As a blog that aspires to rationalism, Heretic TOC abhors superstition: your enlightened host wouldn’t dream of crossing the road to avoid walking under a ladder or fret over what might happen on a Friday the 13th.
It is different, though, when the stakes are raised a bit beyond the ordinary, as they were a couple of months ago on the day of Heretic TOC’s launch. Those with good memories may recall that I mentioned (The media must be desperate, 8 Nov.) being contacted by several newspapers in the wake of the Savile affair, one of which was the Guardian. The others, I said, had offered money for information about celebrity members of PIE. But what about the Guardian? The reason for their interest was something I left hanging.
Looking back, I now realise there was perhaps a shameful touch of superstition at work. I didn’t want to “put a hex” on the project in question, which promised the prospect of getting a word in edgeways in the mainstream media. Well, it’s been “hexed” for a long time anyway, despite my caution, so perhaps this is the time to reveal all.
Back in October, the man from the Guardian was Jon Henley. He said his editor, Alan Rusbridger, was interested in doing a more wide-ranging article on the P subject. Rather than seeking to embarrass the famous, the idea was to explore with me why paedophilia had become the focus of such intense concern in recent years. Did I have any thoughts on why PIE’s campaign to liberalise the age of consent (AOC) laws had faltered, even back in the 1970s, and why our perspective had become steadily even more unpopular ever since?
As might be expected, I had plenty of thoughts on this that I was happy to share. A phone interview over an hour long duly ensued within a day or two. It went well. Henley’s questions were intelligent and reasonably well informed. Googling him, I had discovered a really interesting piece of his from about ten years ago on French intellectuals such as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida, who had all signed a radical petition back in 1977 calling for the abolition of the AOC. That was when he had been the Guardian‘s Paris correspondent.
A few days later, now into early November, I contacted Henley, who told me he had finished his 1500-word article and it had been accepted for publication. Ever since then, I have been given assurances by him personally and by the features desk that they intend to use it.
But when? I’m getting old. I’d quite like to see this article before I die!
My strong suspicion, I have to say, was that publication had been overruled by the Guardian’s numerous feminist writers: while the final decision must be the editor’s, he would be aware of the need to maintain some degree of consensus with his top columnists, to say nothing of not wanting to alienate the paper’s legions of women readers.
The latest installment of this long-running saga was yesterday. The Guardian were doing a charity phone-in: make a donation to their nominated charities and you would get the chance to speak personally to various Guardian writers, including Henley, and even with the big chief himself, Rusbridger. Right, Tom, I told myself: Go for it! Speak to the editor directly! Charm him into scheduling Henley’s piece without further ado! How could he refuse, especially as I would be supporting his charities at massive personal cost? – Well, quite a chunk out of my modest budget, anyway, but hardly big enough to smack of your actual bribery.
So, how did Mission Improbable but definitely not Impossible go? Not badly, actually. After calling at the scheduled start time in the morning, I was disappointingly told Rusbridger would not be around until the afternoon. So I was put through to Henley instead. Jon was a pleasure to talk to, full of seasonal cheer. And he assured me the article has not fallen victim to censorious opponents. On the contrary, he said, there is every chance it will be used at some time over the holiday period: it had only been left because it is the sort of article that will not date and can be used any time. After all, paedophilia may be out of fashion as a sexual activity, but it is always in vogue as a subject for journalism. So what better time to slot it in than when all the writers are too festively occupied to do much writing?
With this fresh, and very credible, assurance safely banked, I decided I did not need to bend Rusbridger’s ear after all. Or not this time. Back in March, though, I went along to the Guardian’s Open Weekend in London, where I attended a public session on the paper’s future and did manage to get a few minutes’ worth of private conversation with him, at the end. I can’t be sure, but that contact may have been a factor behind the decision to contact me in October. More about that, perhaps, another time.