Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy…

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Like Chris Denning, about whom I wrote last time, Charles Napier was a very bright spark – witty, charming, the life and soul of the party.

Even the judge who sentenced him to thirteen years just before Christmas admitted that as a popular (not feared) young prep school teacher in the 1960s and 70s Charles for the most part charmed the pants off his mainly pre-teen pupils, whatever his principal accuser, cry-baby journalist Francis Whine (sorry, Wheen), might claim.

I will return to his accusations, taking them seriously along with much worse allegations that Charles appears to have made no attempt to deny. He told the court he had been “completely out of control” and was “desperately sorry” for his actions. To my mind, incidentally, these were significant expressions of remorse, but that didn’t stop the media quoting a police chief who asserted he had shown “no remorse”: damning opinion is apparently to be preferred over facts even when the latter are right there in plain view. Also, the judge appears to have given Charles no credit for his expressions of regret. All that surfaced publicly, so far as I can see, is that he would have got twenty years but for the fact that he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

For the moment, as with Chris Denning, I am going remember the better side of the man I knew. I met Charles when I joined the executive committee of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) in the mid-1970s. He joined the organisation at the start of its London operation, some months before me. Like his friend the late Peter Righton, who was also one of the first PIE committee members while working as Director of Education for the National Institute of Social Work, he has been presented in the media as an elite paedophile, and possibly part of a sinister ring of perverted high-ups.

Being a humble peasant myself, I never moved socially in such elevated circles, if they existed. But Charles undeniably has an upper class pedigree. He is a descendant of King Charles II of England, no less, via Lady Sarah Lennox, the king’s great-granddaughter, who married General Sir Charles James Napier. Gen. Napier commanded the British army in India in Victorian times and was famous in those days for conquering Sindh in what is now Pakistan. To this day the general’s statue is a towering presence in Trafalgar Square, London, occupying one of the four plinths. There have been leading figures in the family’s recent past and Charles has a half-brother, John Whittingdale, who is currently the Conservative MP for Maldon and Chelmsford East.

So Charles was posh. His racy sports car spoke of a penchant for swagger and swank, while his handsome mien and gracious manner suggested the hero of a bodice-ripping romantic novel. One could easily imagine him as a dashing officer, as his forbear the victor of Sindh must once have been, with all the young ladies swooning over him.

He was cultured, too, and clever. Not for nothing was he appointed to a senior role with the British Council in Cairo. But for his career being a “chequered” one, with several falls from grace over boys, he could well have become head of the entire outfit, and thus in effect the UK’s official cultural ambassador to the world. He was also a talented actor and singer in amateur productions. Above all, like Charles II, the Merry Monarch, he was lively and had a tremendous sense of fun: even Wheen admits that his young “sir”, Mr Napier, was a dazzling, exciting figure.

Not that his jolly japes were just for the kids. Back in the days when telephone answering machines were a novelty, subscribers had to make their own “please leave a message” tape recording. Most of us simply announced our name and number and invited callers to leave a message at the beep. Not Charles. His tape started something like this:

Hi, this is Charles. Sorry, I’m tied up at the moment, but if you’d like to leave a message…

In the background you could hear why he was tied up: there was a fearsome thrashing sound followed by yelps of ecstatic “pain” as Charles was punished by a stern dominatrix (one of his fellow thespians, no doubt) telling him he had been “a naughty boy”.

Well, plenty of people would say he got that right, wouldn’t they? The judge last week obviously thought he had been really, really naughty, in fact properly wicked.

Should we agree with him? It’s time to face the facts insofar as they can be gleaned from dubious mainstream press reports. Those accounts, it should be pointed out, were dominated by the perspective of just one individual, and I don’t mean the judge or a really traumatised victim. I refer instead to the man I have already dubbed the principal accuser, Francis Wheen, now deputy editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, who has been banging on about Charles for decades. It was apparently Wheen’s testimony that led to the arrest in August last year of the man who had been his teacher at Copthorne School.

Way back in 1996 Wheen had a piece in the Guardian (28 August) headlined “School for Scandal”. He wrote:

Charles Napier was my gym master at prep school – and a very good gym master too, always willing to lend a hand (quite literally) as the boys practised their back-flips and head-stands.

From time to time he would invite his favourites into a small workshop next to the gym, where he plied us with Senior Service untipped and bottles of Mackeson before plunging his busy fingers down our shorts. Although I rejected his advances, I continued to help myself to beer ’n’ cigs from his secret depot when he wasn’t around. It never occurred to me to report him to the authorities. Why? Because he was the authorities.

Complaining about a teacher was as unthinkable as refusing to participate in a cross-country run. Anyway, no 11-year-old boy wishes to parade his sexual innocence: Napier warned me – and many others – that by refusing to cooperate we were merely demonstrating our immaturity.

“X lets me do it you know,” he said, naming a class-mate of mine. For weeks afterwards, X sneered at me for my squeamishness.

Several very similar rehashes of this account were published in later years, the latest being only this week in the Daily Mirror.

But there have been subtle changes, too, as time has passed. On BBC TV news on the evening after sentencing, Wheen spoke in scandalised tones about having been taken aback when Charles abruptly shoved a hand down the front of his gym shorts. Now I’m not about to accuse Wheen of lying, or even exaggerating. After all, this latest version presumably corresponds to the contents of his official witness statement to the police, so it’s not just a dashed off bit of journalistic hype.

But dashed off articles often have one great merit: the words spill out in a relatively unguarded way. Whereas his recent, written-with-the court-in-mind, pieces emphasise the sexual total innocence of the boys, his earlier, more casual work tells a rather different story. In another Guardian article in 2005, for instance, he admitted that at his prep school “there was a fair bit of leaping in and out of beds in dormitories, comparing notes, and general exploration”. He also mentions a physics master at Harrow, his later public school, who caught a couple of boys in sexual action and warned them “I don’t mind mutual masturbation, but I draw the line at buggery.” And that, he said, became accepted as a sort of unofficial school rule. Note the admission, too, in the 1996 article, that at least one boy sneered at Wheen’s “squeamishness”. How innocent does all this sound?

As it happens, I wrote to Wheen back in the nineties, challenging what I thought was his overly harsh view of Charles. This was based on my reading of the situation, which now appears to have been incorrect, that Charles had his hands down other boys’ shorts, if they were willing, but not Wheen’s because unlike other boys Wheen “rejected his advances”. In other words, it seemed the boys would have been aware of what went on in Charles’s “den” and were free to join in or not, as they chose.

In my letter, I said:

I am completely in favour of resources such as Childline and other means through which children can challenge bullying and abusive behaviour by adults, including parents. Having said that, I cannot help feeling you have been unfair to Charles, not so much in what you say he did but in the opprobrium you pour on him regardless of the fact that he actually seems to have done very little.

Wheen could have put me right on that, but chose not to. He responded to my brief initial approach with at least one short letter of his own, but I do not recall any further communication.

So, all in all, I remain sceptical that the molestation of which Wheen complains so bitterly had much to do with the force of Charles’s authority and the boys’ inability to refuse his wishes. I think it was more positive: no one was forced to spend extra-curricular time with Charles. They were drawn by the exciting allure of being with a popular – let’s not forget that word popular – teacher and getting up to all sorts of outrageous illicit things, including the cigarettes and booze.

It seems to me Wheen has been in a massive sulk all these years because he couldn’t be in the gang on his own terms. He said Charles called him a baby for not joining in, which made him feel “inadequate”. Gosh, how awful! That bruise to the delicate young Wheen’s ego must be worth a 13-year stretch on its own! But isn’t it time this grand-daddy of all cry-babies finally grew up and moved on after nearly half a century of wailing? Maybe, indeed, he should remember his school motto:

Pervincet Vivida Virtus: Lively manliness conquers all. (Albeit diplomatically re-translated as “All can be achieved by hard work” after they started taking girls!)

Oh, and another thing. As he is so keen on giving “historic” offenders hell, I presume he won’t complain if he is now nicked for stealing Charles’s property and sentenced to the maximum penalty: seven years for theft!

As for a far more serious complaint that Charles, “forced” a boy to “perform a sex act on him” I again find myself sceptical. That would not be the Charles I knew. He had a conscience and could not have brought himself to do anything in the face of a child’s reluctance. He might have gone so far as to exhort and cajole (bad enough in itself, to be sure), but not to threaten or force. He did not pester Wheen, after all, once the embryonic journalist had made his displeasure clear.

Yes, Charles was grossly irresponsible in his use of cigs and beer to “groom” his young charges. Yes, he knew that children could not in law give sexual consent however willing they were. And, yes, among the complainants there are those who say they have suffered depression and even suicidal feelings as a consequence of what Charles did.

Had he been caught and punished with a prison sentence for his prep school offences back in the 1970s he could have no complaint.

Is it right, though, that he and others should be judged today, after decades have passed and in a much more harshly punitive atmosphere? These days, it is said, there is a better understanding of the long-term harm caused by adult-child sexual encounters. So, if this is recent knowledge (not that we need accept its accuracy), how was Charles supposed to be aware of it in the 1970s? Should he and others be punished now with far greater severity than they would have decades ago on the basis that they didn’t have a reliable crystal ball in those days? Is that fair?

Ought there to be a statute of limitations?

Barrister Barbara Hewson recently argued in favour of such a statute.* To me the case seems unanswerable. Mores have changed so enormously in less than half a century that bringing Charles to “justice” this year was hardly any different from posthumously putting Thomas Jefferson on trial for keeping slaves, including his own personal child sex slave (Sally Hemings, aged 14). Should the author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and that country’s third president be dishonoured and have his grave desecrated, as happened recently in the case of Jimmy Savile? It would make just as much sense, or as little, as the hounding of poor Charles.

Also, the further removed a trial is from the alleged offences, the more ills can be dubiously attributed to the original acts. One of Charles’s victims is said to have been suicidal “later in life”. But over the course of decades many of us suffer all sorts of misfortunes that might make us suicidal. We might have lost money disastrously on a business venture, been through an acrimonious divorce, be depressed about getting fat and diabetic. In such circumstances it is all too easy to claim that you wouldn’t have made a foolish investment, or married the wrong woman or fallen prey to overeating but for this thing that happened at school. It’s possible, to be sure, but many other factors may have been more determinative. You don’t – or shouldn’t – condemn a man to a 13-year prison sentence on such a nebulous basis.

But the frenzied blood-lust that has seized the media, the masses and even the courts in the wake of the Savile debacle will not be sated or satisfied by rational proposals for a statute of limitations. Raising the idea is like having pointed out mildly, in the midst of the French Revolution, that not all the aristocrats being trundled to the guillotine were necessarily very bad. The present mood of deluded indignation demands a universal “Off with their heads!” response, be the transgression great or small.

Perhaps, in the circumstances, Charles Napier should reflect philosophically on the fate of another of his ancestors – not Charles II but that king’s father, Charles I, who lost his head in the English Revolution. At least the good people of England are not literally going in for decapitation these days – not yet, anyway!

*The link is to Part II of an article titled “The cult of victimhood and the limits of law” in The Barrister. Part I is also relevant to historic cases.

STOP PRESS: THE ESTABLISHMENT FIGHTS BACK

The Queen’s New Year honours have just been announced and I see I have been overlooked yet again. Unbelievable! 🙂

What makes it even worse is a damehood for that horrible bitch Esther Rantzen. Sorry for the sexist language, ladies, but had she been a bloke the word would have been bastard or shit, which is hardly an improvement. Not only did she refuse to shake hands with me in the BBC reception room as we waited to go on air for the TV discussion show After Dark about a decade ago, she also set her Rottweiler (bitch) friend “June” on me – a screaming “survivor” and ex-prostitute whom I found most discombobulating. She was so loud and in-yer-face aggressive it was hard to think or talk straight. It took all the diplomacy I could muster just to ward off the imminent threat of June giving me a Glasgow kiss. As that city happened to be her home town and she was built like a battle tank I fancy she’d have been good at it.

The Guardian today said this latest honours list was intended “to focus on those who help vulnerable children”. Hence the damehoods for ChildLine founder Rantzen and also for Joyce Plotnikoff, “who has revolutionised the way courts treat child witnesses”. And there was a CBE for Kate Lampard, “the independent overseer of the NHS investigation into Jimmy Savile”.

Much more interesting, though, was a damehood for Fiona Woolf, who was forced to resign from the government’s overarching child abuse inquiry recently. Victims’ groups had protested that she was an unsuitable chair because of her links with Tory peer Leon Brittan, a friend and neighbour, whose role as home secretary in dealing with allegations of child abuse in the 1980s “is likely to be scrutinised”, as the Guardian inscrutably put it.

It may be remembered that yet another dame, Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, was the first person appointed to head the ill-fated abuse enquiry and, like Woolf afterwards, was shown the door by the victims’ lobby. Butler-Sloss was forced to stand down because her late brother Sir Michael Havers had been attorney general in the 1980s and his actions would have been subject to investigation by the inquiry.

Now, in a sign of an establishment fight-back matching the new honour for Woolf, and even topping it, Butler-Sloss has gone public with some very pointed remarks about the danger of handing over too much control to the victims.

She has said she fears the government will never be able to find an experienced figure to run the abuse investigation, but that victims should not think they can do it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 today she said for victims to be deciding who should be the person chairing the inquiry “creates real problems”.

She said:

You are going to need someone who knows how to run things and if you get someone with an obscure background with no background of establishment, they will find it very difficult and may not be able to produce the goods.

She agreed that the normal processes of sifting of evidence, and neutrality between accuser and accused, might go by the board if the victims were allowed to dominate.

Quite so, your ladyship!

I was severely amused by paedo Chris Denning

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Well, that’s it, another Christmas Day is over. Mine was fine, I hope yours was, but it must have been pretty bleak for Charles Napier and Chris Denning.

Thirteen years for both of them! Charles Napier, sentenced the day before Christmas Eve, got exactly the same as was meted out to Chris Denning earlier in the month, as though these savage punishments were choreographed to send a seasonal message of goodwill to all mankind except paedophiles.

The message might almost, indeed, have been tailored specially for Heretic TOC, bearing in mind that I personally knew both of these guys and announced recently that I would be blogging about their sentences once both of them were known.

In the circumstances, it would be expedient for me to play down my friendship with the pair, as there is such a thing as guilt by association: a man is known by the company he keeps; birds of a feather stick together, and all that.

It would be cowardly and heartless to disown anyone purely to ensure one’s own survival, though, and I am not going to do that. Instead, I see several possibilities for responding in far more defensible ways. One is to celebrate the best aspects of the person you knew, and to express the hope that their best may be seen again and that their worst – if there has truly been a terrible worst – will not. The Christian message, after all, is that no one is beyond redemption.

Another response, wholly compatible, would be to face the facts of any misdeeds that have been disclosed and examine one’s feelings about them in a measured and sober fashion.

So, let’s see where that takes us.

I’ll start with Chris Denning , who was one of the first announcers heard on BBC Two when the channel began broadcasting in 1964, and was one of the original Radio 1 DJs when the station launched in 1967. Now 73 and in poor health – he has suffered a heart attack and has diabetes – he once worked as a music producer for the Beatles, and helped launch the careers of the Bay City Rollers and Gary Glitter. Older readers will remember that the manager of the Bay City Rollers was himself convicted of sex offences involving youngsters back in the 1980s and of course Gary Glitter’s fall from grace for similar reasons is even more well known. Chris, the Rollers’ manager Tam Paton, and pop impresario Jonathan King are now all notorious for having been regulars at a Walton-on-Thames teenager’s disco in the 1970s known as the Walton Hop, said to have been a happy hunting ground for “predatory” grooming.

I didn’t meet Chris until his years of fame, fortune and Walton Hopping were but a distant memory. My encounter with him was at a very different gig: Her Majesty’s Prison Wandsworth, London, in 2006-7. By this time both of us had a substantial criminal record, his starting way back in 1974 with a conviction at the Old Bailey for indecent assault. When we met, he was already doing time for historic offences involving boys under 16. Then he was hit with a European arrest warrant and extradited in 2008 from Britain to Slovakia, where he had been living. He was jailed there for producing child pornography.

The amazing thing to me about Chris was his indestructible cheerfulness, considering that even then he was locked, apparently permanently, into a nightmare of perpetual police action against him, even while he was safely incarcerated.

A successful radio DJ needs a lively personality, needless to say, with plenty of wit, gags and bounce. But one often hears of a sad dark side to comedians and clowns. Not Chris, though: what you heard on the radio was what you got on the prison wing – a laughing, joking character who brightened the whole place up. Being depressed was not an option with Chris around! Perpetual jokers can be annoying, to be sure, but I always found him interesting to chat to – usually as a guest in his cell during “unlock”, when I would stroll along the landing the deliver my copy of the Guardian to him when I’d finished with it.

I remember one time he said “Thanks, you’re the nicest paperboy I know!”

“No way!” I replied, “not with all the paperboys you must have known in the biblical sense!”

“I said nicest, not prettiest, you ugly old bugger!”

He was a great source of anecdotes, of course, and also of tea bags and dried milk sachets, which I always needed and he was generously pleased to let me scrounge.

As for the anecdotes, here’s a sample. Chris had to go for minor eye surgery, which entailed attending a nearby National Health Service hospital while under guard by two burly uniformed officers to whom he was handcuffed, one on either side. His visit entailed walking through a crowded ward where his handcuffed state was totally visible not just to the nurses and doctors but to all the other patients, who were members of the general public.

Many of us would have felt utterly humiliated by such a public display of our criminal status; but not a man of Chris’s confidence and style.

“Don’t worry,” he shouted out to the entire ward, “I’ve got these two guys under complete control!”

As for Chris’s past, a bit of it turned up right there in HMP Wandsworth in the shape of a middle-aged prisoner called Bob. I met him while he was chatting to Chris in the latter’s cell one day. He was a new guy on the wing, but he and Chris seemed remarkably relaxed in each other’s company, nattering away like old pals – which they were.

A day or two later, Chris told me all about it. He and Bob had met about forty years earlier when Chris had been presenting Top of the Pops on TV. At that time Bob had been a teenager in the studio audience, invited because his brother worked for the BBC. No doubt he had been a very attractive boy because he caught Chris’s attention and the two struck up a relationship.

I have no idea what sort of trouble got Bob into prison, but he clearly wasn’t blaming it on any “abuse” by Chris: the pair of them got on like a house on fire; I saw not the slightest hint of any lingering resentment, quite the opposite.

And despite many “boys” (albeit now quite ancient themselves) testifying against him, this lack of any convincing account of harm done by Chris’s “abusive” sexual encounters is striking. Instead, we are left to infer from the words of the judge in the case, plus reporters, “abuse experts”, etc, that his behaviour must have been devastating.

In the Daily Mail, for instance, reporter Richard Spillett refers to Denning as a boy’s “tormentor”. Judge Alistair McCreath, in the same report, is quoted as calling his behaviour “depraved”, saying “It is not to be forgotten that all of this suffering was inflicted by you without thought for anything other than your own selfish pleasure.”

But what “suffering” does he mean, exactly? What “torment” was there in reality? I saw all the main reports, in the Daily Mail, the BBC (website and TV coverage), the Guardian and the Independent. I saw absolutely nothing to support all this extravagant denunciation. It seems entirely based on dubious dogma and presumption.

Against this, on the other hand, some facts emerged in support of the view that the boys Chris went with were not forced into anything, were happy to be involved and suffered no harm other than hassles from the police.

The Independent, for instance, reproduced a remarkable Prague Post interview with Chris that first appeared in 2001. In that piece, reporter James Pitkin wrote that one boy was 14 when he first met Denning in a Prague club. He testified against Chris but then phoned him as soon as the former DJ was released from prison, and remained close to him during his last days in Prague. The boy was quoted as saying “Chris is my good friend. I had to testify against him. The pressure from the police was really heavy.”

As well as having lived further east, in Slovakia, Chris also dwelt for a while in the Czech capital, spending time in the gay clubs there. He says that in the Prague clubs boys always approached him first and he often formed lasting friendships with them. He would offer payment or gifts at first; once a relationship was established they often they liked to hang out at his apartment.

It is a mistake often made to suppose that so-called “rent boys” such as these were just vulnerable prey to abusive men. Yes, a club scene will expose youths to undesirables but a bigger part of the story is the exciting access they get to the exact opposite: desirables! These teenagers may be hunted by lustful men, but they are also deliberately on the hunt themselves, ostensibly for money but in reality they often crave the glamour and excitement of having their own big, properly grown-up, friend – and if they are gay, the desirability of the adult will focus on, well, desire – a hunky guy is precisely what they are after.

Chris knew this. He had been a rent boy himself from the age of 13. This had been entirely voluntary. Coming from a comfortable middle-class home, with non-abusive parents, he wasn’t desperate for the money nor is he a case of “the abused becoming the abuser”.

He does, however, remember being sexual from long before his teens. In boarding school, he says relationships with other young boys were commonplace. At eight, he was visiting an elderly museum curator for “favours”, and as a teenager he was hitting the streets and clubs of London on weekends, getting paid for sex but often giving it away free.

He insists that for men, prostitution is a choice. “The press always talks about being forced into it, as if they were reluctant,” he told the Prague Post. “They do it because they enjoy it.”

The teenagers at the Walton Hop were not on the gay scene like the Prague rent boys. But you don’t have to be gay to appreciate a glamorous adult in your life, as Chris was. To the straight youngster at that age the attraction is often a matter of overwhelming, hair-trigger, sexuality that will burst out at the slightest provocation, combined with the flattering attention of a hero-worshipped grownup and a positive need for affection.

Men like Chris are excoriated for “grooming” such youngsters. But what does this mean? It means being decent, nice and kind enough to make friends with a kid and spending time with him, rather than just having sex. It means being affectionate, taking an interest in the boy’s own life and preoccupations. It means earning a boy’s trust through being reliable and steadfast.

All these things are good and fine qualities. Simply to propagandise against them by insisting they are somehow evil is itself a monstrous distortion and perversion of the truth.

As for the middle-aged men who made the allegations in the UK case, it may be that some or all of them were approached by the police following leads in the aggressive pursuit of their Operation Yewtree, set up as one of many investigations aimed at leaving no stone unturned from the supposed misdeeds of decades ago, following the (still totally unproven) Jimmy Savile allegations. In other words, rather than having gone through decades of “torment” over what happened, they may instead merely have been badgered by the police into making statements. If any of them had made powerful and persuasive “victim impact statements” you may be sure the media would have made a meal of it.

I was going to write about Charles Napier as well in this piece. In order to justice to his case, though, I will have to return to it separately. More soon, then, inshallah.

 

THANK YOU, HERETICS

A huge thank you to all those heretics who have responded with encouraging words after hearing the audio recording of the interview I gave to Testimony Films, which was intended for Channel 4’s The Paedophile Next Door but never used. It is very gratifying to know that the consensus view is clearly much more positive than I had feared. Thanks to the sterling work of David Kennerly, it is now also possible to hear an amusing audio of less than 17 minutes in which interviewer Steve Humphries’ questions are stitched together in the absence of my answers, followed by some telling quotes from the programme as broadcast. Titled Stitching Up Steve Humphries, this compilation cleverly shows who was actually stitched up, and how. Excerpts from the show as broadcast come in at the 13-minute mark.

The rise of the lachrymocracy

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Heretic TOC is on tour right now.

I am writing far from home, on a borrowed PC, in the midst of a seasonal round of boozy festivities with friends in London and elsewhere, in what has become something on an annual catch-up fest. It’s because I live at such a distance from the capital, you see, which is where many old pals happen to be. I’d like to see them more often, but…

On the most festive day of all, though, I expect to be back in my northern fastness, rapt in the Scrooge-like pleasure of counting my money. Not that I have much, but the quiet days towards the end of the year are the one time I can focus on sorting out my accounts for the tax people.

Anyway, this on-the-road thing gives me a bit of an excuse for the slight delay in providing a new link to the promised audio recording of my interview with Steve Humphries of Testimony Films. Following my recent blog Inadmissible Testimony, I left a comment saying, inter alia, this:

Several heretics have requested me to post the audio recording of my unused interview with Steve Humphries of Testimony Films. I don’t see why not. I agreed not to make the recording public, which was a stipulation designed to safeguard Channel 4’s interest in the material. As the programme has now aired without using it, that obligation would appear to be at an end.

I duly posted a link to the recording but withdrew it when I was told it was difficult to download. David Kennerly kindly offered to do some technical wizardry which has resulted in a new recording with excellent sound, and also greatly compressed so it is much easier to download. He has also edited it to make just one file rather than the original six. Amazingly, this single .wma file is only 30MB for a recording of two hours and nine minutes. If anyone has problems with it, other formats are now available too.

You will duly find the link below. If I hesitate to put the link in here, or here, it is because I am finding an emotional need to prevaricate and explain. The more I have thought about it in the days, and now weeks, since the Channel 4 broadcast, the more anxious and inhibited I have become.

It’s not that have any worries on legal or ethical grounds, nor do I regret anything I said in the interview, except for one word: I said “wolf” where I meant to say “fox”, but people will get my meaning, I think: the reference is to a famous Spartan legend that every schoolboy knows – or would have done in the days when schoolboys, if not schoolgirls, were routinely immersed in the Classics.

No, it’s not such much what I said nor even, for the most part, the way that I said it. I am not a natural speaker, but I think I came over pretty well for about two hours. The other nine minutes or so, however, are another matter. And as these wobbly moments are quite close to the beginning, listeners should perhaps be warned what to expect. I can only hope that people here, of all places, will be charitable in their response.

To set the scene, I should just reprise a few words from my earlier blog. I wrote:

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.

What proved particularly tough for me was an unexpected visit by Humphries to a difficult time in my past, when I was young. I am not sure why I was so unprepared. In retrospect, the topic in question was an obvious one to explore. My mistake was to assume I needed to focus my preparation solely on rational arguments and scientific evidence, and how to present things in a rhetorically persuasive fashion. This all seemed very remote from ancient details of my personal history. In retrospect it was a silly oversight on my part, but that is with the benefit of hindsight.

OK, time to stop beating about the bush. I was overly emotional. My paternal lineage is Irish but I was brought up in 1950s England into the culture of the British stiff upper lip. I hate the public displays of emotion that are so ubiquitous in the media these days, which appear to have started in the UK with the mass lachrymosity of the British public in response to the death of Princess Diana (a person most of the “mourners” had never met and knew little about) and which now extend to the winners (and losers) in televised cake-baking contests and such like: no event is too trivial to be the occasion for weeping these days.

As for more serious matters, we are not so much a liberal democracy now as an increasingly illiberal lachrymocracy: it is the weepers and wailers – sometimes with good cause but often not – who call the dirgical tune and imperiously demand we should all sing it.

But enough. The audio is here, on Dropbox.

 

STOP PRESS

Younger readers will not remember the blank space left at the end of newspapers headed STOP PRESS , reserved for a sentence or two of late news. There is no need on the internet to stop the presses but I do need to squeeze in at least a brief reference to news that has been accumulating during the month and cannot decently be ignored any longer.

This month has seen judges in Britain falling over themselves to pass draconian sentences in sex cases involving children. There was a double whammy at the start of the month, when it was reported that “paedophile doctor” Myles Bradbury, convicted of offences against his young cancer patients had been sentenced to 22 years in jail; we also heard that John Allen, who ran children’s homes, had been jailed for life for “sexually assaulting youngsters in a campaign of abuse spanning decades”. Just as striking in its ferocity, was a sentence of 25 years handed down about a week ago, on former DJ Ray Teret, jailed for rapes and indecent assaults “on girls as young as 12”.

These sentences were the “big three”. Life terms have long been in use against repeat offenders, which Allen was in a technical sense, having been convicted previously in 1996. But the new charges were all “historic”, going back to before 1996. It is not as though he was a recidivist. As for the other cases, terms of 20 years or more are vanishingly rare for any offence, and mark a sharp uptick in severity to positively American levels.

As I say, this is just STOP PRESS news. I have yet to consider these cases in any detail or assess whether the offences were particularly awful. There may have been seriously aggravating factors but one has to doubt whether they were so bad as to justify sentences longer than would be given for horrifically violent attacks leading to serious injury and even death.

Heretic TOC definitely aims to say more about this draconian trend before long, probably after the sentencing of Charles Napier, which is due to take place on the 23rd of this month. Happy Christmas, Charles! It is public knowledge that I knew Charles, as we served together on the executive committee of PIE in the 1970s. I also knew Chris Denning, the former DJ who was sentenced only yesterday to 13 years for historic offences: we met in prison in 2006.

While I have no direct knowledge of the cases against either Charles or Chris, and I am not in a position to see things from the point of view of the “victims”, I do think I have something valid to offer in terms of my personal assessment of the character of these guys.

So, more in due course!

Slapping the thighs of sodomy with mirth

80 Comments

And now for something really different, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus: a guest blog with satirical verse grounded in the classics. Just to get the ball rolling, here is a stanza of introductory doggerel from me:

Is buggery our birthright?
No, let’s keep a boy’s arse tight,
Says our guest blogger today,
Delight in his body but not in that way!

Andrew Calimach is a Romanian-American author and descendant of the Calimachis, an old Moldavian ruling family. His research into the homoerotic domain of Greek mythology was published in 2002 under the title Lovers’ Legends: The Gay Greek Myths. The work was widely reviewed, nominated for the 2003 Lambda Literary Award, and later published in Bucharest as Legendele iubirii. He was a friend, neighbor, and coreligionist of the poet and boy-lover Allen Ginsberg; both of them were students of the Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Andrew’s articles have appeared in THYMOS: Journal of Boyhood Studies, in E.R.O.S. journal, and other publications. Over to Andrew:

Blaming the Greeks for our folly

What does my long poem (part of which appears below) about the Greeks and buggery have to do with the struggle to liberate the way we think about the sexuality of adolescent boys in encounter with adult men? I mean it to show that this is a topic that has occupied men’s minds for over three thousand years. Oddly, the old lessons have been forgotten, and we are engaged in doing the very opposite of what the wise heads of old advised. We are following a path diametrically opposite to the one that led to a brilliantly successful tradition of ethical boy love that lasted a millennium or more.

Though their point of view was mostly pre-scientific, the Greeks reached a conclusion very similar to the position that most medical professionals hold today, namely that anal sex is a very risky proposition. What we today frame in epidemiological and traumatological terms, and what we constrain by means of legislation, they phrased in terms of honor, and constrained by means of ethical teachings. Cultured Greek gentlemen despised any form of penetration of one male by another, while admiring and pursuing loving erotic relations short of penetration between men and adolescent boys. Today we live in a world the Greeks would see as topsy-turvy, where buggery is casually accepted, but erotic relations between men and adolescent boys, even though partially legal, are frowned upon. Might there be a causal link here?

Why am I making my argument in verse? First, it is a way to leap over my instinctive wordiness, probably the result of a youth misspent reading all the novels of Jules Verne, that paragon of non-laconic speech. Secondly, it is an attempt to inject a bit of humor into an overly serious discussion. Finally, how else to make accessible an argument that starts with the classics and ends with the dystopian future (to say nothing about the dystopian present) without putting to sleep 99% of the audience?

What am I versifying about? To be precise, it is about the big lie that the Greeks buggered boys en masse. Who cares? We should all care about that, as it is one of the cornerstones of the edifice that has become the gay world of today, one that does not serve the best interests of those boys who feel that touch of desire in their hearts and have no choice but to fall into either the gay or the straight camp. Should they fall into the gay camp, they would be hard pressed not to end up buggered or buggering. Not that we should go back to hanging sodomites. It is just that presently there is a presumption that buggery IS gay sex, and the big lie about the Greeks is one of the foundations of that juggernaut of cultural conformism called “being gay.”

Who did the big lie start with? The professors, of course, who, like the rest of us, have their own emotional baggage and personal agendas to color their perspective on the Greeks, and what they teach the rest of us about them::

What is the cause the bookish philologue
Holds that the Greeks were by their bent abusive?
And wherefore the hoary pedagogue
Strains to persuade us that they were intrusive?

Does search for truth inspire these academics?
Does love of learning lead them the Greeks betray?
For some it’s pure bigotry systemic,
While others in plain sight argue pro se.

The straights of dominance accuse the Greeks
While the gays flail desperately for a foil.
Antiquity, they preen, of abuse reeks,
Unlike us modern wags, so don’t recoil. . . .

What were the Greeks really like?

Men who rough plough and sword first cast aside
And to the Alps of knowledge strove to stride,
Stripped off their robes and showed themselves undressed
And naked exercised and learned and taught,
Not by some primitive impulse possessed,
But so that by their eyes truth naked might be caught.

Thus out of vision grasped by men farsighted
The flames of art and science first ignited.
From their hands mute stone first stirred to life;
From their stages theater laughed and cried;
Their minds, searching to end brute toil and strife,
To tame men’s savage ways, a subtle path descried.

That path was love, yet not love reproductive,
But a new love, of supermen productive,
And friendships firm, that made strong tyrants quake.
Thence modern man was born, from this found truth:
Man callow lives and dies, lest through man’s love awake.
Thus Greeks their glory won, through man’s love for a youth.

In wise men’s hands this love was no rank scourge
For it was wrought in the same genius forge
Whence came all truth that Hellas yet does teach.
Heart’s primal path it blazed, two bloods to bind,
Yet well limned honor’s boundaries not to breach,
Guarding body pristine, while ennobling the mind. . . .

Who says so? The Greeks themselves, whose comments indicating that they viewed anal sex as abuse I proceed to quote below, with proper footnotes (on my website) for those who are curious and interested. Am I fool enough to claim that the Greeks never buggered boys? Not at all. My only claim is that they knew the difference between ethical love and abusive passion, both of which coexisted then, as they still do today.

Aesop man’s greed and foolishness did skewer,
Here fabled Zeus helped him to ford a sewer:
“Fair goddess Shame defied the Olympic king
And warned that she would fly from men, unchained,
Should Eros from behind try entering.”
Shameless such men by Aesop were ordained.

Hear now Plato, whom Ganymede inflamed
And verses penned his boyfriends, not some dame.
His peals of laughter roll from the tomb’s night
Mocking those men who restraint lack in bed
And his sharp words chide them in black and white:
“Why lurch you on all fours to mate like quadrupeds?”

“You men fancy yourselves of noble stock?
You’re nought but piglets scratching ’gainst a rock.”
Thus Socrates, whom boyish charms entranced.
Thus, since our world was new, the blame in fact
Was not sweet love that man for youth advanced
But the blind urge to barge up his digestive tract.

Plato, when forging man’s ideal laws
Hymned love of lads unmarked by vulgar flaws.
The Spartan foes and myth-weaving Cretans
He put in pillory to make example:
“They sow their seed on barren rocks, like cretins,”
Though well he knew those tribes debauch did not sample.

Speak, O captain of philosophy’s seas,
Futtering males you dubbed mental disease.
Yet, Aristotle, your loves’ names fill a book!
Yet, jibed you, only blind men crave not beauty!
How then, in youth, for lover Hermias you took,
And your acolytes embraced as sacred duty?

“Only such men are ill who their beloveds hurt.
A male to top? That’s tantamount to chewing dirt.
But moderate men have leave to taste love’s pleasure.
My son, Nicomachus, exampled my views:
After my death, his life my own did measure,
When my friend Theophrastus for lover he did choose.”

The amphitheater of the Athenians
Thrums still with their laughter and opinions.
Upon its stage of comical reflection,
That oafish lout who his loved boy belittled,
Aristophanes netted for his collection,
Pinning that insect under the tag, “dung beetle.”

Speak, old Aeschines, you fiery orator,
Athenian lads you courted and adored.
But you knew chaste from vicious love of boys.
Before all Athens, one you named a whore:
Timarchus, his honor squandered as men’s toy,
You brought to ground for flinging open his back door.

And say you more, in this Areopagus?
The ancient lore of love would you teach us?
Then pray, make known to all, what kind of man
A woman makes of his beloved male?
“Two stains mark out for us that noisome clan,
Brutal are they, uncultured too, beyond the pale.”

And Plato drains his cup of wine to add:
“Lovers divine can be, as well as bad.
When looking for a tender friend, chase not
Some stripling, seek one who‘s old enough to think.”
And Xenophon the crucial point has wrought:
“You must have leave from the boy’s sire, in ink.”

There is more to recount about the views of the Greeks regarding the undesirability of buggery, and the poem leaves no gravestone unturned, but here I shall skip ahead to address the present gay reality, that liberates the anuses of a few while imprisoning the hearts of the many:

There is no freedom nor shall there ever be
Till boy with boy hand in hand can be free.
The few flaunt license, the rest in shame hide.
To say “It gets better” is a sad lie,
See youth after hurt youth leap into suicide,
Their parents want to know, how many more must die?

Thus pressed, the ranks of these eclectic
Protest, “The feeling is electric,”
And pledge to Socrates allegiance.
In vain they claim to hang with that Greek cat,
They’re just Romans flying a flag of convenience,
Loath to hoist their own “Asinus asinum fricat.”

Like the feeble who lonely solace find
Beguiled by poppies that entrap the mind
These wights cling fast to thrills they deem a treasure.
The learned trade the pleasant for the good,
And just as reason deems opium a fool’s pleasure
The Greeks to shun this folly understood.

Wrath told leads me past anger into sadness
To muse upon the random ways of madness.
How blind belief in this dead end of lust
Has robbed all men of love that might have been.
Instead up rise hard walls of fear and disgust
And young and old esteem the tender touch unclean.

Homophobia is not in the past, it is more rampant than ever, and much of it is driven by instinctive disgust at practices that are inherently unclean. Of course, that disgust is partly a projection, since at least half of the men who bed women at some point turn that woman over and have with her as they would with a boy. Does that disprove the dynamics of hate against men who love men or who love boys (of legal age of course)? I think not. Nonetheless that homophobia, which is ultimately self-hate, may well destroy us all and the world with it. Hence the end of the poem, forgive the gloom and doom please:

Sage Aldous must be turning in his grave,
For he was right, this new world is not brave.
To mimic boys gay men now depilate.
You should be proud your hearts yearn for the young,
But lest you rightfully be thought a renegade
Turn wisdom’s river to flush out Augean dung.

A better man would keep anger within,
But I… I would not know where to begin.
Long I’ve laboured ’neath this burden not mine
And paid with loves lost for gay lib’s shrill chant.
It’s too late now to tell where lies the boundary line
Between that which I am, and a prisoner’s rant.

But no one wants to hear this dialectic
Why, my gay pals wax downright apoplectic.
Dear friends, you’ll have no more need of gay pride,
—Look, nor history nor sense offer refuge—
All that you need do is cast your gay shame aside:
Cease drowning mankind under buggery’s deluge.

The lid of time swings shut, the Greeks are gone,
Upon our orb we’re once again alone.
From modern heights we disdain Greeks as rakes
Against whose sins our mores pretend defense.
Yet, in our haste to rise above their mistakes,
We’ve killed what made them great, and saved what gave offense.

And therein the irony does lie
Keep the bathwater, let the baby die.
But for this murder we’ll all pay the price.
Male love repressed morphs into brutish need
From glut of couplings we then multiply like mice
Till pillaged Nature break beneath the human breed.

Nor ask why leering dawns this new dark age,
This maelstrom of materialistic rage,
When in our hearts this unvoiced void does gape,
When mangled Eros hobbles on one leg,
When man’s reduced to matrimonial ape,
And his sole destiny? Filthy lucre to beg.

So here you have a summary of a poem that is itself the summation of the article preceding it, that sets out the argument in its full panoply. Its title is Pinning Anal Sex on the Greeks: A Millennial Slur”. For those interested in reading it, you will find it at my Academia.edu page in its totality. Comments and replies are welcome (to acalimach@gmail.com ) but to keep my own workload to manageable dimensions, kindly submit them in verse.

 

TOC adds: Alternatively, or in addition, comments in prose may be submitted to this blog in the usual way!

Perhaps I should also take this opportunity to say that thanks to sterling work by David Kennerly I now have user-friendly compressed audio versions of my interview with Testimony Films, originally commissioned for Channel 4’s The Paedophile Next Door. I expect to be providing a link shortly, with further comments. The sound quality is good and the interview remains uncut.

Oh shit, I forgot the kid’s birthday!

56 Comments

Husbands notoriously, or at least stereotypically, forget their wedding anniversary. Having just failed to mark Heretic TOC’s second anniversary on time, I am unsure whether this reflects my unromantic nature as a male blogger, or whether blogging is not supposed to be a project one is faithfully wedded to anyway, or whether we should all divorce ourselves from anniversary angst.

Catching up belatedly on the fact this blog’s second birthday was on 8 November – oh shit it’s a birthday, that’s even worse: I missed the kid’s birthday! – I do actually see that it is a useful moment for reflection and thoughts for the future.

And I am delighted to report that even though I missed the actual day, so there was no party with candles to blow out and all that stuff, there has been a lot to celebrate: much more, surprisingly, than at the first birthday stage, which might be thought a more significant landmark. It is not just a matter of fact and figures, either, but starting with a few will help set the scene.

The average number of hits per day at Heretic TOC in the opening month, November 2012, was 89; in the corresponding month the following year there were 192; for this year the figure is up to 296. Hard comparative data are not easy to come by but there are some indications that these figures, especially the latest one, are strong for a specialist blog at the more highbrow end of the spectrum. By the end of the first year Heretic TOC had 40 “followers” subscribing to be notified by email when each new blog is published; there were 70 by the second anniversary.

A bigger story, though, is to be seen in figures indicating readers’ intensive engagement with Heretic TOC. The average number of comments per blog since the beginning has been about 29. But that masks an amazing rise seen in the last six months or so, and especially in the last three months. The last half dozen blogs have each attracted over 100 comments; the most recent, in the first month of the third year, has brought a record 366 and there may yet be more.

Many of these comments are not short, either, often stretching to several hundred words and sometimes a thousand. Usually well argued, they are also often richly informative, sometimes with links to important source material. By the second anniversary well over half a million words of comment had been published! By the end of November there had been over 3850 published comments in response to a total of 132 blogs. The mean average length of comment was around 150 words: some are just brief acknowledgements but the mean is boosted by far more substantial, contributions, as noted above.

Another noteworthy aspect of quality, as opposed to quantity, is that the briefest points (“Couldn’t agree more”, “Nice of you to say so”, etc.) tended to reflect the extraordinary courtesy and mutual goodwill of participants. It’s not even as if I have to battle to keep out flamers and trolls: I suspect those who visit the site with that in mind usually think better of it, realising that vicious abuse will simply reflect badly on themselves in the Heretic TOC environment.

All of this leaves me in no doubt that Heretic TOC is presently serving a useful function, even though the heretical thoughts aired here are no more influential in the world than they were when the blog started, indeed perhaps less so.

This certainty of purpose contrasts strongly with the situation a year ago, when the title of my anniversary blog said a lot about the existential crisis Heretic TOC was undergoing: What’s the point of it all, really? At that time, too, there were some really good commentators, but I felt newcomers were being put off by the bad behaviour of a few. I said I thought two thirds of the material was good, but:

The remaining material, though, including posts which had to be rejected on grounds of personal abuse, repetition of previous positions, incoherence, etc., involved me in some very difficult – indeed at times utterly draining and exasperating – bouts of moderating. This, indeed, has been by far my toughest task, which has at times thoroughly tested my capacity to be as calm, fair and objective as a moderator ought to be.

At this point, or soon after, I concluded that my moderating needed to be a bit tougher. It was a hard decision for a blog such as this one, which aims to encourage dissenting voices, not suppress them. I do not regret what I did, though. One year later there is a considerably greater range of heresy being expressed here, not a narrower one.

As for the future, I very much hope to be delivering a third anniversary report around this time next year. I may be unsure, as indicated above, whether blogging is a project one must be “faithfully wedded” to, but I’m not looking to get out of the relationship anytime soon. The sex* is too good for that!

There is a bit of an issue, but it is a good one, a problem of success, not failure. I find it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a sensible blog/life balance now that the comments are so numerous. As the subject matter is so controversial, and as I have legal responsibility for what goes in, every post has to be moderated carefully. It is not a task that can be delegated and it eats up quite a bit of time. Accordingly, what I think I need to do from now on is to restrict the number of comments per blog to 100. I hope everyone can live with that. Also, I would ask commentators to review their posts and do a bit of self-editing on the longer ones, where possible. I do not want to impose a maximum length, as some posts fully justify an extended argument with lots of information. I just ask you to keep this question in mind: Could my post be expressed more concisely?

Another way around the problem, however, would be if there are heretics here with websites of their own who might like to host any surplus comments after the 100-limit is reached. I know there are a few of you with sites. This might also be a good way of handling the Open Thread idea proposed by James. I suspect such a thread could result in some very intellectually fertile debate because it would offer a chance to introduce fresh concepts and perspectives that would not be sufficiently “on topic” as a response to the blog of the moment. Anyway, I hope potential hosts will think about it and let me know.

A further “good problem” is that Heretic TOC’s back catalogue is now too big for me to access easily from memory. I can no longer recall, as I could for the first year or more, all the blog topics and their approximate dates off the top of my head. As some will have noticed, I do refer back to earlier blogs when the occasion so demands, but even with the Search facility and Keywords it is not always easy to find the ones I am after. So it has occurred to me I should make a title/date index with a short Abstract for each entry.

This thought led to another. Wouldn’t it be nice, I mused, to have a paperback book on my shelves for easy access to my favourite pieces, put together in a “Best of Heretic TOC” compilation including some of the best comments? This would be a valuable see-at-a-glance resource as well as a personal memento. In these days of print-on-demand publishing, it would not need to be a very costly investment of my money even if only one copy were ever produced. I could make other copies available for purchase for a very modest amount, though, if anyone else expressed an interest. I’m not going to big this up as a must-have purchase because plainly it will be nothing of the sort given that every word of the original blog will continue (WordPress willing) to be available into the foreseeable future. But, if I can get my act together in the coming months to do the editing, design, etc., it will become available for anyone who wants it.

If anyone has suggestions for particular blogs to go in the book, and also particular comments, including any of your own that you feel may be of lasting interest, do speak up. Yes, I know, with literally thousands of comments to choose from, it’s a tough selection to make; also, there is bound to be a bias towards recent comments, not least because they are more easily remembered. This doesn’t really matter too much, though, as I happen to think that many of the best comments have been made in the last six months.

That’s about it, I think. If you’ll excuse me, then, I’d better get off so I can go and bake that Heretic TOC birthday cake at long last!

 

*Legal disclaimer for humourless surveillance agencies: I mean the discourse of non-teleiophilic sexuality.

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