Another day, another hysteric – sorry, historic – enquiry in Britain. The police complaints body has launched an investigation into, oh, load and loads of vaguely rumoured “child sex offences” in London from as far back as the 1970s.
The big excitement, though, was on the BBC’s Newsnight on 16 March, which trumpeted a claim that police were forced to abandon a cast-iron case against a VIP “paedophile ring” in 1981 after they had obtained video footage of the men in question actually engaging in hot action with teenage boys at a flat in Coronation Buildings, Lambeth, less than a mile away from parliament. An order had come from on high that the matter should be dropped “in the national interest”. Among those caught in the act was said to have been the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and a “senior member of Britain’s intelligence agencies”; there was also evidence against “two senior police officers”.
My hunch, having seen the Newsnight programme, is that this is more than just the usual hype, and that properly sourced police testimony may in due course be forthcoming from officers involved in the Coronation Buildings operation, especially if they can be assured that the Official Secrets Act will not be used against them. Never mind that the BBC’s information came from a single unnamed police source whom they have never seen because he spoke through an intermediary; never mind that this informant was said merely to have been “familiar with the original investigation” rather than a part of it; never mind that dozens of other officers on the case could have come forward to spill the beans but so far have not; never mind the apparent absence of “victims” making complaints at this point.
All these good reasons for scepticism can reasonably be put aside. Those of us who are old enough will recall that teenage rent boys and members of parliament (especially Tory ones) were an accepted item in those days. Everyone knew they went together: not as respectably as love and marriage, perhaps, but as routinely as a horse and carriage. And so did cover-ups: a Tory chief whip even went on record to say part of his job was in effect to blackmail MPs who had things to hide, letting it be known he would keep quiet about their extra-marital affairs, or penchant for “small boys”, in return for them towing the party line.
All very scandalous, no doubt; but the real scandal these days is not sexual at all. Rather, it is the dangerous perversion of truth to which sensationalist journalism is now giving rise, driven on by our debased victim culture and populist politics. Convinced by nothing more than relentless empty propaganda that Jimmy Savile was guilty of crimes worse than Islamic State beheadings, the public also seemed receptive to claims late last year that boys were murdered some decades ago by powerful Establishment figures.
Such claims lack credibility unless they can be tied to particular youngsters who went permanently missing from that time onwards and who might have taken part in the alleged “sex parties”. No such individuals have been suggested. Also, as I said recently, another factor that makes me doubt the credibility of the “allegators”, as blogger Anna Raccoon aptly dubs them, is that one of them made what to me were obviously false claims about sadistic abuse by my old friends Charles Napier and Peter Righton.
That was in January, in an Exaro News report featuring a source they called “Darren”, who appears to be an ex-rent boy. Apparently Exaro liked his story so much they asked him for more, and Darren obligingly came up the following month with an even stronger yarn against Peter. This time he remembered a murder that had somehow slipped his mind in January: in this new version, Darren had personally seen Peter Righton brutally attack a man called Andrew, leaving him fatally wounded.
It wasn’t just any old attack, either. Oh, no. The unfortunate Andrew was torn apart when tied between two vehicles that slowly reversed away from each other, one driven by Righton the other by “another man”! The demonic Righton had even made Andrew dig his own grave beforehand!
I kid you not, Exaro is inviting everyone to take this fanciful bullshit seriously, and it seems plenty of people are buying into it.
So who are these people, Exaro News? Set up in 2011 by a city tycoon, this exposé outfit now has former Guardian journalist David Hencke on its core staff. It was Henke who is said to have passed Tom Watson MP evidence of “child abuse” at the Elm Guest House, leading to a police investigation, “Operation Fernbridge”. Exaro and its journalists have been nominated for a number of top awards and actually won a few as well. Editor-in-chief Mark Watts has been profiled in the Guardian.
With all this kudos, one might expect standards to be high. But that is not how it works, alas. Fortunately, scepticism over claims like those of “Darren” remains strong in significant areas of public life, including the legal profession and academia.
Criminal law barrister Matthew Scott, for instance, blogged about his misgivings last year in “Exaro News Is Playing A Dangerous Game With Its Paedophile Murder Story”.
This was in response to the agency’s earlier VIP murder “investigation”, based on allegations made by another anonymous source, dubbed “Nick”.
Exaro, in collaboration with the Sunday People, alleged, in the words of the blog, that “a Tory MP strangled a 12-year-old brown haired boy in a central London town house in 1980. Apparently, 18 months to two years later two other men murdered a second boy in front of another Tory MP, ‘a cabinet minister’. Both MPs are ‘still alive’. Its source is a man in his 40s to whom they have given the pseudonym ‘Nick’. Exaro even mentions rumours of a third child murdered by being run over in the street, though I don’t think Nick claims to have actually seen more than one murder.”
Scott suggests that Exaro, along with the Sunday People and also the BBC, who aired an interview with “Nick”, acted “extremely unwisely by catapulting him into the public domain”.
These interviews had given extremely detailed accounts, which ran the risk of wrecking any police investigation because the testimony of any witnesses who might later come forward would have greatly reduced value: they could easily just be copy cats. This would inevitably play a part in the defence of any accused person, and a guilty person might escape justice because any good and true evidence would be seen as contaminated and unsafe.
Scott continues in this lawyerly vein for quite a while, and rightly so, but it is the commonsense scepticism in the latter part of his article that really takes the eye, beginning with the story of Carol Felstead:
There is nothing new about allegations being made against Tory politicians of the period, and they are not necessarily truthful. A not dissimilar account of Conservative Party MPs being involved in sexual abuse was given in the 1990s by someone called Carol Felstead and it provides a cautionary tale for anyone who might wish to rush to judgement. According to Carol’s therapists, she was anally raped in Conservative Central Office by a Tory MP with a claw hammer, and raped by not one but two members of Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet.
Just like Nick, Carol supposedly said she was abused first by her parents. She had been “ritually reborn out of a bull’s stomach, placed in a grave ‘on top of her dead sister’ and rescued by her father who was dressed as the Devil.” She later claimed to have given birth to six children who were then aborted and ritually sacrificed.
Felstead had told this story not to Exaro but to the notorious Dr Valerie Sinason, who incorporated some of it (changing Carol’s name to “Rita”) into the work that made her name: Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse.
Sinason’s work has since been widely discredited, along with the entire satanic abuse fad, as I pointed out in “Compared to Sinason, Savile was a saint”. Likewise, Scott takes her down a peg or three and adds a truly scandalous bit of information, telling us she specialised, and is still paid by the NHS to specialise, in the treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder, itself a controversial diagnosis.
So much for Sinason. As for Carol Felstead, Scott leaves us in no doubt what her story amounted to:
Now, despite the detailed and distressing history supposedly given by Carol to her therapists, her accounts of abuse at the hands of her parents were demonstrable nonsense. The family house had indeed burned down, but it did so a year before she was born so she could not possibly have remembered it as she said. She did have a sister who died in infancy, a girl who suffered from Down’s syndrome and died in hospital from natural causes; again she did so before Carol was even born. As for the Satanic abuse, her four surviving brothers all agree that nothing of the sort took place and there is no evidence of it whatever from any other source. There was no coven, no witch-craft and no murdered babies: indeed her medical records show that she had never been pregnant. Her extraordinary story of being raped by politicians was likewise fantasy of a high order.
Likewise, Scott is admirably sceptical about even the sex parties at Dolphin Square, never mind the murders:
The reasons to doubt the existence of such a ring are legion. What were these boys doing when they were not at Dolphin Square sex parties? Were they kept in complete isolation? Did they stop going to school, for example, or never speak to anybody outside the paedophile ring? The Exaro line seems to be that they were so terrified by the fact that the men in question were powerful that they did not expose the ring while it was active. Are we really to believe that these “powerful people” were so sure that their affairs could be kept secret from the press and, still more, from their political rivals, that they kept returning to the orgies? When even a tame affair like that of Cecil Parkinson with his secretary could lead to political disgrace; when journalists were constantly scouring Westminster for a whiff of scandal and when political rivals would have been delighted to ditch the dirt on their enemies it seems – as Exaro themselves acknowledge – very unlikely indeed.
Quite so, although, as I said at the outset, I am not so sceptical about the sex side: even the most intelligent and rational of men often think with their dick: just ask Bill Clinton or, even better, Hillary. What they would definitely not do, I suggest, is be so reckless as to murder anyone in the devil-may-care manner suggested by both “Nick” and “Darren”, casually leaving witnesses like them who might at any time tell the tale.
If Matthew Scott is a good example of sensible scepticism in legal circles, what about one from the academic world? News has just reached me from an unlikely source, the Lancashire Magazine, of a very encouraging show of academic good sense at Edinburgh University, where a research project is underway in connection with the allegations against Jimmy Savile.
The article in question, “Jimmy Savile ‘Moral Panic’ Tracked By Computer In Dordogne”, is based on an archive of private social media discussions between the women who later came forward to claim they were sexually abused by the late entertainer. Forty years ago the women had been teenagers at the Duncroft Approved School, an experimental boarding school opened by the Home Office to give a second chance of education for girls of above-average intelligence who had been taken into care.
The owner of the archive was a retired English lawyer living in the Dordogne region of France. She lived in care at Duncroft in 1965 and 1966. Her name was Susanne Cameron-Blackie, better known to many heretics here as – wait for it – the blogger Anna Raccoon!
Yes, Anna, or Susanne, is right at the heart of this story. Her wonderful, detailed, sceptical analyses of the claims against Savile have been highlighted here at Heretic TOC on several occasions, so I am sure we will all be delighted to hear that her work has won academic appreciation and government funding for a follow-up project.
It was a serious illness that first prompted Susanne to contact Edinburgh University. In 2013, fearing she might not survive a forthcoming cancer operation in France, she sent an email to Professor Viviene Cree at the Edinburgh University School of Social and Political Science, explaining the situation and saying she hoped the university would provide a good home for her archive. That summer the Economic and Social Research Council activated its Urgency Grants Mechanism to form a research team for the recovery and collation of documents and the information stored on Anna Raccoon’s computer in the Dordogne. The full story of the research team and its project are set out in the Lancashire Magazine’s article and is recommended reading.
It really is splendid news. Sadly, though, we also learn that Susanne is still suffering from cancer. She continues to blog as Anna Raccoon but says her doctors have not given her long to live. In the circumstances, it might be a nice gesture if readers could tweet their congratulations on her academic triumph, and/or more general appreciation and best wishes, to her at @AnnaRaccoon1, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.