosphere is crap too.”
Im sorry to say that part of my tweet about Camberwell Arms in Church Street, SE5 being run by Boris neighbours is actually not true so i need to correct that, But the part about shit food is true, many other persons have also said the food is shit and the atmosphere is crap too— John Nolan- Brexit Party WTO (@JohnNol93314206) June 24, 2019
Davies said that the pub’s Facebook page was trolled and that lots of old posts received multiple comments. Images of Penn, which the tabloid press had printed, were posted alongside ones of Davies. Their only resemblance is that they both wear glasses.
“We contacted all the social media platforms and told them what was happening. They pulled stuff down and were helpful,” Davies said. “Most people who were contacted directly agreed that there had been a mistake.” He added that most also appeared to be unused to being confronted by real people, evidence, and the truth.
Davies emphasised that as well as the speed with which artificial news can now spread online — “that mechanism is extraordinary” — he told Eater that the Camberwell Arms is and remains “a place of comfort, free from judgement.” He also confirmed that despite the initial shock at “immediately wanting to harm someone’s livelihood just because of a difference in political opinion,” it hasn’t “affected business in the slightest.” He also said that there was an “outpouring of support” in addition to the false news story and its dissemination online.
About the rumours and falsehoods, Eater contributor, and longtime Camberwell Arms patron Helen Graves said: “To be honest I was pretty shocked. It’s hard to see someone you know and like targeted for abuse online, especially when they’ve done nothing wrong.
“I actually felt a bit scared for them — what do you do apart from say, ‘this is a mistake, you’ve got the wrong people?’ And what if they don’t believe you? Ok so the people hurling the abuse are unlikely to be potential customers of the pub but bad publicity spreads quickly and it sows a seed — it can be so damaging to a business which has worked hard to build a reputation.
Many consider the pub to be among the best gastropubs in the city. Graves said: “The Camberwell Arms remains one of the best places to eat and drink in Camberwell and in my opinion, just keeps getting better year on year.
“I know Michael and his team have worked so hard to get that kitchen to where it is today and I just hope they can bounce back from this without too much harm done. Unfortunately, Google reviews don’t disappear and they now have to live with the fact those are online.”