The myth that children are asexual and “innocent” is crucial for those would crush us (and the kids). But the reality is now proving harder for them to escape thanks to the social media.

Appallingly for the haters, but thrillingly for heretics, primary school kids are now encouraging each other to watch online porn; they are making sexy selfies and also involving their friends in sexually explicit films. British children’s charity Barnado’s has told parliament that “self-generated child sex abuse images” (kids “abusing” themselves!) have shot up fourfold, with children as young as five involved. In evidence given to the House of Commons science and technology committee, the organisation said three-quarters of referrals for “child sex abuse” are now internet-related.

The Daily Mail’s report unsurprisingly tried to spin this by dragging in talk of “grooming” by adults. But Emily Cherry, of Barnardo’s, said young children are “increasingly becoming perpetrators as well as victims”.

In the good old days, of course, kids did not need to go online. They could roam freely and find hot action with each other in all sorts of locations, from behind the bike sheds to in the long grass – or even within Dr Barnado’s Homes. Barnardo’s was set up in 1866 to provide residential care for orphans and other needy children. In order to facilitate their better welfare, founder Dr Thomas Barnado was not above kidnapping the young housemates! Nor has the organisation been entirely free from sexual scandal.

If these reflections on the history of Barnado’s offer a hint of the hypocrisy that often goes hand in hand with moralising about child protection, a couple of other recent news stories reveal it in spades.

A prime example came up in the case this week of former pop impresario Jonathan King, after a judge blasted Surrey Police for multiple failings in an historic sexual abuse case they brought against him. King’s trial was aborted in June. It was the fourth he had faced, including the only one in which he was convicted, back in 2001, a conviction he is now seeking to have reversed.

The reasons for the fiasco in June were not reported until this week, when Judge Deborah Taylor finally set out in detail what had gone wrong.

Also held back until now was the verdict in another trial of a big name from yesteryear, radio DJ Chris Denning, who at one time worked for King’s company UK Records. While King’s latest trial was still in progress, Denning was cleared of an historic sexual abuse case against a 14-year-old boy. The verdict could not be reported at the time because it was feared the result might improperly influence the outcome of King’s trial. I was delighted for Chris because he is a great guy, as I knew from being a fellow inmate with him in HMP Wandsworth over a decade ago. Sadly, though, he is still in prison, serving two 13-year sentences handed down some time ago in relation to other cases dragged up from events decades ago, so he will not be released until about 2020.

I knew Jonathan King as well through a mutual friend I had also met inside, but let’s not get too diverted by that.

I feel pleased for Jonathan, too, but he is not the main character in my story today. Instead the focus should be on Mark Williams-Thomas, former detective turned “investigative journalist”. Remember him? It was his dodgy documentary for ITV on Jimmy Savile that finally set ablaze the dry tinder of rumour about the late entertainer, who never seemed to have an adult partner but flirted with young girls quite openly on his TV shows.

Williams-Thomas relied for his revelations on the word of a woman who has since been credibly dismissed as a serial fantasist. The BBC, presented with similar gossip, quite rightly turned down the opportunity to screen a similar documentary made by one of its own producers.

Whereas the BBC soon found itself vilified for cowardice over its refusal to trash the late star’s reputation on a slender basis, unscrupulous chancer Williams-Thomas was the hero of the hour.

Now, though, he has been put in the dock himself, metaphorically at least. This follows his role as a police detective in an investigation of the King case that followed perceived failures in how Surrey Police had handled things at an earlier stage.

It has been revealed that in 2014 Surrey Police learnt that Williams-Thomas was said to be offering to sell information on King’s alleged victims, and even introductions to them. This put a massive question mark, to say the least, over the ex-detective’s integrity. Judge Taylor said it meant King should never have been charged on evidence taken by him.

So much for Williams-Thomas. As for Surrey Police, they have been forced into an apology for a litany not just of blunders but of acts that would seem deliberately designed to rig the case, if the Daily Mail report is correct. That account shows the judge making numerous swingeing points of criticism, including the claim that officers misled the court and hid evidence that would have undermined alleged victims’ stories.

After the jury was discharged back in June, we are told, Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Hayes, the senior investigating officer, went off sick due to “mental illness”. Prosecutors have now announced that they will not be seeking a re-trial.

Judge Taylor said the case had not even been driven by concern over getting justice for any victims. Instead, it was all about Surrey Police trying to repair the reputational damage they had incurred through their previous failings, in their investigations both of Jonathan King and Jimmy Savile.

You want more evidence of police hypocrisy? You want further proof that even the higher realms of government plainly don’t give a toss about kids’ welfare despite constantly banging on about it?

How about the recent disclosure that British police and intelligence agencies have been deliberately exposing children to the danger of extremely violent physical reprisals by using them as spies in covert operations against terrorists, gangs and drug dealers? A committee of the House of Lords revealed the practice while raising the alarm over government plans – yes, this is Her Majesty’s Government we are talking about – to give law enforcement bodies more freedom over “their use of children”.

The committee expressed alarm over proposals to extend from one month to four the period of time between each occasion that child spies go through a re-registration process. In other words, the plan is to allow the authorities to embed kids within criminal networks for a lengthy period. How bizarre is that? As Richard Littlejohn would say, you couldn’t make it up.

Neil Woods, a former undercover police officer who investigated drugs gangs around the country, told The Guardian, “It’s going to rack up the violence because as soon as gangsters think that there are more spies in their ranks then the classic arms race reaction is to increase the amount of terror, to make sure that those people are more scared of the gangsters than they are of the ramifications of the police.”

I found it particularly shocking to learn that this use of child spies is overseen by the investigatory powers commissioner, Lord Justice Fulford. A Home Office statement said, “Throughout any deployment and beyond, the welfare of the young person is the paramount consideration.”

Really? Really? I find this official complacency quite stunning. Many years ago Adrian Fulford and I were fellow members of the NCCL gay rights sub-committee. He struck me as a pleasant and decent person, a man of integrity. It just shows, perhaps, how compromised establishment figures can become, tainted as they inevitably will be by being forced to ponder, in many awkward contexts, whether the end justifies the means.

Or perhaps, though it seems unlikely, he takes the robust view that kids are more capable than we think and that their lives will be massively enhanced by being entrusted with such an excitingly grown-up role. Many of us heretics, indeed, might see some romance in the thought of a junior James Bond getting the better of a sinister, cat-stroking, international criminal mastermind, or foiling a dastardly jihadi plot for a new 9/11.

Well, sure, but there are limits. As with child soldiers or chimney sweeps, this undercover kids scheme goes way beyond them in terms of acceptable difficulty and danger.

Still on the theme of hypocrisy over serious child abuse – and of undercover work – I wonder if anyone saw an amazing edition of Dispatches on Channel 4 last month called “Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network”?

For an investigation of Facebook’s methods, a reporter worked undercover after getting a job as a moderator with the social media behemoth’s UK operation based in Ireland.

About ten minutes in, there is footage of a woman saying she reported seeing on Facebook a video of a man repeatedly kicking and punching a little boy, aged about three. She was told it would not be deleted as it did not violate Facebook’s terms and conditions. The undercover guy is heard asking his supervisor about such material, for which they have a policy aptly called M.A.D.. This is their shorthand for stuff the moderators are supposed to “Mark As Disturbing” rather than remove.

The supervisor explains this by saying that if there is too much censorship “people lose interest in the platform… It’s all about making money at the end of the day”. In the first two days after it was posted, we are told, the video with the little boy was shared more than 44,000 times.

We also see a sign on the wall of the moderators’ office giving an instruction to mark certain categories of material as disturbing (but not to delete), including videos showing an adult “inflicting burn or cut wounds” on a child”, or “tossing, rotating or shaking of an infant too young to stand by their wrists, ankles, legs or neck”.

Shockingly, we are told via the programme’s voiceover that unless they are streamed live, “in our experience videos of child abuse are not usually reported to the police”.

In the case of the little boy mentioned above, though, it was discovered that the video originated in Malaysia. The child had gone to hospital. The culprit was his step-father, who had been arrested and jailed for a year. The video went on Facebook in 2012 and was still there six years later when the Dispatches programme was being made. It is used by Facebook as an illustrative example to train new moderators on what is acceptable as M.A.D. content.

Mad indeed.

Not that there is never a case to be made for showing violence, including violence against children. I have in mind a classic newspaper photo from the Vietnam war showing a little girl running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back in a napalm attack. She was later identified as Phan Thi Kim Phuc. The photo shocked the world. Its publication did not end the war but certainly helped build up public sentiment against it.

The justification for perpetually showing images of extreme violence against children on Facebook is much more tenuous though. Arguably it might be possible to identify a perpetrator by doing so, but if Facebook had a track record of success in this regard I suspect they would be telling us about it.

As for child nakedness, that would of course be far too horrific to show – unless the child was being horribly burnt at the same time!

 

A THREAT WE SHOULD RESPOND TO

My attention has been drawn to a recent Boychat post by Queer Furry headed “IMPORTANT: a threat we should respond to”. He writes:

The DSM Steering Committee considers changing the DSM entry about pedophilia by omitting the sentence “Pedophilia per se appears to be a lifelong condition”.

This would likely encourage even more doctors to “cure” MAPs by making them submit to electro shocks or other inhumane treatments. And yes, such treatments are still in use and have been used on MAPs who are minors as well. Parents can literally force their children to this kind of torture.

We need to respond to this. And fortunately, we can. There is a 45-day public comment period which ends on August 29. Here you can submit your own comments. Here you find more information about the proposed change.

I completely agree with Queer Furry over this. DSM is the bible of American psychiatry and its influence extends far beyond the United States. Those who are seeking this change are clearly reluctant to accept what scientific research has confirmed in recent years, namely that paedophilia is a sexual orientation. As such, it is not amenable to change through therapy. Attempts to bring about such change are bound to fail, as with now discredited “gay reparative therapy”, and typically result in nothing but misery, disappointment and psychological trauma.

Queer Furry cites an important paper on this by Allyson Walker and Vanessa Panfil, titled “Minor Attraction: A Queer Criminological Issue”, published last year in Critical Criminology. The official link to this paper is here. A very relevant quote from it can be seen in QF’s BoyChat post.

In a recent comment here, I wrote: “As with party politics, there will be some occasions when it makes sense for kind radicals to work with those who are usually opponents. I will be talking about one such occasion in a blog coming up shortly.”

What I had in mind was the Virtuous Pedophiles, who posted their own draft response to the proposed DSM change on SexNet. I am happy to say they did an excellent job. While there is no need to work jointly with them on this in a direct way, it is worth saying that we see eye to eye on this issue, so we can support the same cause at the same time.