Wow! It’s all happening! Jon Henley’s Guardian article on paedophilia yesterday has provoked an immediate and massive reaction.
The piece itself drew over 900 comments on the paper’s website before the no doubt exhausted moderators closed the thread: they had been kept very busy reading and deleting abusive posts. In general, though, the exchanges, though passionate, included a lot of thoughtful if not always very well informed material. There were inevitably those who said they had been abused as children, and there were others who said they had enjoyed being sexually engaged with an adult, without later ill effects. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of contributors who welcomed the article as a fresh and – in an ironic phrase – “grown-up” discussion of children’s sexual expression with themselves, their peers and with adults.
The debate exploded into something much wider this morning, though, with extensive coverage in the Sun and the Daily Telegraph. Every blogger and tweeter in the UK has probably been on it since, including a piece by Tom Watson MP, a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of Parliament, who received widespread coverage for his likening of media mogul Rupert Murdoch to a mafia boss. He is also a notable anti-child “abuse” voice, and this time he was having a go at the Guardian. Back in October 2012, Watson claimed in the House of Commons that a paedophile network may have existed in the past at a high level, protected by connections to Parliament and involving a close aide to a former Prime Minister. A former Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) executive committee member, Peter Righton was said to be implicated. I knew Peter pretty well as I served on the PIE committee myself. I don’t know the full allegations, but basically I think the story is rubbish.
There’s probably no need for me to bang on too long about all this. You can check out the links for yourself. I don’t even need to put all the links here because an excellent blogger in New Zealand, Peter Hooper, has beaten me to it and his latest blog is well worth reading.
All I would recommend is that you check out a totally crazy story in the Sun by Dr Sara Payne* and Shy Keenan, called “Shame on The Guardian for giving paedo a voice”. Columnist Richard Littlejohn’s famous catch phrase is “You couldn’t make it up”. No? He should read this column: it’s made up from start to finish! There are lies, damned lies and the Murdoch press. This could make an interesting test for the new press complaints body that is in the offing in the UK.
Enjoy “what the papers say”.
*I understand that Dr Sara Payne is the mother of child murder victim Sarah (with an “h”) Payne. While rage towards anyone perceived as a threat to children is eminently understandable in view of this background, and of course fully justified as regards child rape, abduction or murder, I do not think the strength of her views absolves her from the need to write honestly.