Never again! No more getting wasted for me! As I slowly come round from the monumental hangover of yet another PR disaster, I swear to shun the intoxicating liquor of publicity for ever – or at least until the next tempting but illusory opportunity comes along to promote an alternative narrative in the mainstream media.
This time, on Monday, it was an interview for 60 Minutes, the Australian version of the US current affairs TV documentary series.
They said they had been looking into the alleged Westminster VIP paedophilia scandals of the 1970s and 80s, including talk of a wide-ranging conspiracy by leading government and legal figures – the so-called “Establishment” – to sweep misdeeds under the carpet. Having seen my Heretic TOC pieces defending a couple of the putative “paedos in high places”, they wanted to give some balance by airing the sceptical view I had taken. They reckoned the interview would last about 20 minutes “and a large part of it would be used in the broadcast”.
Bearing in mind the specific and narrow nature of this remit, I thought it was well worth having a go. In fact, I strongly felt it was my duty to defend my friends if I could, especially Charles Napier and Peter Righton, who have both been anonymously accused of heinous acts of brutality against kids, acts of which I am certain they would not have been capable.
Neither man is presently well placed to defend himself. Charles recently started a 13-year prison sentence for “historic” sexual involvement with boys; Peter, who died some years ago, was even accused of murder by some squalid, lying, opportunistic, scumbag of a so-called “victim”.
The interview venue, the Travellers Club in Pall Mall, London, could hardly have been better chosen to fit the VIP theme: the membership has included eight prime ministers, to say nothing of many great explorers and travel writers, as might be expected from the name. I arrived there wearing a tie for the first time in years as the dress code for this Georgian (founded 1819) gentleman’s retreat requires one.
It was almost as though the TV people were setting me up to look like a dodgy VIP myself, part of a posh old boys’ network of “abuse”, although they insisted they often use the club when they happen to be filming in London. So, nothing personal then.
My introduction to interviewer Ross Coulthart was inauspicious, though. He was perfectly civil, but ominously pointed out that scandal and tragic death were not unknown to those who had previously stepped inside these walls. Among the club’s famous members were two who had committed suicide, he noted. He named one as Capt. Robert Fitzroy, skipper of The Beagle on Charles Darwin’s famous voyage and inventor of the weather forecast; another was prime minister Lord Castlereagh.
As for scandal, he continued, there had been Sir Peter Hayman, holder of many high ranking posts, including High Commissioner to Canada, who was also a spymaster in his capacity as deputy director of MI6. Hayman was eventually exposed in the press and in parliament as someone who used to compose pornographic fantasies about sex with children, sharing them in a correspondence circle of like-minded other writers who would also post their stories to him. It turned out he had joined the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), under the name Henderson.
Long before hearing about his Travellers Club membership from Coulthart, I had of course expected 60 Minutes to ask me what I had known about Hayman, who was always bound to be a key figure in the programme because his case constitutes the one example of an Establishment cover-up for which there is strong – in my view incontrovertible – evidence. He was never prosecuted whereas less privileged people were, including me and several other PIE committee members.
When Coulthart asked, I just told him that I had never known Hayman at any stage of my involvement with PIE. He had just been a name, a false name, on our membership list. Only much later did I discover, to my horror, that “Henderson” had been writing fantasies that were not just pornographic but also sadistic – truly obscene, in my view. No one can prevent having their own dark fantasies if sadistic tendencies provoke them, and it is infinitely better they are written down rather than acted out. But they are deeply disturbing all the same and I had no wish to be associated with them.
Perhaps because the Hayman story has long been in the public domain, Coulthart did not dwell on it once he knew I had nothing to add. Instead, He wanted new stuff from me, about people I definitely had known, especially Napier and Righton. The background is mainly in two Heretic TOC pieces, Hi, this is Charles. I’ve been a naughty boy and Exposé outfit murders its own credibility, so I won’t labour the details of what I told 60 Minutes about them.
What I will point out, though, is the extraordinary lengths this “investigative” journalist went to in order to suppress the results of his own investigation. Instead of simply hearing me out and allowing me to say how I knew neither Charles nor Peter were violent people, I found my own credibility was on trial from the outset. Nothing I could say was given any credence.
Not that he called me a liar. Instead, it seemed I was being set up as a deluded dupe, someone so heavily invested in the ideology of consensual paedophilia that I could not see that a violently abusive gang of VIP paedophiles – including Napier and Righton as well as Hayman and others – were using PIE as a relatively respectable front for their heinous crimes.
The only time I came near to disrupting this politically congenial narrative was when I introduced material Coulthart may not have expected. I reminded him of a BBC Inside Story documentary in 1994 called The Secret Life of a Paedophile, which focused on Peter, including his friendship with Charles. In its day, this programme was itself meant to be an exposé of the pair’s supposedly dreadful deeds. Seen against the present lurid background of murder allegations, though, it turns out to be an excellent piece of evidence for the defence.
Coulthart had played up the idea that Peter had been a “powerful” figure in the Establishment, darkly implying he could have had people killed at the snap of his fingers like some mafia boss, or, better still, a man with the resources of the state at his disposal. It would be truer to say that in his role as director of education at the National Institute for Social Work, Peter was professionally influential rather than powerful: it was not the sort of job that would put cadres of tooled-up heavies wearing shades at his disposal. His influence depended, rather, on his experience and wisdom when it came to improving the lives and prospects of children traumatised in the course of a difficult upbringing, including violent, neglectful, chaotic parenting.
As I pointed out in the interview, Inside Story interviewed a number of Peter’s senior social work colleagues. While they professed themselves shocked to learn he was a boy-lover, following his conviction in 1992 for importing child porn, they admitted he was a man of enormous gifts and “a degree of good intentions”. They conceded that he came across as a kind, avuncular figure and that the “unconditional affection” he was able to show towards difficult adolescent boys made him very effective in “getting through” to those kids so their behaviour improved. It was this rare talent that made him so well respected and liked.
Did this impress Coulthart? Oh, yes, it impressed him with the need to change the subject! But try as I might to add more evidence from Inside Story, he just shouldered me off the ball, insisting we move on. So I never got to mention the home-movies shown by the BBC, seized by the police after raiding Righton’s home. This was not pornography but footage that included a holiday scene with Charles and Peter giving a couple of boys piggybacks. The kids were plainly having fun, without the slightest sign of any fear or brutality by the guys. I could have added, too, the programme’s revelation that Peter became a godfather to some children of the kids he had taught, and that his friends included a number of men he had “abused” when they were boys: plainly, they did not regard themselves as victims.
For me, though, the biggest surprise of the interview was not Coulthart’s reluctance to face the facts, frustrating as that was. Rather, it was his decision to question me at length on the more philosophical side, especially my views on why I thought adult-child sex can ever be acceptable. I would have been delighted to speak about such matters to a reasonable interviewer asking intelligent questions, such as the Guardian’s Jon Henley a couple of years ago, or even, more recently, Corinne Purtill of Global Post. What I got instead, though, was not 20 minutes in which to defend my friends, as had been proposed, but more like an hour and 20 minutes, with a whole hour of bludgeoning by Coulthart mainly on a single very narrow aspect of a child’s ability to consent. It was boring and repetitious.
Whenever I tried to develop an argument by discussing relevant research I was interrupted and diverted. After introducing Susan Clancy’s data from her book The Trauma Myth, for example, which demonstrates that the harm in consensual cases comes not from the sex but from society’s response, often years later, her findings were brushed impatiently aside. He didn’t think people were interested in the musings of “some Harvard academic”, as he disparagingly put it, compared with the more urgent task of listening to the victims. Any “victims” who had not felt traumatised, it transpired, including Clancy’s interviewees, were not to be listened to.
I know I made a number of good points despite the heavy-handed tactics. My suspicion, though, is that these will end up on the cutting room floor – always a danger with a non-live interview – and that I will come across merely as a man in denial that “a child cannot consent”, as Coulthart kept simplistically insisting.
Should I have bothered? Was this really just another PR disaster, as I said at the start? Hard to say. Perhaps only someone with the forceful rhetorical skills of former MP George Galloway should have taken on such a tough mission. My own rather polite style doesn’t work at all without being given room to breathe. I suppose I could have stuck robotically to a few simple points, as media-trained politicians do in order to “stay on message”. This guarantees you won’t make a fool of yourself but intelligent viewers hate it.
One thing they cannot take away, though, is that anyone who turns up to face the cameras will be willingly presenting a “human face of paedophilia” that otherwise finds no place in the media. There must be some value in this, don’t you think? It would be better if the face happened to be younger and more attractive than mine as I near my 70th birthday, but even so…
MOVIE SCRIPT WRITERS WANTED
Well, sort of.
The good news is that a native French speaker was so impressed by David Kennerly’s film A Decent Life (click on the ad below the Blogroll in the right-hand column for YouTube links) that he has offered to translate it into his own tongue.
David and I very much welcome that, but this translator says he would appreciate first being supplied with a transcription into written English of the original words, spoken by me. He will need this to work from when doing his translation into French. The spoken English in question runs to about 68 minutes.
This will be quite a time-consuming task. Both David and I are incredibly busy right now, and we will certainly remain so for at least the next several months. Accordingly, we wondered whether we might be able to find a few volunteers to take on this task. If each volunteer tackles just one or two segments of the 11-segment film, the workload should be manageable. It will probably be best to reply to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Look forward to hearing from you!
For those who missed the background, you can catch up by reading my blog piece last month (beneath the main blog): A DECENT NEW FILM BY DAVID KENNERLY.