When Genesis superstar Phil Collins and England international soccer player Gary Lineker endorsed an anti-paedophilia campaign some years back on British TV, the script had them declaring “I’m talking Nonce Sense!” As Brits will know, “nonce” is slang for MAPs, and the campaign was called Nonce Sense.

Or it would have been except that the whole thing was a satirical spoof. The joke was on the stars and other worthies who took part, including politicians and a senior police officer. They thought they were talking Nonce Sense, but as viewers soon realised, they had been set up to talk nonsense. For instance, the script had Capital Radio DJ Neil “Doctor” Fox telling viewers that “paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than they do with you and me”, adding “Now that is scientific fact – there’s no real evidence for it – but it is scientific fact”. Labour MP Syd Rapson related that paedophiles were using “an area of internet the size of Ireland”. Rapper Richard Blackwood stated that internet paedophiles could make computer keyboards emit noxious fumes to subdue children. He was shown sniffing a keyboard and claiming he could smell the fumes, which made him feel “suggestible”. Blackwood also warned parents that exposure to the fumes would make their children “smell like hammers”.

A programme in the satirical series Brass Eye, the spoof brilliantly made the point that any old nonsense will do when it comes to attacking paedophilia. And now, as though in a deliberate attempt to make life imitate art, we find the following quote in the UK’s rabid tabloid the Daily Mail, in connection with an anti-child molestation campaign by the NSPCC. It is attributed to a mother identified only as Claire, from Swansea, with two young girls. She is supposed to have said:

“I am going to start talking PANTS to my girls, my goddaughter, nephew and all my friends with children…”

For the benefit of global friends who may be unfamiliar with what is perhaps another British expression, talking pants means uttering utter… nonsense! The Daily Mail does it all the time, and so does the NSPCC, honourably founded in 1889 to protect children from cruelty, but which campaigns these days to cruelly deny their social and sexual self-determination, wasting millions of pounds on misdirected advertising that could have been better spent on its original mission. After eight-year-old Victoria Climbié died following grotesque torture at the hands of her guardians a few years ago, the organisation was found to have been involved but done nothing to help what had been a preventable death, and then misled the official inquiry. They were heavily involved in promoting the moral panic over non-existent satanic abuse when that was fashionable.

The NSPCC’s latest wheeze is what they call their Underwear Rule otherwise known as Talking PANTS, “relaunched” this month after the initial “launch” last July, in what will quite possibly turn out to be an infinitely repeated loop of identical pushing-the-boat-out press releases, like something out of Groundhog Day. Well, why not? Like junkies seizing on a fix, the media can never, it seems, get enough of this stuff, especially perhaps when accompanied, as in this case, by a video with cute kids talking about their private parts and brightly illustrated with pictures of their pants.

As might be expected, the NSPCC is telling parents to tell their children “privates are private”, using an acronym based on “PANTS”, which is meant to stand for:

Privates are private
Always remember your body belongs to you
No means no
Talk about secrets that upset you
Speak up, someone can help you

The campaign is aimed at parents of five- to 11-year-olds. Marilyn Hawes, founder of the charity Enough Abuse, was quoted last year as saying she thought the campaign would not work on older primary school children, who would “probably laugh”. Quite! But this does not mean the campaign is funny or will be entirely ineffectual. NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless went on record as saying no one was trying to make children ashamed of their bodies, or stop hugs or other shows of affection. That, however, is very much likely to be the effect, as it fans the flames of our already paranoid culture. Here, in the same news coverage on the BBC, Netmums website co-founder Siobhan Freegard said: “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to find their child has been touched inappropriately – and no family wants to think it will ever happen to them.”

There we see it, right there in that awful cliché “every parent’s worst nightmare”, which used to have real meaning when applied to child abduction, rape and murder. Here the language has been inflated and devalued, with mere “touching” hyped as a fate equal to death, or worse.

Some of the PANTS points are unobjectionable in themselves: if a child has been really upset over anything, not just sexual matters, they should feel free to talk about it. Openness and accountability are good principles. Nobody should feel they have to suffer bullying parents or teachers in silence any more than they should put up with sexual molestation or harassment. But the giveaway as to the campaign’s unnecessary negativity towards the body is right at the heart of it, plumb in the middle: PANTS: No means no. Fine, but what about Yes means yes? Whatever else this campaign is about, it is not about self-determination for kids as regards a body which is hypocritically vaunted by the NSPCC as belonging to them.

STOP PRESS: Late-breaking news has reached me literally one minute before I was due to post this blog. Remember the Texas conference featured on Heretic TOC early last month (8 Dec) in a piece called Deep in the weird heart of Texas? As promised, video of all the sessions has now been posted on the university’s You Tube channel. See here:

FINALLY: This is Heretic TOC’s 100th blog! Hope y’all like it! Actually, I might just add a bit about the latest stats. Why not? One thing that particularly caught my attention is the global spread of interest in Heretic TOC. The blog has now received visits from around 140 countries on every continent except Antarctica. The most hits came from the United States, just ahead of the United Kingdom, followed by Germany, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, and New Zealand, making up the Top Ten. I was interested to see several European countries where English is not the first language ahead of Anglophone ones, especially Germany in third place. I’m not sure what this reflects most, the strength of English-language learning in Europe or the extent of heresy there! Either way, I find it impressive! It was fascinating, also, to note interest coming from places that seem utterly exotic to those of us in Anglophonia, including Albania, Andorra, Greenland, Kazakstan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Senegal and Yemen. Who knows, maybe you folks out there in these countries are taking an interest because Anglophonia seems exotic to you, and Heretic TOC perhaps the strangest website of the lot! Or you might be heretics fully engaged with a shared culture here. Do write in. It would be great to hear from less heard voices.