People who live in glass houses…

66 Comments

Today Heretic TOC welcomes a debut guest blogger, “David”,  who is a 50-year-old security officer from Southern England and a  spare-time student of current affairs, politics, history, and religion. He deplores the use of paedophilia by the Far Right as a stick to beat Muslims with, attacking the hypocrisy of some key figures. The Far Left does not escape his critical attention either. 

ISLAM, RIGHT-LEFT EXTREMIST POLITICS AND PAEDOPHILIA

Islam is one of the world’s major religions with more than one billion faithful followers and growing rapidly across the globe with every year. We are all familiar with the media demonisation of ordinary law-abiding Muslims as a result of the actions of the “Islamist” extremist minority. In recent years Muslims have also come under attack from UK Far-Right groups such as the British National Party, National Front, Britain First, English Defence League, Infidel groups and so on, who criticise Islam as a “paedophile religion” due to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad was married to a child bride, Aisha when she was six years old and he consummated the marriage with her when she was nine years old:

The Far-Right organisations in Britain also point to the much-publicised Rotherham case of alleged ‘child abuse’ involving men of predominantly Pakistani Muslim heritage.

However, the UK Far-Right so-called “Christian” anti-Islamic groups choose not to publicise the following facts:

  • It was legal in medieval Christian England and Europe to marry…child brides! “…in 1396, Richard II of England was joined in marriage to young Isabel of France, who had been 7 years old when their engagement was announced the previous year in Paris. Not only was there no uproar; there was considerable happiness expressed over the assumed probability that this marriage would end the Hundred Year’s War then in one of its periodic states of truce between the two kingdoms. Peace was to be ensured by joining together this man and this little girl in marriage.” – John McLaughlin, “Medieval Child Marriage: Abuse of Wardship?” (Paper delivered at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH Conference on Medieval Studies, April, 1997)
  • The British National Front (NF) organised violent demonstrations against the London meetings of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) during the 1970s and yet…the NF had paedophile members of their own party at the same time! Was this a case of NF hypocrisy, “do as we say not as we do”, or more a case of the extreme right-wing NF being opposed to the progressive left-of-centre causes championed by PIE such as Gay Liberation, and due to PIE’s links with the National Council for Civil Liberties (now known as Liberty) and the Labour Party, perceived as enemies by the Front? Or would the NF claim they had been “infiltrated by paedophiles”? Judge for yourself:
  • Quote: “Hughie Porter (NF Leicester Branch activist) was a particularly unsavoury character with several convictions for child molesting, another fact known but tolerated by the local NF leadership.” – Ray Hill and Andrew Bell, The Other Face of Terror: Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network (Grafton Books 1988)
  •  “… Contrary to popular belief, there are boy-lovers of almost every political persuasion. Two former members of the National Front (British equivalent of the Nazi Party) were recently convicted here of having had sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. One man, Colin London, a former fish shop manager, received a two-year sentence, and the other, Harold Nash, a former company director, one year. SOURCE: Gay News, September, 1979.” – PAN (bi-monthly magazine published by Spartacus, Amsterdam), Vol.1, No. 3 November, 1979. This issue also includes an interesting letter from a correspondent regarding NF radical extremist, Robert Relf’s imprisonment and solitary confinement in the “leper wing” with paedophile prisoners where he relates the shocking ill-treatment meted out to them and he claimed “food sent to the wing was contaminated by other prisoners (real criminals) with urine and spit” and “Hot cocoa is also poured over them.”
  • The late Colin Jordan, the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi British Movement (BM) was found to be listed on documents as a “VIP guest” seized by police investigating alleged “paedophile sex parties” at Elm Guest House in London, along with named Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, Sinn Fein activists and leading members of the Right-wing Conservative Monday Club. Jordan was fined £50 in June 1975 for shoplifting women’s underwear from the Leamington Spa branch of Tesco (despite his virulently anti-Semitic movement being opposed to “Jewish-founded supermarkets and department stores”), and he resigned soon afterwards as BM “fuhrer” to be replaced by his deputy Michael McLaughlin who launched a purge of alleged “perverts”. Roger Gleaves, a paedophile Bishop of the Old Catholic Church, who was recently released from imprisonment for alleged “child rape” offences had founded the Keep Britain Great/Keep Britain White Campaign in 1962, the same year that Jordan formed the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). (Note that Ernst Rohm, the homosexual chief of the Nazi Brownshirts was caught in bed with a 15-year-old boy during the Night of the Long Knives clampdown on Hitler’s revolutionary rivals in 1934).
  • In 1950, Alf Flockart, Organising Secretary of Sir Oswald Mosley’s neo-fascist British Union Movement (UM) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for having sex with a youth in a public lavatory in London.
  • Martin Webster, who was the homosexual NF National Activities Organiser during the 1970s (when PIE members were attacked by the NF) was rumoured to have written a love letter to a young boy and homophobic NF members left the party in droves – Webster himself was expelled from the Front during the 1980s.

In more recent times, Left-wing anti-fascist websites such as Hope Not Hate have publicised the following cases of alleged Far-Right paedophiles (just as, Right-wing websites such as Labour25 have publicised cases of alleged Far-Left paedophiles – members of the Labour Party, and Marxist figures such as “Comrade Bala” of the Brixton Maoist “sex cult”, “Comrade Delta” aka Martin Smith of the Socialist Workers Party and the late Gerry Healy of the Workers Revolutionary Party, who were put under the media spotlight for alleged sexual abuse of young women and girls):

  • Martyn Gilleard was a paid up member of the NF, White Nationalist Party and the British People’s Party who was found to have more than 39,000 images of children on his computer, and during 2011, Michael Cowen, a NF member was caught by police with 17,058 images of children, 215 videos, and he made contact with other paedophiles on social networking sites.
  • English Defence League member, Co-Founder and Organiser, Richard Price, was convicted of possessing images of children. The EDL released a statement that he was a “political prisoner”.
  • Liam Pinkham, an active member of the North West Infidels (NWI) Islamophobic group admitted to having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
  • Britain First (BF) and EDL activist, John Broomfield was convicted of possessing images of children.
  • During 2012, Ryan Fleming, an activist of the neo-Nazi National Action group was alleged to have been involved in the sexual assault of a teenage boy.
  • British National Party (BNP) members and supporters who have convictions for possessing images of children and engaging in sexual activity with children include: Nigel Hesmondhalgh, Ian Hindle, Andrew Wells, Roderick Rowley, Ian Si’Ree, Darren Francis and Gavin Leist.
  • The former leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) wrote on Twitter to a young girl called “Asianish”: “your pretty fit for a muslim” to which she replied: “I’m 15 and you got the cheek to call muslims paedo’s”.
  • Right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party paedophile members have included UKIP party aide, Aaron Knight, who was jailed in 2016 for alleged sexual activity with a seven-year-old boy, and former Bury UKIP chairman, Peter Entwistle, who was gaoled in 2014 for alleged grooming of children and having 200,000 images of children.
  • The late controversial Right-wing Tory MP, Enoch Powell was recently accused by the Church of England (itself having paedophile members of its own clergy) of being involved in lurid allegations of “Satanic child sex abuse” without any real proof.

All this is disturbingly reminiscent of the allegations and trial by media surrounding the late politicians Cyril Smith (Liberal MP), Leon Brittan (Tory MP and Home Secretary), Lord Greville Janner (Labour MP and Peer), Edward Heath (Conservative Prime Minister) and Clement Freud (Liberal MP), who are also no longer alive and so unable to defend themselves in a court of law. One Tory Right-winger and supporter of Powell who was able to successfully challenge the far-fetched and ludicrous accusations of child abuse and murder which were made against him by a suspected serial fantasist called “Nick” is former MP, Harvey Proctor, and Operation Midland was closed down by police as a result.

So dear reader, you may well ask what is the point of this article? As issue No.3 of PAN (an acronym of Paedophile Alert News/Paedophile Action Network) previously quoted made clear, paedophiles and child-lovers can hold a wide range of political views, including those of the anti-fascist Left, Far-Right, UKIP, Liberal, Labour or Conservative, and are also represented in all religions and none. However, the leaderships of the Far-Right movements need to stop hypocritically attacking “Muslim paedophiles” (as the British hard-right groups used to mainly attack “Jewish paedophiles” and still do, with less frequency) when they have paedophile members of their own extreme Right organisations, just as the Far-Left groups need to think twice and consider their own paedophile supporters before demonising all paedophiles and tarring them with the neo-Nazi brush.

 

 

The seven ages of sexual attractiveness

81 Comments

Neologophilia is a terrible disease that can wreak havoc on its victims, especially those who become trapped inside neologisms emanating from the warped minds of mad scientists.

It all started over a century ago with Richard Fridolin Joseph Freiherr Krafft von Festenberg auf Frohnberg, genannt von Ebing, a man apparently destined by an odd quirk of nominative determinism to become obsessed with strange names. For it was Krafft-Ebing, as he is usually known, who gave us the term “paedophilia erotica” and a whole lot of other new words for sexual “perversions”, now known as “paraphilias”. In more recent times the palm for linguistic inventiveness in the sexual field passed first to John Money and then to Ray Blanchard, who is still with us.

Money, for instance, dreamed up “formicophilia”, which translates roughly as “insect-love”. The insanity of thinking the world needs such a word might seem self-evident. On the other hand, a glance at the symptoms suggests otherwise, as does the case of a 10-year-old boy who was diagnosed as a formicophile. Beaten by his father for a sexual relationship with another boy, he focused instead on getting sexual satisfaction from having ants crawl over him. By adulthood he had graduated to getting his jollies from cockroaches crawling on his thighs and testicles, and snails on his nipples and penis.

So maybe we should not be too hard on the neologophiles, including Blanchard, who came up with the terms hebephilia and teleiophilia for sexual age-orientations. It’s not the terms themselves that count, necessarily, so much as what is done with them. Blanchard, for instance, is a highly-rated researcher whose experimental work distinguishing hebephilia from paedophilia is of considerable theoretical importance. Unfortunately, he massively blotted his copy book by trying to have hebephilia classified as a mental illness, which would make it easier for sex offenders to be kept locked up indefinitely under civil commitment laws until they are “cured”.

There is no such black mark against the name of the newest big-time word coiner on the block, Michael Seto. I know Dr Seto from the Sexnet forum. He absolutely does not agree with my radical views but he once very nobly expressed his appreciation of my “informative and thoughtful posts” after some of his professional colleagues had been grumbling about the presence on the invitation-only forum of a few non-academic activists like me.

Seto’s textbook Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against Children: Theory, Assessment, and Intervention, published by the American Psychological Association, was by far the most authoritative guide to the research literature when it appeared in 2008. Now he has come up with an exciting new paper, “The Puzzle of Male Chronophilias”, thereby introducing us to another term of Money’s, chronophilia, an umbrella expression covering the various forms of sexual attraction to those within a particular age range, or stage of physical development.

What is exciting about it? Well, Seto unveiled the brand new term “mesophilia”. It hasn’t set the world ablaze but it did float journalist Jesse Singal’s boat. He wrote an article, “Being Into Middle-Aged People Is Probably a Sexual Orientation”, which neatly sums up both the meaning and the (as yet) rather shaky level of support for the idea. Seto merely wrote that “The existence and relative prevalence of mesophilia is hinted at by the relative popularity of the MILF (for ‘‘Moms I’d Like to Fuck’’) genre in pornography”, adding that DILF (with the expected meaning) is out there too.

Even BoyChat, straying from their usual focus, featured a lengthy thread on the topic after poster “Filip” (who must surely be the same Filip who has posted very informatively here) introduced it. As someone who makes the effort to do his own research, Filip commented acidly “It is interesting to see that sexual age preferences are born by writing an article and not by doing research…” But that didn’t stop him from seizing on an interesting thought: How many boys and girls are “mesophilic”?

But mesophilia is just an attention grabber. The really interesting aspect of Seto’s paper is its review of age attraction across the board, including how it is conceived, and the relative prevalence of attraction to the different ages/stages of life.

Shakespeare gave us the Seven Ages of Man. Seto nominates seven ages to which anyone might be sexually attracted, and names the desire: nepiophilia (infants/toddlers), paedophilia (prepubescent children), hebephilia (pubescent children), ephebophilia (postpubescent, sexually maturing adolescents), teleiophilia (young sexually mature adults, typically 20s and 30s), mesophilia (middle-aged adults, typically 40s and50s), and gerontophilia (elderly adults, typically 60s and older). See Table 1, which I have adapted from Seto’s own Table 1.

chronophilias-table-1

He is at pains to emphasise, though, that these labels are not meant to pigeon-hole us into neatly separate categories. Rather, we each have our own individual, idiosyncratic, pattern of sexual attraction: we might be hot for women and boys but indifferent to men and girls; or crazy for the smooth, hairless genitals of little boys and girls alike but distinctly turned off by the hirsute turn that comes to both sexes with puberty. A friend jokingly tells me he is bisexual, the two “sexes” being boys and men! He is in effect saying females of any age are so sexually uninteresting to him they might as well be a different species.

Seto speaks of us each occupying “blobs” in a multi-dimensional sexual space, a territorial concept which to my mind has much in common with Money’s “lovemaps”. Seto’s dimensions include not just the most obvious ones, the gender and age to which we are attracted, but also some far more exotic axes, such as human/animal, alive/not alive and forced/consensual. But age is both interesting and puzzling, so I’ll stick with it.

Starting with nepiophilia, Seto admits that not much is known about sexual attraction to infants or toddlers, but data held by the FBI indicate that few cases of active sexual involvement with such young children come to the attention of the authorities. Also, this sexual interest is rare as judged by child pornography content. Quayle and Jones (2011), we are told, found that only 1–2% of the more than 24,000 child pornography images in their analysis of a large police database depicted babies or toddlers. As for Seto’s own research, “Only 1% of our sample of 286 child pornography offenders had images of such young children compared to a third with images of prepubescent children and 20% with images of pubescent children (Seto &Eke, 2015).” We frequently encounter lurid claims in the media of “baby rape” images being discovered when a child porn ring is busted. Based on Seto’s figures, though, the strong suspicion must be that such claims often amount to no more than black propaganda.

The prevalences of paedophilia (with nepiophilia usually included by default) and hebephilia have been studied much more but the figures are hotly contested. I will return to these major categories of minor attraction, but a word first about ephebophilia, which, like nepiophilia, has been remarkably little researched. The first question to ask about this is why not? After all, while many women are known to find older men attractive (especially wealthy, high-status guys), men are notorious for trading in their wives and long-time lady friends for much younger females: the images that work best for advertisers when trying to grab men’s attention tend to be of young models, no older than early twenties and down to mid-teens. And as Filip pointed out in a comment here recently, studies have shown that the highest risk of sexual assault for females is when they are in their mid-to-late teens, which looks a reasonable indicator of maximum sexual attraction. Seto cites research putting the highest risk at 14-15, though these figures must include consensual “statutory” encounters, thereby artificially inflating the “assault” rate against minors. Either way, it is entirely possible that ephebophilia is even more common than teleiophilia, at least among males.

Or is it? Somewhat belatedly, I realise that I have been carrying at the back of my mind the traditional idea of the ephebe, which is of course the inspiration for the modern term ephebophilia. The Oxford Dictionary tells us an ephebe was “(In ancient Greece) a young man of 18-20 years undergoing military training”. Forget the male-only bit, and the military training. Just look at the age: 18-20. As we have seen, though, Seto defines ephebephilia as attraction to those aged approximately 15-17.

His rationale for this, reasonably enough, is that what distinguishes different age-attraction categories is not so much age itself as the size, shape and other physical characteristics that are typical of any particular age group, including visible primary and secondary sexual characteristics such as the appearance of  the genitals, size of breasts or testes, and development of pubic hair. Using the Tanner stages of physical development, Seto defines ephebophilia on the basis that it corresponds to Tanner Stage 4, whereas teleiophilia is Tanner Stage 5. You can check these stages for yourself, from the link. Personally, I would say there is not a great deal of difference between stages 4 and 5. The young people in both of these stages are clearly well past puberty, with extensive genital development, and female “ephebes” are quite full breasted. So it seems artificial to limit ephebophilia in the way proposed. It would make more sense to designate Tanner Stages 4 and 5 as the target of ephebophilia.

What we need, perhaps, is a different scale. Let’s call it the TOC Scale. Babies and toddlers are clearly a very different shape to older children, being typically much chubbier, with shorter limbs and relatively larger heads. So there should be TOC Stage 1 (nepiophilia). Then we would have prepubescent children as TOC 2 (paedophilia); pubescent as TOC 3 (hebephilia); sexually mature (nubile, typically ages 15-25) as TOC 4 (ephebophilia); then straight to dad bod and mum bod as TOC 5 (mesophilia); finally, elderly as TOC 6 (gerontophilia).

Filip might want to start TOC 4 a year earlier, after spotting a very important problem with Seto’s age scheme. He wrote that “Girls in Tanner stage 4 are 14.0 to 15.2 years according to one German study. According to that study 99% of the girls have reached the Tanner stage 4 with 16.8 years. So nearly no 17-year-olds are in Tanner stage 4. Most of the ‘typical men’ would probably prefer a 16- or a 17-year-old over a 30-year-old.”

In addition to being more realistic, the TOC Scale would stop obscuring the obvious truth that men, especially, are mainly attracted to youth. Not to prepubescent children though: we minor-attracted types should not exaggerate the prevalence of Kindness out of desperation to make ourselves feel normal or to claim that our tastes are not that different to the mainstream. I say this in the full knowledge that a lot of research (reviewed extensively in comments here and in papers by Filip Schuster and Philip Tromovitch: see below) show that around a quarter of all men, or even more, have a significant level of sexual attraction towards children. But this should not be allowed to obscure the fact that many among this 25% or so feel a more powerful degree of attraction to their preferred age/stage of attraction, which tends to be young but physically mature. [TOC adds, 11 Sept: Actually, I stand corrected. Filip has pointed out in a comment below that research has shown a quarter of men taking part as control group participants in lab studies show at least as much sexual arousal to depictions of children as to adults. TOC further adds 12 Sept: However, Filip now gives further information. If he is right, my original intuition may have been reasonably accurate after all. See below.]

Neither should researchers downplay the rarity of such desires in order to pathologise and Other us. With this in mind, I asked the researchers on Sexnet last year what would have happened if Blanchard had included a set of ephebophilic stimuli in a major paper of his on sexual attraction. Ray Blanchard replied in person.

“Just for the record, he said, “the phallometric stimuli were assembled by Kurt Freund long before I met him – long, in fact, before I ever thought of studying sexual behavior. My guess is that Freund did not include mid- or late-adolescent photographic models because his immediate agenda was clinical diagnosis. If my assumption is correct, he deliberately built this discontinuity into the stimulus set, in order to make the differentiation between teleiophiles vs. pedo- or hebephiles simpler… I suppose I could, in principle, have made the effort to add later adolescent models and middle-aged or elderly models to the stimulus set, and that might have strengthened my theoretical studies of erotic gender-age preferences. To a large extent, however, I used the modus operandi that Freund had taught me: Piggyback your research onto your clinical operation.”

This strikes me as an honest answer, and one that gives a real insight into how research projects, even those by such a careful and highly regarded scientist as Blanchard, tend to be cobbled together in ways that potentially allow convenience to trump accuracy. In this case, allowing their work to be influenced by clinical considerations has meant that both Freund and his protégé Blanchard have focused on issues predefined by society as problematic rather than on truly objective research. Their work has been led by the perceived need to fix the presumptively sick minds of their clinical patients, or at least to stop paedophiles and hebephiles from “offending”. The effect has been to emphasise the pre-declared abnormality of these often involuntary patients and simultaneously to misrepresent what constitutes normal male attraction: the very common male preference for youth, including freshly nubile teenagers, has been wiped out of consciousness by the simple act of not researching it.

chronophilias-figure-1

Figure 1 shows Seto’s view of the relative frequency of his “chronophilias”. The TOC Scale would define ephebophilia in a way that would put it at the top of the curve, reflecting men’s overwhelmingly common attraction to youth. Allen Frances, best known for producing DSM-IV, wrote that “Evolution has programmed humans to lust for pubescent youngsters – our ancestors did not get to live long enough to have the luxury of delaying reproduction.”And as Filip noted here, the age of puberty is steadily getting lower, so the age to which adult males are attracted may also be falling.

On the other hand preferential paedophilia is probably rare. Some years ago Seto’s estimate was that up to 5% of the adult male population could be exclusive or preferential paedophiles. Now he tells us his best guess is that it is probably only 1%. He says his new, lower, figure is based on recent large Finnish and German surveys (Santtila et al., 2015).

I read the Santtila et al. study when it appeared last year. It is a complicated paper that I found difficult to interpret, so I asked about it on Sexnet. Mike Bailey, one of the top guys in the world on statistics in this field (he stoutly supported the controversial meta-analysis by Rind et al. 1998, showing that “CSA” causes little if any long-term harm even based on figures including coerced contacts) did not dispute Seto’s estimate but conceded that despite a large database, the Santtila et al. data “aren’t very good. … The truth is, it’s very hard to get good data on this.”

As for hebephilia, Seto reckons the figure is only “slightly higher” than the 1% for paedophilia. My guess – in the end we are all guessing – is that 1-3% seems about right for paedophilia but it looks crazy to claim hebephilia is not considerably higher bearing in mind Blanchard’s work, which shows that typically there is a smoothly curving gradient in the strength of sexual interest people feel between adjacent age categories. Thus those whose strongest sexual preference is ephebophilia have a lower, but still quite strong, attraction to those in the next age two groups, one a bit older, the other a bit younger. In this case the immediately younger category would be pubescent i.e. the hebephilia group. If there are thus a large number of people whose second preference is pubescents, it would seem odd to claim only a vanishingly small number whose strongest preference is for this physical stage of development. Phallometric testing of control samples of men also support the claim that preferential hebephilia is quite prevalent. See “Tromovitch sets a poser on prevalence” here at Heretic TOC and also “Every fifth boy and man is pedophilic or hebephilic” (Schuster, 2014). Schuster comes up with prevalence rates of 3% for paedophilia and 16% for hebephilia. These figures, carefully derived and explained, look more realistic to me than Seto’s, for which he does not set out a clear rationale.

Sorry to get bogged down in figures and technicalities and for the taxing length of this blog. I had hoped to go further as well, to a discussion of sexual orientation in its relation to identity politics. But that must wait until another time.

Willy power and ‘the will to power’

74 Comments

Women are apt to chastise us guys for being ruled by our dicks, and there is no shortage of high-profile cases that would seem to prove them right. Time and again, prominent figures such as Bill Clinton have fallen from grace thanks to sexual indiscretions of a crazily risky kind, temptations to which they could only have succumbed if their brains were being bypassed at the time.

When a Kind man finds himself in trouble over an illicit relationship, no matter how consensual, the outcome is of course much more serious than for a politician, whose job and reputation may be at stake but not his liberty. Likewise the politician’s femme fatale may well find herself rocketed to fame, fortune and a great social life by the “scandal” in question, as did Monica Lewinsky, whereas the child partners in paedophilic relationships are all too often traumatised by their “rescue”.

Occasionally we encounter an interesting hybrid category where comedy and tragedy meet in equal measure. Did you hear the latest about Simon Danczuk? He is the MP, it will be recalled, who made his name by damning a deceased fellow MP as a paedophile and then setting off a false alarm about an allegedly widespread Westminster VIP paedophilia scandal. He was recently suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of sending sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old girl. He reportedly admitted “inappropriate” behaviour, saying that younger women were his “Achilles heel” and that he needed therapy for sex addiction. And a week or so ago he ended up being arrested and put in a Spanish jail cell after an altercation with his ex-wife that saw her reportedly suffering cuts and bruises leading to hospital treatment.

Just the sort of person to lead a moral crusade against sexual transgression, eh? In rueful mood, the 49-year-old politician apparently said of himself “No fool like an old fool”. To which Heretic TOC would add, no hypocrite like a morally fulminating, anti-Kind hypocrite! Methinks it be not too un-Kindly to savour a modicum of schadenfreude over his downfall!

Most of us Kinds, fortunately, have our sexuality under control, unlike Danczuk and his ilk. I like to think we keep our ethical standards and our public stance on sexual morality under scrutiny as well, especially here at Heretic TOC, so that our private and public attitudes are kept in harmony. It is called integrity: as the dictionary puts it, “The quality of being honest (my emphasis) and having strong moral principles” and also “The state of being whole and undivided”. The private and public standards of the hypocrite, by contrast, are sharply divided. They are neither honest nor moral; and they lack integrity.

But we must beware of complacent self-satisfaction. Yes, our private beliefs and our public stance may fit well together as an honest and coherent whole. But how have we arrived at them? Are our beliefs just rationalisations of our desires, making our stance just as false as that of the hypocrites?

Ernest Jones introduced the term “rationalisation” to psychoanalysis in 1908, defining it as “the inventing of a reason for an attitude or action the motive of which is not recognised”. It was an explanation which (though false) could seem plausible. The term has generally been used ever since by psychologists and psychiatrists to refer to false beliefs. However, when someone’s beliefs appear to be self-serving it is all too easy to accuse them of rationalising even when their beliefs are true.

It is one of the many sticks our opponents use to beat us. In their hands it is a rhetorical device to discredit any arguments and evidence we might bring to bear in support of our position, without having to go to the trouble of refuting the arguments or probing the evidence. As such, it is an ad hominem argument: it plays the man not the ball.

As the admirable Leonard Sisyphus Mann pointed out in his Consenting Humans blog:

Even proving conclusively that an opponent has a personal stake in the arguments he’s making does not invalidate, or even weaken, the position they are arguing for: it is perfectly possible to argue something out of self-interest and be correct: many English slave owners actually supported the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act because domestic manufacturing was becoming more lucrative than their plantations, and the huge compensation that parliament was proposing to pay slave owners for loss of their property would allow them to cash in a failing resource and invest in that increasingly lucrative domestic industry – indeed the mills of the North of England were built on the proceeds of this compensation.

Mann cites Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H. Thouless, who wrote that we must not make “the foolish mistake of supposing that we can settle controversies by… labelling their arguments ‘rationalisation’… A true opinion as well as a false one may owe much of its strength to irrational motives.” The main value of an alertness to rationalisation, says Mann, is a reflexive one: “An alertness to rationalisation is primarily a tool for sorting out our own thinking rather than that of others.”

Having said that, being Kind in our society may afford us a degree of immunity against self-serving rationalisation that is not afforded to those with mainstream sexual tastes. Clinton was apparently able to convince himself (and for a while fool others) by rationalising that he did not have sex with Lewinsky, based on sex being defined as coitus not oral sex: she gave him head but they did not screw. Can you imagine Kind people making that argument, even in the privacy of our own heads, to deceive only ourselves? I don’t think so, not when oral sex with a minor counts as rape and we have constantly dinned into us that even looking at pictures of naked kids is somehow horrific. We can and do reject such characterisations, but society is on our case so much that we cannot get away with superficial excuses: we are forced to think much more deeply than Clinton ever needed to.

Even so, we are not totally immune. There are those among us, for instance, who take a cynical view of morality in general, like Red, the BL hero of Rod Downey’s novel The Moralist. Our reasoned choices, Red insists, are just “a second-generation copy of desire”: everyone, not just Kinds, makes up their morality to suit themselves. Everyone rationalises.

In essence Red is a Nietzschean. Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of Morality, made his famous distinction between master morality and slave morality. Stripped to its basics, it amounts to an assertion that being “good” is a mug’s game. That’s just for losers, notably those without power, such as slaves, including the early Christians when they were being persecuted and martyred by the pagan Romans. Instead of doing whatever they wanted, which was the philosophy of the winners, or the ruling masters of society, the Christians had to settle for “good” behaviour and hoping their reward would come not in this life but the next, in heaven.

The master morality, by contrast, is seen as noble. Instead of abasing himself before God, and repenting his sins in the Christian manner, the moral aristocrat has a keen sense of his own self-worth, such that “good” is whatever seems good to him, not to some censorious authority, whether divine or secular. “The noble type of man,” Nietzsche wrote, “experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, ‘what is harmful to me is harmful in itself’; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating.”  The strong-willed man values such things as good, because they aid him in a lifelong process of self-actualisation through what Nietzsche called “the will to power”.

It is a philosophy that seems very plausible as developed in Downey’s novel, on account of Red being a very appealing character. He is a romantic figure, a revolutionary. He is glamorous. He has style. He cuts a dash. And, most important of all, the boy he loves admires and loves him too.

But what if the hero were a little more flawed? It’s a point I took up in my review of the book some years ago:

Let’s imagine Hannibal Lekter saying to himself “What I want is good.” What he famously wants is to eat people. So why can’t we accept this as morally acceptable? Is it just because we happen to have different wants? Is it because most of us (presumably) do not wish to eat people? No, it is because we do not wish to be eaten. Hannibal’s wants are inconsistent with ours, so we need some system – some reasoned, principled system we can agree on – to arbitrate between competing wants. This engages law as well as morality, but both systems of restrictions on behaviour ultimately derive their authority from beliefs as to what is harmful.

Downey goes some way to tackle the Lekter factor. His hero’s morality is thus based not just on any old whimsical desires a body might have, but on love. It is right and good to follow our hearts, to be guided by our desires. But the major and highly disputable premise is that we will all wish to act with love. Well, that’s still no problem for Hannibal Lekter. He just loves eating people!

According to Red, “The moral struggle is not between good and evil, right and wrong, but self and society.” But “society” is not just government, it is not just authority telling us what to do. It is us, as well as them. It speaks volumes about our alienation in modern society that we lose sight of this. Other people – friends, family, lovers, colleagues – all want subjective “good” things that differ both subtly and drastically from one person to another. The way out of the problems this creates is the mutually advantageous resort to reason and, yes, moral principle. This need not result in the tightly defined codes and rules that are the authoritarian’s paradise. It does not imply God-given fundamental truths as to what is good, but rather a consensus of shared feelings between all the interested parties – a consensus that is easier to achieve in small communities, albeit less universal and more questionable on that account as well.

So the Nietschzean “will to power” is not enough. And we all know how disastrous the philosophy of “will” was to become in the hands of the Nazis, when it was extended from individual self- actualisation to the collective will of the “Aryan race” and the glorification of the German Reich. Compared to Hitler, Hannibal Lekter is just a lovable eccentric!

Rather than stepping onto the slippery slope that begins with the “will to power” and ends with Triumph of the Will, world war and genocide, we should admit that moral discipline is necessary. That doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to a triumph of the willy (and fanny!) It just means we must be vigilant in challenging our own rationalisations.

 

LOTTERY-LEVEL WIN FOR COMPO KID

The Los Angeles Times reports that a former student who impregnated a California high-school teacher at the age of 17 has received a $6 million compensation settlement from the school district.

But compensation for what? For being a teenager over the age of consent (over the British AOC at least) who was lucky enough to have a consensual relationship with a young woman who is now 29?

They have to be joking don’t they? If this is victimhood, there must be millions of teenage boys (and younger!) who would bust their asses for a part of it.

Yet this is what Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the unnamed “victim”, reportedly said about the astronomical damages award:

“The size of this settlement represents the gravity of the damage done to this young victim and his family and it also highlights the extreme malfeasance and neglect by school officials who turned a blind eye to the criminal conduct of a teacher and failed to protect a student.”

No evidence as to the “damage” done to the now 21-year-old “victim” is presented in the LA Times story, which is otherwise quite lengthy. Arguably, the baby could be considered collateral “damage” of the relationship. Nothing was said about who will be bearing the cost of the child’s upbringing but the “victim” has joint custody with the mother. This financial burden could account for part of the settlement, but $6 million? The infant could have gold-plated diapers for that sort of money, and more than enough for a decent upbringing through to college graduation.

The chair is dead, long live the chair!

39 Comments

The shock resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last week, offered in a perfunctory two-line letter without explanation, followed by a statement that likewise gave little away, initially brought howls of outrage against the New Zealand-based lawyer, claiming victims would see it as a betrayal; but this was soon followed by hints that she had actually been sacked.

My guess is that she was indeed pushed, because her incompetence after 18 months in the job was becoming an unsustainable public embarrassment. She had shown herself to be confused by “local law” i.e. English law, and even fell down on the basic role of a judge during a hearing, failing to invite opposing arguments in the normal way. But there is also reason to believe she was set up to fail. So, was this an Establishment plot, as was immediately alleged by the “survivor” lobby in line with their long-standing devotion to conspiracy theory?

Not exactly. What I have in mind is a conspiracy of just one person, and if you think that is a contradiction in terms you are technically correct, although I was once the sole convicted conspirator in a case of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, so do not underestimate life’s capacity for turning up impossible things!

As for the prime and only suspect in this “plot”, or Machiavellian manoeuvring, we do not need to look far: Theresa May, now Prime Minister, was the Home Secretary responsible for installing Goddard, after the first two incumbents in the job, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Dame Fionna Woolf had both fallen victim to the victim lobby. Both had been seen as Establishment stooges who would guarantee a cover-up of “Westminster VIP paedophilia”, then the obsession of the moment, as celebrity paedos had been immediately post-Savile.

So why would Theresa May want to set up Goddard to fail? Same reason she has given the Three Brexiteers jobs in her government. The referendum vote meant that May, a Remain supporter, has had Brexit foisted on her government. Very well then, let those who got the country into this mess be the ones given the impossible task – as she quite likely sees it – of making it work. When they fail, they will be the ones seen to have failed rather than the Prime Minister. Smart!

The Home Secretary, as she then was, also had a pretty shrewd idea the IICSA was in deep trouble too. As with the referendum result, which she could not defy because it had majority support, she could not simply drop the IICSA either: the powerful victim lobby would have been baying for her blood and would have swept her from office before you could say “lying compo seekers” or “attention-seeking fantasists”. Instead, in a move of stunning cunning, she gave the “survivors” exactly what they wanted, in the full knowledge that far from surviving, they would soon be shipwrecked again.

There is a wealth of evidence for this. Lauded for her careful attention to detail, Theresa May would most assuredly have done due diligence on Goddard. She would have known the New Zealander was not all she was cracked up to be. Superficially she seemed well qualified. You don’t get to be a QC for nothing, she had a long record of supposedly distinguished service on top public bodies, and as a judge her nickname in her home country was God, which suggests a certain level of esteem.

What May would also have known, though, is that Goddard’s high-flying reputation was “earned” not for genuine public service but the exact opposite. As Heretic TOC pointed out when she was given the IICSA gig, a survey of New Zealand judges gave her the lowest possible rating. She was ranked 63rd out of 63! Legal commentator Vince Siemer noted that many lawyers were “extremely critical” of Goddard’s “opportunistic public stances, liberties with the truth and contrarian judgments”. On his website Kiwis First, he said she was widely seen by lawyers as a political puppet – the sort of person who would do the Establishment’s bidding in order to advance her career.

But as Siemer hints, that is precisely what May might have found attractive. She would have understood that Goddard, rather than doing the right thing – which might mean opposing the survivor lobby’s injudicious “always believe the victim” dogma and their demands for an unfeasibly huge, unfocused inquiry – could be relied upon to just go with the flow, even if that inevitably meant eventual disaster. But that wouldn’t matter because by then May would probably have moved on to some other job, such as, oh, I don’t know, Prime Minister or whatever!

Goddard even had “form” with her excuses. In her departure statement, she referred to how hard it had been for her to leave her family behind, as if she had failed to realise, when offered the job, that Britain and New Zealand are on opposite sides of the planet. This was reminiscent of the over-privileged whinging she used in order to advance her earlier career, for Siemer tells us “She was appointed to the Independent Police Conduct Authority after she complained sitting on long cases in the High Court was too stressful on her back.” He continues, “Her days on the IPCA were mired in secrecy, political manoeuvring and tardy rulings.  She routinely sided with Crown immunity, suppression of information and against human rights.”

And, most pertinently, he asked:

So what did the Home Secretary mean when she assured MPs … that Goddard’s Inquiry will not be thwarted by the Official Secrets Act in an investigation which will delve into governmental department files in circumstances where there appears to be complicity by officials in the scandal?  A hint might lie in comments of the ‘fixer’ Home Secretary May has appointed.  “The inquiry will be long, challenging and complex,” forewarned Goddard J.

Experience tells us you can take Goddard J’s assessment to the bank.  Hopefully the British prefer an exhaustive and complex inquiry to an accurate and transparent outcome.

Exhaustive and complex it is certainly set up to be. The sheer immensity of the scale has necessitated the employment of 155 inquiry staff in dedicated offices around the country, dozens of lawyers have been expensively engaged, the projected cost has ballooned to £100 million, and – get this – hundreds of new allegations are arriving each month. The most recent report I have seen puts the figure even higher: the current rate of new allegations being forwarded to the inquiry team, according to the Mail on Sunday, is running at more than 100 a day.

It now looks entirely possible that the volume of allegations could outpace even this huge inquiry’s capacity to deal with them, so the endpoint, originally targeted at 2020, could keep getting further and further into the future. So instead of just one more successor, Goddard could be followed by a whole chain of them, linking from century to century like the kings and queens of England – an absurdity one might think would be terminated by the inevitable death of the victims, and hence their inability to give testimony or be cross-examined. But you never know these days: Jimmy Savile, Lord Janner and others have been pursued beyond the grave, so don’t underestimate the ingenuity of the victims’ descendents. It could all end up like Jarndyce and Jarndyce!

Actually, forget the cross-examination. In addition to the public hearings, the inquiry has set up a “Truth Project”, enabling anyone claiming to be “victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the Inquiry. Their accounts will not be tested, challenged, or contradicted.” In true Orwellian style, the inquiry will thus facilitate fantasy but call it truth!

The inquiry is supposed to be investigating a range of institutions, including local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Immigration Service, the BBC, the armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, churches, mosques and other religious organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, regulators and other public and private institutions. The inquiry’s website tells us “It will also examine allegations of child sexual abuse involving well known people, including people in the media, politics, and other aspects of public life.” It will consider historic allegations going back to 1945. Whew! Even just reading the list is exhausting, never mind investigating it.

The opening session of the IISCA, which has yet to hear any actual evidence after 18 months, involved preliminaries concerning alleged abuse within the Anglican Church. Those present heard that the Archbishops’ Council alone had handed over 7,000 “items of disclosure”. According to one press report, this would be “a mere drop in the ocean of paperwork”. Ben Emmerson QC, the Counsel to the Inquiry, warned that “There are 100,000 items in the archive, which mostly comprises individual children’s files, and some 26,000 boxes of material held in locations around the country.”

This is utter madness. What on earth is supposed to be the point? It has nothing to do with justice. The inquiry is passing new allegations to the police, but that course is always open to complainants anyway. As for institutions, rather than enabling them to learn lessons from past mistakes, probing ever deeper into their history will only reveal what is abundantly known already: the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. As Luke Gittos wrote in Spiked, the IICSA seems to be just an extremely expensive form of therapy for disturbed people – disturbed for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily past sexual abuse – who want someone to talk to and make them feel important.

That might be a valuable exercise were it not for its huge cost, not only in terms of its massive commandeering of resources but also because it is even more grievously expensive in another way. The inquiry’s work, like the black farce recently seen in the disastrous police investigations of alleged VIP paedophilia, is likely to come at the expense of innocent people. It is bad enough when the reputations of deceased individuals such as former Prime Minister Edward Heath and former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, are baselessly trashed; this dangerously undermines confidence in public life as well as causing needless distress to families and friends. And it is far worse when it wrecks the lives and careers of the living, such as the unfortunate former MP Harvey Proctor, who has called for the IICSA to be dismantled, saying the inquiry was “in thrall to every fantasist alive”.

Even the mainstream media are now beginning to take the point. As David Rose, writing in the Mail on Sunday, put it:

It is a truth that if publicity is given to allegations that a famous person once committed acts of sexual abuse, many others will pile in with similar claims. Some may be genuine, but the multi-million-pound industry run by lawyers seeking damages for abuse ‘survivors’ has established a strong financial motive for those prepared to lie. And where police, politicians, and, yes, public inquiries have made clear that their bias is towards ‘believing the victims’, there is little risk of such perjury being exposed.

Your Honour, I rest my case.

 

NOT JUST YOUR AVERAGE SURVEY

The plethora of investigations into “child sexual abuse” (CSA) is matched by a torrent of surveys on the subject. Here in the UK most of them seem to be published by the NSPCC in its annual report, which I swear comes out monthly.

But the latest survey, by the respected Office for National Statistics (ONS), is far more authoritative and will be worth studying carefully. So for that reason I will make no comment on the figures at present but simply say that they are being touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”. They are based on asking adults to recall sexual encounters experienced during their childhood.

The ONS survey asked about all kinds of abuse, not just sexual. That is good, and there is no problem, in theory at least, with the definition of “abuse” that is used in relation to sexual encounters. The report quite properly defines abuse in terms of harm. It quotes approvingly a definition taken from a document called Working Together to Safeguard Children, which  defines abuse as: “A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm.” Turning specifically to sexual abuse, the survey includes “sexual assault by an adult”, which is further specified as “sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts)” and also “other sexual assault – this includes indecent exposure and unwanted touching/kissing of a sexual nature” [My emphasis].

Here is the problem: it seems no questions were asked about wanted or acceptable sexual contacts. Unless that possibility is spelled out, what is the respondent supposed to report? My guess is that most would feel they were meant to report any sexual contact with an adult, even if it was desired, based on the fact that below the age of consent their willing participation does not amount to legally valid consent. Thus I suspect that the figures would only be truly meaningful if accompanied by the respondent’s own personal rating of the contact, perhaps on a scale ranging from “Very negative” to “Very positive”.

Acceptable danger: the sky is the limit?

83 Comments

Scariest school run

Paranoid parenting and the “protective” coddling of cotton wool kids are rightly being challenged these days even from such a professionally risk-averse source as Britain’s Health and Safety Executive. Over-protection has made children prisoners in their own homes and led to an epidemic of obesity. It renders them timid and fragile as well: even mild criticism is enough for the snowflake generation to fall to pieces, and the intolerance of robust debate among students of this mindset has become so debilitating as to present a grave threat to free speech.

In the face of these alarming trends there is increasingly a consensus that a bit of adventure in childhood is healthy, and is needed in order to grow towards real maturity. But where are the limits to be set? And on what basis?

A glance at the above photo of what has been dubbed the world’s scariest school run, in China, is enough to remind us that too much is sometimes demanded of children, rather than too little. In this case children as young as six from Atuler village in Sichuan province have to scale a sheer rockface over 2000-feet high to get home from school, using rickety ladders. But this isn’t even  the most dangerous part, which is an exposed path on the cliff without a vine ladder. A number of kids have slipped. And, yes, fallen to their deaths. But this is a poor part of the country; without an education and job prospects the future of every pupil would be bleak: just as the cliff punishes error without mercy, there is even now in this modern “Communist” country no universal welfare safety net to break their fall into hunger and malnutrition, which afflicts up to 15% of the population. Life may have been more secure for many in the days of “cradle to grave” workplace support in state enterprises, before the reforms of the late 1970s.

So, horrific as this climbing ordeal is, the risk-taking is rational in the circumstances. It is simply a harsh necessity for the villagers, not unlike the fierce training and initiation rites of young warriors in tribal societies constantly at war with each other. In those societies, where the warriors depend for their lives on the strength, skill, endurance and courage of their comrades, the apprenticeship often seems more gruelling than the warfare itself, featuring rituals than can involve being beaten, slashed and scarred, circumcised, sub-incised (don’t ask: it’s hideous), brutally raped, and made to leap over pits full of sharpened stakes. So, not only must children face danger bravely but these ordeals also have the effect of weeding out the weak. It is an education system in which failing your exams means death – and in many places, such as ancient Sparta, the weeding out started at birth, when puny-looking babies were simply left on a mountainside to die.

But if exposing children to danger is inevitable in societies with fewer viable options than our own, what are we to make of embracing serious risk when it is not necessary? Spain, for instance, is a wealthy modern country. There is high unemployment right now but people are materially quite secure and well-fed. Their last war was generations ago, in the 1930s; they do not need to train children for physical courage. Yet they have some very lively traditions that do make such demands, including the “castells” of Catalonia, these being human towers up to more than 30ft high, typically topped by a child, who may be only five years old, or even four. This crowning glory of the castell, or castle, is called the enxaneta. The origin of the name is lost in obscurity but one suggestion is that it comes from a regional word meaning  “little arrow”, or the tip of an arrow.

Castell

What is far more certain is that the child enxaneta who daringly climbs so high and so precariously invariably shoots an arrow of pride into the heart of his – or her – community.  It is pride that belongs to them all, for it takes a takes a whole village or town to provide the manpower, organisation, cooperation, skill, community spirit, determination and sheer courage out of which these towers are built. Both the pride and the courage are supremely symbolised in the enxaneta’s triumphant final act at the summit, which is to raise one hand aloft with all fingers spread, a gesture evoking the stripes of the Catalan flag.

Make no mistake, these towers are dangerous. The Catalonia Department of Culture has sponsored a FAQ claiming serious injuries are rare, based on an estimated collapse rate of the towers of only 3%; but you don’t need to know much about gravity to understand that bodies tumbling down on top of each other from a great height will do so with fearsome force. The words promoting a documentary film on the towers gives a more realistic impression:

Human towers are medicine for the soul. You risk your life for a moment of sublime camaraderie and community. Trust is paramount. All it takes is one shaky foot and the entire tower falls, sending you and hundreds of others tumbling into the air, onto each other and then onto the pavement.

You risk your life. The life of a child enxaneta is at risk. This is no exaggeration. A child died in 1983. More recently, Mariona Galindo, aged twelve, died of head injuries after falling from a nine-storey human tower at her home town of Mataró, north-east Spain in 2006. As for broken bones, they must surely be a more common occurrence.

But this level of risk is apparently fine by the Spanish authorities. And the United Nations, committed to upholding children’s rights (Article 6, right to “survive and develop healthily”;  Article 19, right to be protected “from being hurt and mistreated”; Article 36, right to be protected from any activity that “could harm their welfare”) has explicitly said the human towers are A-OK: the UN cultural agency UNESCO has declared the castells to be part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity”, no less.

Quite right too, in my view, although I am sure I would be struggling with the idea as a parent. I would die of anxiety if a kid of mine were taking part, in fact I am pretty sure I would be too scared to let it happen. The first  word that came into my mind when I saw that word enxaneta was anxiety: surely it had to mean “the anxious one”, or else the one whose parents were worried sick, praying on the sidelines, unable to watch.

Tough one, isn’t it? But a quick calculation based on the festival schedules shows that if you make allowance for practice runs there must be thousands of castells built each year, and my estimate from this is that in terms of the death rate, at least, they are only slightly more dangerous, if at all, than children’s exposure to road traffic accidents. Every death on the roads is tragic, of course, but going back to a society with no motor traffic would inevitably entail leaving behind many benefits of the modern world as well as its perils.

We could do without castells more easily, but just look at their positive side. Just think what it must be like for the successful enxaneta, basking in the glow of parental and communal pride! Just imagine the excitement, the sense of having really lived that day, and the confidence they would take from such a magnificent achievement. They will take away a belief that “I can do it”, a mindset of huge benefit when brought to all sorts of new challenges, be it learning how to cook, or swim, or even playing a musical instrument and mastering tough maths. Such self-belief is priceless, and it may last a lifetime. That is surely a prize worth having.

Is there a message for (or about) Kind people in this?  I think there is, because children’s abilities and confidence on their journey towards maturity will be enhanced or held back depending on the degree to which they are allowed to explore and discover things for themselves, both in their geographical environment – breaking out of the domestic prison into their town and country surroundings – and their social environment, meeting and engaging with new people, including Kind ones.

As Lenore Skenaze, founder of Free-Range Kids, has pointed out, parents who allow this are not irresponsibly taking risks. The risks in reality are vanishingly low, while the attempt by helicopter parents to eliminate all hazards from their kids’ lives can actually leave them more vulnerable to harm because such parenting leaves children helpless as babies. Even the most vigilant  “helicopter” cannot be airborne constantly, so where’s the protection in the downtime?

Skenaze was dubbed The World’s Worst Parent after allowing her nine-year-old  son to ride the New York subway on his own in 2009. But then she wrote a book Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) explaining why allowing kids some independence makes sense. And now there is a burgeoning Free-Range Parenting movement.

“A lot of parents today,” Skenazy says on her website, “see no difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficulty in your child’s everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up. We parents have to realize that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.”

She has a lot of sensible things to say about how Stranger Danger has been over-hyped, and she has even had the courage to point out that very few strangers, even when they are registered as sex offenders, are dangerous types of the kind who might kidnap and rape a child. Also, as she says in her website FAQ, the confident, independent youngster who is used to talking to strangers, will be much better equipped to smell a rat if some guy is trying to lure them into the back of a van. For one thing, they won’t be afraid to yell out and appeal for help to another stranger, knowing full well that most people are OK and would be keen to stop an abduction – and that goes for Kind people too.

*****

Enxaneta: This documentary produced by Televisió de Catalunya is not in English but the spectacular tower-building action speaks for itself, and the emphasis is on the highest climbers: the kids who reach the top.

Forces of Nature Taster This brief trailer related to the BBC’s Forces of Nature programmes features seven-year-old enxaneta Carla. The cinematography is superb, as might be expected from a prestigious BBC science documentary series.

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox – 1. The Universe in a Snowflake This is the full one-hour programme in which renowned physicist Dr Brian Cox uncovers how the diversity of shapes in the natural world reflect the rules that govern the universe. In Spain he shows how an attempt by hundreds of people to build the highest human tower reveals the force of gravity and how human bodies can be organised to counteract it, briefly but in fine style. The entire programme is well worth watching but the human towers sequence starts around five minutes in and lasts about seven minutes.

 

 

So-called abuse was ‘best thing ever’

26 Comments

The talk is all Brexit here in Britain, from breakfast to bedtime, and quite rightly so given its huge importance – that and the political shenanigans that have foisted a new prime minister on the country and threaten to shatter the main opposition party. But Heretic TOC is going to show Brexit the exit today as there has also been a lot of Kind news that should not pass unnoticed: not just the now horribly routine draconian sentences but a thoroughly mixed bag of significant stories, with glimmers here and there of resistance to the mainstream abuse narrative. Forgive me for trying to cram a pint into a half-pint pot, but it may be best this time if I pass fairly briskly from one item to another, giving lots of links to fuller accounts.

Let’s get the really nasty stuff out of the way first. Particularly shocking to me personally was a long sentence imposed on one of two guys who had been leading members of Paedophile Action for Liberation (PAL) back in the 1970s. They were Doug Slade, then serving as a petty officer with the Royal Navy, and Chris Skeaping, a racing driver. Slade was sentenced  earlier this month to 24 years for truly “historic” sex offences – over 50 years ago, in 1965 – after being extradited from the Philippines; Skeaping awaits sentence. Along with child welfare officer Ian Melville, they were blasted as “The vilest men in Britain” in the tabloid Sunday People’s exposé of PAL in 1975. PAL collapsed in disarray as an independent organisation soon after that and was eventually incorporated into the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which I later chaired. None of the PAL leaders ever became active in the running of PIE and I do not remember any of them even becoming members, though they may have done.

I met Doug and Chris on a couple of occasions, though. While they were never as committed to the political side as some of us in PIE, they struck me as decent enough guys who would never have been coercive in their relationships with youngsters. The salient point about their case, I suggest, is that it would not have happened but for the Daily Mail, who say they “persuaded” one of Slade’s former young boyfriends in the UK to shop him to the police. Once that happened, it was possible for the authorities to get him back from the Philippines last year, where he had been living as a “wealthy businessman” by this time. In other words, the complaint was not spontaneous. Even an NSPCC spokesperson quoted in the Mail’s account implicitly concedes that Slade’s offences were with boys who could well have been willing at the time.

For sheer vindictiveness, though, it is hard to top the response of compo king solicitor Peter Garsden, who has insisted that Slade’s sentence was too light, based on the malignant dogma that “sexual abuse imposes a life sentence of suffering on any victim”.

Fortunately, the falsity of this overworked mantra was made apparent in other news this month, about the chair of the Scottish government’s inquiry into historical child abuse, Susan O’Brien QC. According to the Guardian, published correspondence revealed that at the end of one training session O’Brien referred to a survivor of child sex abuse who had described it as “the best thing that had ever happened” to them! For letting the cat slip out of the bag in this way, O’Brien was threatened by a government minister with the sack, even though her inquiry was supposed to be independent. Clearly she was not going to be able to do the job without government meddling so she resigned. Good for her! It was the second such resignation in double-quick time. Panel member Michael Lamb, a psychology professor at Cambridge University, quit a week before saying the inquiry had been “doomed” by government interference. Good for him! Not good, though, for the credibility of government inquiries in this field.

From the vindictive and the meddling to the downright inhumane. In breach, I would say, of the human right to a private and family life, jailed footballer Adam Johnson was banned from talking to his own daughter because he had broken a sex offender rule stating that he was not to contact children. Guards had overheard him on the phone to his 17-month-old baby daughter after the couple’s mother passed the phone to the child. But the only offence that had put him in prison was of consensual sex with a girl of 15. There was never any suggestion that his own baby was at risk, so enforcement of the rule was utterly unnecessary as well as destructive and cruel.

Inhumane in a different way was the prosecution of a man thought to be the oldest defendant in British legal history, who appeared in court last month at the age of 101 charged with historic sexual offences against three children. His trial has been scheduled for December. Even supposing he makes it that far, which must be in doubt, one has to wonder what purpose is served by hounding him towards his grave.

OK, that’s all the really bad news out of the way. So what chinks of light can we discern? Well, never mind mere chinks, how about this for a great big sunbeam: A judge has allowed a paedophile music teacher to continue working with children after hearing letters of support from 12 of his pupils’ parents. A Daily Mirror report said that Neil Deller, 42, was charged after child porn featuring images “of girls as young as three and bestiality” were found on his computer. But he continued to give private lessons following his arrest two years ago and the parents of many pupils wrote positive references about him. These were presented to Judge Christopher Ball QC who spared Deller jail and refused to ban him from teaching children aged under 18.

Well done Judge Ball! He clearly has balls, as he could easily have been spit-roasted in the media for such a bravely unfashionable decision – although he has just retired at the end of an often outspoken and controversial career and perhaps felt he had little to lose. Congratulations, too, to the independently-minded parents who gave the teacher their support and made the judge’s action possible.

Parents were backing a teacher in trouble on the other side of the Atlantic too. Alexandria Vera, a 24-year-old English teacher, found herself pregnant, apparently by a pupil who was 13 at the start of a sustained relationship. In unusually sympathetic and understanding newspaper coverage, a story in the Santa Monica Observer pointed out that all concerned – the teacher, the boy and his parents – were Hispanic and that “in traditional Mexican culture, teenagers are allowed to have sexual relationships, and couples where the woman is older than the man are commonplace and not denigrated”. The parents had known and approved of the relationship, letting the boy stay with Vera overnight.

Charged with “continuous sexual abuse of a child”, Vera was granted bail last month. Her trial is expected to start any day now. Unfortunately, if she is convicted of the felony charge in question, it looks as though the judge will not have any discretion to take Mexican culture into account. A harsh sentence will be mandatory.

On the celebrity front, things are looking up for veteran pop star Sir Cliff Richard following the high-profile police raid on his Berkshire home nearly two years ago, conducted as part of an investigation into an alleged historic sex offence against a boy in 1985 – though the police in this instance used the euphemism “non-recent”, as though embarrassed (as they should be) by their destruction of people’s lives decades after the event. Or in this case non-event, as it seems, because the CPS finally announced last month that there is “insufficient evidence” to support a prosecution. And just a couple of days ago Sir Cliff launched legal action against the BBC and police for turning his life upside down. The Daily Mail had earlier reported that was about to start a £1mn action for worldwide damage to his reputation after the beeb filmed the police raid on his home. Good luck to him!

Broadcaster, writer, politician and chef Sir Clement Freud, meanwhile, who was himself accorded national treasure status like Sir Cliff, avoided the latter’s problems by very sensibly dying in 2009 while the going was good. This was well ahead of the open season on celebs that began with the posthumous fall from grace of that other once-dazzling knight, Sir Jimmy Savile. So why is “Clay” Freud, as he was known to family and friends, better off dead? If an ITV documentary (which I have not seen) and a Daily Mail report are to be believed, it is because he had at least a couple of sexual dalliances with underage teen girls, one of whom claims he “brutally raped” her later on when she was 18. I’m not sure how seriously we can take the rape claim but the rest does seem highly credible, on the basis of reported admissions by the old boy’s widow: Lady Freud, accused of setting up a three-in-a-bed scenario with herself, a 14-year-old girl and her husband, doesn’t exactly seem to have worked hard at indignant denial. Instead, she meekly apologised for Clay’s feet of clay.

Now another bit of good news: well, good in a way. Stephen Rice, a producer with the Australian TV documentary strand 60 Minutes, has been sacked. I do not know Mr Rice and would not normally celebrate an individual’s career setback, but I must confess to a warm glow of schadenfreude over the reputational damage caused to 60 Minutes from the disastrous misadventure that got the producer and the show into deep trouble in the Middle East, when four crew members found themselves locked up in Beirut for two weeks by the Lebanese authorities, suspected of complicity with a child abduction. A tragically broken family is at the heart of the disaster and that is certainly no cause for joy. But good could come of it if 60 Minutes is made to behave more responsibly in future. It was this same low-grade, grossly sensationalist TV series, it may be remembered, who interviewed me when I was trying to defend my friend Charles Napier at the height of the Westminster so-called VIP paedophilia scandal. 60 Minutes was among those media outfits that chose to believe and play up the now discredited lies of several fantasist opportunists who had concocted bizarre, obviously suspect, and gravely defamatory yarns about VIPs, including Edward Heath, the late former prime minister whose main achievement was to take Britain into the European Economic Community, which later became the European Union, which the nation has just voted to leave…

And so, perhaps inevitably, back to Brexit. My final glimmer of light in this blog comes from the day of the referendum vote itself. That is when I heard on the radio about a new report by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) drawing attention to the continued plight of prisoners who remain on indeterminate (IPP) sentences in the UK, despite what the PRT described as “near universal criticism of the sentence from judges, Parole Board members, HM Prisons Inspectorate, the Prison Governors’ Association, staff, prisoners and their families”. Steven Adrian Freeman, my successor as chair of PIE, has been languishing in prison on one of the sentences long after completing the 30-month “tariff” originally set by the court in his case.

Justice secretary Michael Gove said in a recent speech “there are a significant number of IPP prisoners who are still in jail after having served their full tariff who need to be given hope that they can contribute positively to society in the future.”

Without all the Brexit turmoil, Gove might well have decided it was time to scrap the IPP. But new prime minister Theresa May takes over today and Gove could be out of his job when she picks her new cabinet. Or he could be told to get on with it. May herself has already made some encouraging noises, hinting that she wants to be a reforming leader and sounding almost like former opposition leader Ed Miliband. Perhaps she will look favourably on prison reform. We can only hope that time will be found for legislation that includes the abolition of IPP. But many good ideas are bound to be crowded out, and the new government will inevitably find much of its time taken up by Brexit.

Judicial self-delusion on a global scale

15 Comments

“Britain’s worst paedophile,” we learned earlier this month, “who abused up to 200 Malaysian children and posted videos of his depraved acts online has been given 22 life sentences.”

The Daily Mail version of a news story splashed globally said “Richard Huckle, from Ashford in Kent, admitted an unprecedented number of offences against children aged between six months and 12 years from 2006 to 2014.”

The judge, Peter Rook QC, was quoted: “You had become consumed with paedophilia. Your life revolved around your obsession with your own sexual gratification”.

We heard that as Huckle, aged 30,  was taken down to the cells, a woman sitting in the public gallery yelled: “A thousand deaths is too good for you.”

The Mail’s Richard Spillett reported that Huckle had “masqueraded as a devout Christian, photographer and English teacher to prey on poor children in Kuala Lumpur over nine years.

A stream of pictures and videos of his rapes and assaults on children were shared with paedophiles worldwide through an encrypted website.”

Huckle, it was said,  committed offences in orphanages and care homes in Malaysia and Cambodia, including “rape and assault against up to 200 pre-pubescent children as young as six months old”.

Britain’s worst paedophile? If it were clear he had been violently raping infants I wouldn’t dispute the claim, especially if the guy had also been a sadistic child murderer. But this is surely not a scenario where a large penis has been rammed into a small orifice, and there is mercifully no need for post-mortems. There is no hint in the court reports that any of his acts were violent, coerced or physically injurious.

On the contrary, Richard Huckle appears to have been welcome in the communities of the South East Asian countries where he lived. He didn’t just ““masquerade” as an English teacher: he obviously was an English teacher; there is nothing to suggest he was a less than sincere Christian either.

We will come back later to the unfortunate Mr Huckle, after switching our focus to another recent news story from the same region, the Philippines. The Guardian’s main headline was “How child sexual abuse became a family business in the Philippines”, with a sub-heading “Tens of thousands of children believed to be victims of live-streaming abuse, some of it being carried out by their own parents”. The United Nations is reported as saying that in some areas, entire communities live off the business.

There is the usual hyperbolic bollocks about the scale of the money involved and talk of children being “made to perform around the clock” as though they are sweat shop slaves – places that are really abusive but which go unregulated because global corporations like GAP, Zara and Primark profit from them. Anyway, despite all the spin designed to create a false impression, this was a big story – literally so, as the Guardian’s account ran to well over 2,000 words.

Yet the tabloids ignored it. Why? Because it was complicated. It was nuanced. Unlike the Huckle case, this one could not be made to fit the simple Evil Monster narrative. But it is precisely in the detail and the nuance that the real significance of the story is to be discerned. So let’s look at that.

We are told an undercover agent infiltrated an impoverished village pretending to be a Filipina sex worker earning her living in Japan. It was cover that enabled her to become friendly with the villagers and their children without arousing suspicion. After discovering the kids were doing webcam sessions police raided the village. This was back in 2011. At least one family were caught with their pants down, and that’s more than a metaphor: three girls were naked on a bed while their mother was typing on a keyboard in the same room, where a live webcam feed on the computer screen showed the faces of three white men watching the action.

After the raid, the family was broken up: all six children were taken away from their home and into a “rescue centre”.

And this is where we get to the heart of the real story: the kids did not feel they had been “rescued” at all. Instead, they felt betrayed by the undercover agent they thought was a friend. While the mother was jailed thanks to having been caught red-handed, and still languishes in prison five years later, the children “proved unwilling to incriminate their parents”.

The police were quite candid. They said they thought the children would welcome the operation, only to discover they were very much mistaken. Referring to the oldest child, the undercover agent herself admitted the girl felt betrayed, saying  “I know that she is angry with me”.

At the “rescue” centre, the six children – three boys and three girls –  “appeared oblivious to the fact that they had been exploited”. The three-year-old, it was reported, continued to do “sexualised dancing” in front of other children. A psychologist said that the eldest child, a boy of 16, was in shock after the arrest, but not from the abuse: “He was quite traumatised by the rescue operation.”

The Guardian story continues:

The two younger daughters had no idea that the abuse was anything but normal. “They said it was a business in the neighbourhood. It seemed natural to be involved in this as the other children were doing it,” she said. Police found that it was the children who first heard about live-streaming as a money maker when playing with their friends.

While the children have flourished – on the wall are photos of them, the two eldest beaming while wearing graduation hats and gowns – they are still unable, five years later, to understand the crime…

…The social workers, doctors, police, legal team and psychologists working with the children initially assumed they were trying to protect their parents out of love. But it became apparent there were other reasons for them holding back, especially the eldest.

And in therapy sessions, the eldest boy said their lives had changed for the better since they started the “shows”: the family had more money, they could eat at the local fast food chain Jollibee, and their mother could stop working in a factory.

Slowly, what had happened became apparent. “They saw the neighbours making money. They suggested it to their parents,” the prosecutor said. And at 13, it was Nicole who spoke to the paedophiles online, not her mother.

There were even times when the children did it without their parents present, the prosecutor said.

Bearing in mind this active engagement of the children as free agents, it’s time to get back to Mr Huckle.

Based on the grooming theme, and on the so-called abuse of trust, James Traynor from the National Crime Agency said: “Richard Huckle spent several years integrating himself into the community in which he lived, making himself a trusted figure.”

Now the thing is, you don’t get to be integrated and trusted unless people know and like you, including the children. We are told that Huckle dreamed of marrying one of his victims so they could jointly become foster carers for children. That was never going to happen without the continuing support of the community and of a woman who wanted to marry him. It is not as though he was betraying anyone’s trust as a fraudster does, conning them out of their money and making life worse. He was not making life worse. In the children’s view he was making it better, and who can really argue with them? Well-heeled western do-gooders who have no idea how tough and limiting Third World poverty can be?

Looking at it realistically, it would also be naïve to assume he was deceiving anyone. You cannot betray trust if a community already knows what is going on, as is clearly the case in the Philippines where families are actively involved on a significant scale. Huckle claimed in his own defence that sexual involvement with children was “endemic” in the region. The judge brushed this aside as being no excuse, but he did not deny the fact of the matter; he preferred to turn a blind eye, but that is no reason for us to do so.

The judge was also scornful of a 60-page manual Huckle had written and planned to publish online called Paedophiles and Poverty: Child Love Guide, which is said to have been about how to select deprived victims and avoid detection. The judge described it as a “truly evil document”, saying “It speaks volumes about the scale of your self-delusion, describing your conduct as child love.”

As we have just seen, though, it was the judge, not the defendant, who set his face against the facts. He is the one deluding himself if he thinks that children’s sexual “innocence” is anything more than a self-serving myth concocted by those who seek to control them. He deludes himself, too, if he dismisses Kind people as necessarily unkind and incapable of loving children, especially when the evidence suggests, as in Richard Huckle’s case, that he was well liked by the kids and was well regarded in the communities where he lived and worked for many years.

Not that Heretic TOC is suggesting Huckle should be imitated. Absolutely the opposite. The message from the courts is loud and clear: do as he did and you will be crucified, no matter what the rights and wrongs of the matter. The sentence, after all, was savage. Decades, at least, will pass before this tragically-fated young man has any hope of release.

Nor should we ignore the fact that his “how to” guide was so excoriated by the court. One shudders to think what the judge would make of Heretic TOC’s heresies. There is a big difference, though: it looks possible that the Child Love Guide could well have been interpreted in some quarters as inciting its readers to break the law; and so, once it was published, that could have amounted to grounds for a criminal prosecution in itself. This site, by contrast, much as we wish to see radical changes in our culture and law, emphatically rejects the view that the present laws should be defied. Apologies for finishing on this dreary but necessary note.

 

FROM BREXIT TO REGREXIT IN ONE DISMAL DAWN

Within sterling and the stock market plummeting and voices of alarm coming thick and fast from all around the planet, dawn had scarcely broken on the result of the Brexit referendum before the demos was thrown into doubt.

Suddenly the sovereign people’s distrust of the experts was turned on themselves, as they woke up to the awful possibility that they might have got it wrong. What a shame most of them hadn’t read Heretic TOC, where they would have learned that the people are always wrong!

Proof of the unpreparedness of many to make such a momentous and complicated decision was all too apparent, albeit too late: the most frequent Google search was the alarmingly basic question “What is the EU?” Many tweeted to say they hadn’t thought their vote would be all that important, what with so many other people voting! They had just wanted to tell the politicians they were fed up. It hadn’t occurred to them they might actually win, and now they regretted it!

This Buyer’s Remorse, or Regrexit as it was quickly dubbed, even appeared to be shared by politicians leading the Leave campaign. Instead of simply obeying the will of the people and getting on with getting out, the ruling elite on both sides of the great debate are effectively saying hang on a minute (or a few years), let’s not be hasty. Maybe we can fudge things a bit (or a lot) so that we can somehow keep free access to the EU market while also quietly ditching our promise to the people that immigration would be controlled. Plus ça change…

 

 

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: