I always knew my lengthy interview in July for an upcoming TV documentary might go unused, even though the company making it, Testimony Films, made a considerable investment in my appearance. They gave me two nights’ hotel accommodation and other expenses, and committed a five-strong production crew to an entire day’s filming and studio hire in London, over 100 miles from their Bristol base, solely for my input.
A couple of weeks ago, as briefly reported here in response to a request for a progress report, I said I had received an email from Testimony saying “As this is such a difficult and controversial subject it is taking a very long time to make – and to go through the [name of TV channel] system. There have been several discussions with the [name of TV channel] lawyer over the content. The final shape of the programme still hasn’t been decided. There is no transmission date as yet.”
I was under a commitment not to name the TV channel until the last week before transmission. That time is now up. I now know that the programme, titled The Paedophile Next Door, is to be aired next Tuesday, 25 November, at 9pm on Britain’s Channel 4. I have been informed it will not contain any footage of the interview I gave, which lasted around two and a half hours.
This is disappointing, but I would not be particularly upset if I thought it was going to be a good programme anyway. I always hoped that if my contribution proved a bit too controversial for Channel 4 they might nevertheless be willing to give a platform to someone like Judith Levine, or Bruce Rind, or a British academic such as Glenn Wilson, who put up a spirited if all-too-brief showing on the same channel’s news output recently: PIE spy, with my tabloid eye…
All the signs are, though, that the programme will not be good. From a heretical standpoint it looks like being far worse than I had expected, indeed such an utter disaster I am feeling totally gutted even before seeing it. Am I prejudging too much? We’ll soon see.
I suspect Testimony are embarrassed. It seems they wanted to keep me in the dark as long as possible in case I went public too early and tried to derail things. Unbeknown to me, Channel 4 issued a bulletin about the upcoming programme on the 7th of this month, including its release date. But on the 10th, three days later, in response to my enquiries, Testimony were telling me there was still no release date and did not give me C4’s programme information.
The Testimony people have been very friendly and they definitely did not set out with the cynical intention of setting me up as a pantomime villain. Director Steve Humphries has a strong reputation as a documentary maker with an interest in a diversity of voices. He gives every impression of being a man of broad sympathies; his interview style is empathetic.
It is possible Channel 4 insisted on taking the production in another direction from the one first envisaged by Humphries. It may be significant that a second director’s name is now on the credits: Rudolph Herzog, son of the world renowned Werner Herzog. Herzog fils appears to be based in Germany, with no obvious connection to Testimony. His location, however, would make him well placed to explore Germany’s Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, highlighted in Jon Henley’s feature article on paedophilia for the Guardian last year.
Channel 4’s programme information begins thus:
With almost every passing week a new child sex abuse scandal breaks. In this sobering and thought-provoking film, historian and acclaimed social documentary maker Steve Humphries sets out to discover why all the elaborate policies and legislation put in place to protect children from sexual abuse have failed.
He discovers some radical new solutions proposed by an increasing number of child protection experts which challenge our deep-rooted attitudes and emotional reactions to paedophiles. They tell Humphries that many paedophiles live in our midst and go completely undetected. “They’re not monsters with horns and tails, but ordinary blokes,” says senior lecturer Dr Sarah Goode – and this makes them so dangerous and difficult to identify. Controversially, Dr Goode believes that the most promising way to reduce the number of child abuse cases is to encourage paedophiles who have not yet targeted children to “come out” and receive treatment.
This theory is supported by an extraordinary interview in which Humphries meets a man face-to-face who confesses, on camera, to his strong sexual attraction for children as young as five. He claims that he has not interfered with a child, nor could ever imagining doing so. He is so desperate for help that he is prepared to ‘out’ himself in the hope that men like him will be more readily offered support to manage their unwanted desires.
Paedophiles are the most vilified of all criminals – invoking universal hatred and disgust. Humphries hears from experts who explain that, as a result, the fear, self-loathing and stress paedophiles will associate with their desires makes them actually more likely to offend. Humphries explores pioneering schemes and initiatives designed to help paedophiles before they might hurt children. These ground-breaking schemes aim to educate families and encourage men to seek help – some of them provide residential support and treatment confidentially. Supporters of these initiatives believe they will keep children safe and are far more effective – rather than engaging with them only after they become offenders…
You get the picture. It looks as if this will be “virtuous” shit from start to finish. If I feel gutted, it is because the ideology of repression has won decisively in a direct contest with that of self-determination. I am gutted because I spilled my guts out for that interview and I know it was a good one, after a lot of preparation and an emotionally draining encounter with Humphries. It was all the tougher, oddly, thanks to his gently searching style. His kindness was killing. My answers could only come from the heart, at times painfully so when the questions reached deeply into the personal realm, – a place no aggressive inquisitor could touch; the defences would be up.
I’m not putting it too strongly when I say I feel betrayed, especially by the apparently central role given to Sarah Goode and her piss-poor thinking, which I believe I adequately demolished in my review of her book Paedophiles in Society and its predecessor – a review Humphries certainly knew about because I alerted him to it in an email back in May.
But to claim I have been betrayed by Testimony, or by Steve Humphries in particular, would be grossly unfair. I am confident Steve fought as hard as he could for my inclusion. That does not mean he shares my views, though, and I probably underestimated the extent to which he was keeping his cards close to his chest on that.
As for whether I really had performed strongly, was this just an illusion? Here’s the relevant part of what Steve emailed the next day:
I just wanted to say thanks so much for coming down for the filmed interview, which was as excellent and as powerful as I’d hoped it would be. I thought you told your personal story and stated your case as strongly as anyone could. I know the team…really enjoyed meeting you too and found it a moving and hugely interesting day…
A few days ago, “Bloom” wrote in the comments here “It would be interesting to get your take on the controversy over contact vs non-contact. Not so much on the question itself, which is somewhat abstract, but on how you see it affecting the overall struggle for greater tolerance and acceptance.”
First of all, I agree with another commentator, “Stephen6000”, that “pro-choice” is a better expression than “pro-contact”, although, it will be seen that I have opted above for “self-determination”, which avoids confusion with abortion. Also, I don’t think self-determination is too abstract, but what Bloom perhaps meant to say was too academic, as in the expression “it’s all a bit academic” i.e. it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, so why bother talking about it?
If that was the intended meaning it undeniably amounts to a strong argument, not least in view of this Channel 4 programme: I tried to talk about sexual self-determination but who was listening? No one ever does these days. So what’s the point of banging on about it?
Presumably Bloom is pleased to see controversy over self-determination taken out of the equation by Channel 4. That leaves The Paedophile Next Door, and any similar presentation of MAPs, free to focus on “tolerance and acceptance”, right?
Well, sure, and that would be a good thing if it were taking us in the right direction. Politics is often characterised as the art of the possible. The way to reach an ultimate goal is to focus on small, incremental achievements. You don’t frighten the horses by seeming to be insanely radical.
I understand that. But what if those small steps are heading in the wrong direction, leading away from one’s ultimate objective? The “tolerance and acceptance” aimed at in VP efforts is not tolerance and acceptance of sexual self-determination, after all, but it’s exact opposite i.e. an outcome that cements intolerance and non-acceptance of sexual self-determination permanently in place and depends upon brainwashing and coercing MAPs into submission.
This represents a repudiation of all I believe in and I cannot support it.
I will watch the programme, though, through gritted teeth. As long as I am publicly engaged in blogging and such like, I feel I have a duty to keep myself informed. It will not be easy. One of those taking part, unless I am greatly mistaken, is Ian McFadyen, who is fast becoming a full-time professional victim. I don’t relish the thought of having to watch this self-righteous bully’s “dignified exchange”, as the programme info puts it, with a paedophilic self-sacrificial lamb.
McFadyen, to be sure, was genuinely the victim of a sadistic rapist on the staff of Caldicott Preparatory School if his story is true, and I have no particular reason to doubt it. As a result, it seems, he is now determined to victimise anyone who crosses him, including his old school pal Nick Clegg – yes, that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat MP who has been deputy prime minister of the UK since 2010. McFadyen was recently quoted as saying, “I’m definitely really angry with Nick Clegg… he’s been a real disappointment. I’m actually ashamed to have gone to school with him.”
Gosh, you might wonder, what’s poor old Cleggie been up to now? Nothing illegal, it turns out, though it might be thought so from McFadyen’s wrath. It’s just that Clegg had failed to back McFadyen’s demand for a massive inquiry into historic sexual abuse. See what I mean about the “bully” thing?
McFadyen has plenty of reason to feel traumatised and angry, of course, and it behoves us heretics to advocate for a more open society (including more accountability in schools) so that dreadful experiences like his are not repeated. But it is characteristic of so-called sympathetic programmes, including this latest Channel 4 one, that their purported sympathy for non-active paedophiles tends to be yoked together with truly extreme and appalling cases of abuse. Far from increasing sympathy for the average paedophile, the likely outcome of this pairing is to crank up the fear of paedophilia to a heightened extreme, so that even the most virtuous VP will come under ever more intense suspicion and scrutiny – and insistence that they do not go anywhere near kids.
For a bit of realistic balance, we could do worse than turn to some recent revelations by TV personality and former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth. He told the Daily Mail a couple of months ago he had been “abused” by a choir master at his prep school.
“I suppose I liked him,” said Brandreth. “At least, I was flattered by his attention. I think I felt it was my due. I was 11, 12 and 13 when this was happening, and quite full of myself. Mr Harkness took lots of photographs of me. We both admired the results.”
“Has this experience of being a victim of child abuse had a lasting effect on me? I certainly don’t feel traumatised by it, nor even resentful. I did not complain then, and I am not complaining now.”
It is no accident, I feel, that neither Brandreth, nor anyone with a comparable experience, is being featured on the Channel 4 programme so far as I can tell. They wouldn’t want to spoil their “misery memoir” narrative with any happiness, would they?