Lording it from the wild margins

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It is with great sadness and bitterness of heart that I find I have yet again been overlooked for a peerage in the New Year’s Honours.

There is some modest consolation to be found, though, in the fact that I was invited to a reception at the House of Lords earlier this month by one of their lordships. It turned out to be a most agreeable occasion, but hobnobbing with a lord or two over champagne and canapés is hardly the same as being a member of the club, is it? As for how I improbably came to be an honoured guest at such an event, discretion, alas, forbids me from saying. There are people I would not wish to embarrass. All I will say is that it was perfectly legit: I was security checked like everyone else; the invitation was made for an entirely respectable reason and there is nothing for  IICSA’s Westminster strand to worry about.

An even better consolation prize was to be dubbed an “edgelord” in the media, which is apparently a term of derision applied to anyone who tries too hard to attract attention by being controversially “edgy”, especially undergraduate rebels. Judging by these examples I found online, I am totally relaxed to find myself awarded membership of this club. Very rejuvenating! I love example number 12: “If there is a god he will have to beg for my forgiveness”. Cool, man! Wish I’d thought of that!

The word itself is fabulous: Edgelord. Lord of the wild margins. Has a romantic ring, don’t you think? Like the Lord of the Isles who ruled the remote coastal islands that edge north western Scotland, or a Time Lord, whose vast domain is an entire dimension.

Anyway, dragging myself prosaically back to a spate of otherwise very unromantically rude articles about my work this month, I am going to stick resolutely to the old Hollywood maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. This is not strictly true, of course, as fallen film producer Harvey Weinstein and many other celebs are now all too painfully aware. Nevertheless, we must take our positives where we can, so I will start by noting that in the immediate wake of these articles appearing online, PDF downloads of my recent CHIN piece for Sexuality & Culture shot up by a couple of thousand. Against this background, I feel, there will come a time – maybe in the new year and almost certainly before the end of 2020 – when CHIN begins to attract serious comment and critique in the academic and wider world.

As for the hate-splattered bile that erupted this month, it began with a 2,000-word essay in an otherwise rather sophisticated (albeit with a pro-religious bias, judging by the editorial board membership) American online current affairs and cultural journal called Arc Digital. In an article titled “The Pedophile Apologist”, writer Justin Lee attempted to discredit my philosophical arguments through a number of misleading, inaccurate claims as to the basis of my case. Apparently lacking confidence that this critique would be convincing, he tried to buttress it with heavy reliance on vicious and indeed libellous personal attack – which will certainly have damned his approach in the eyes of any academic philosopher.

Another writer, Rod Dreher, in a piece for The American Conservative, tried to invest Lee with some much needed authority by referring to him as a professor. But he is certainly no professor of philosophy. Rather, Lee has announced himself as “the founder of the world’s largest LGBT Christian advocacy organization”. He is a regular columnist with non-fiction books and novels to his credit and teaches writing skills to undergraduates, through something called the Composition Department at the University of California, Irvine. Nothing wrong with any of that except that his style is neither objectively philosophical nor, indeed, very Christian. Ironically, one of his books is Talking Across the Divide, described by the publisher as “A guide to learning how to communicate with people who have diametrically opposed opinions from you, how to empathize with them, and how to (possibly) change their minds”. Physician, heal thyself!!

I was kindly alerted to the existence of Lee’s article and Dreher’s by blogger Christian, host of Agapeta and long-time Heretic TOC commentator. The news also reached us thanks to Explorer, who mentioned in a comment here that the blog Pro-Pedo Front (PPF) had come to my defence. PPF, which has now been added to Heretic TOC’s blog roll, also turned up as a commentator at HTOC. Replying to PPF, I was able to take up his astute recognition that Lee’s critique did nothing to refute my position. Instead, Lee had merely berated me for failing to consider some supposedly vital aspects of the virtue ethics tradition. The point I made to PPF bears repeating in this more prominent position:

This aspect of Lee’s criticism reminds me of the response made by theologians to the case made for atheism by Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion. They claimed that Dawkins had ignored huge swathes of theology, entirely missing the point that Dawkins’ arguments had rendered such theology redundant. It would be equally ridiculous for astrologers to “refute” the findings of modern astronomy by saying they contradict the elaborate theories in their dusty old pre-scientific books and charts.

But Dreher is probably a far more influential figure than Lee: The American Conservative has clout and Dreher is one of its star writers. His article about my work, though, titled “Making Pedophilia Respectable”, is largely just a lazy crib of Lee’s essay, citing from it extensively. His more distinctive contribution comes only at the end, when he hits a purple patch of scaremongering:

The normalization of pedophilia is coming. The destructuring of human relations under the guise of liberating desire is the goal of these people, whether they realize it or not. Without God, or some other binding source of sacred order, there is only nihilism. If you will not have God, prepare to make room for Tom O’Carroll and his celebration of diversity.

Can he really be so worried? Does he really believe the normalisation of paedophilia is already on its way? Seems hard to believe from where we stand, doesn’t it? We see only oppression, with no obvious road towards acceptance. But two of Dreher’s readers take the argument much further, in observations that draw on the debate over trans kids. These are presented by the author as “updates”; thus they are accorded an official status and are distinct from the hundreds of “below the line” comments that follow:

UPDATE: Reader kgasmart comments:

The normalization of pedophilia is coming.

I agree, but when it does it will come under the ruse of “marginalized communities” because really, who’s more marginalized than a pedophile?

The concept of “consent” will be the biggest hurdle to get over. The left has fetishized consent; so long as consent is involved, any and all sexual practices are permitted – indeed, to be celebrated! But who can give consent?

How is it the LGBT left holds that pre-teens can consent to, say, taking hormones or binding their breasts, or whatever measures precede transition surgery – but those pre-teens can’t consent to sex? How can they consent to one but not the other; how can they have full agency regarding the first – but not the second?

That’s the slippery slope we’ll slide down here.

UPDATE.2: Reader Xenie:

Lee lays out perfectly why “consent” ethics will be inadequate to stop this: children are already given medical treatments, personal hygiene care, etc, that they cannot consent to. Either the powers that be will reverse engineer things to claim they can give consent after all (as is happening with the transing of very young children) or they will shrug consent off as not always mattering so much, or for certain important things. If consent is all you’ve got, then, it’s game over either way, and evil wins the day.

I cannot overstate just how much the rhetoric of the transgender movement is working to soften society up for this horrific pedo revolution to come. If you can believe, as many well-meaning liberals now do, that a 4 year old boy can meaningfully declare himself a girl and “consent” to a name change, social status change, and then, at age 12 or so, the first medical interventions to transform him into a “real girl,” then how will they defend themselves against the idea that he could also “consent” to a “mentoring” relationship of a sexual nature with some “caring” adult?

Never mind that these readers are hostile to us, there are profound insights here, it seems to me. What do you think? I would be interested to hear what other heretics make of these thoughts.

Lee’s and Dreher’s articles were quickly followed by another in the Christian Post, which was then reprinted in the British-circulated Christian Today. Any heretics who bother to check all these out will see that they include some ghastly allegations against me. Some of you, indeed, will be disappointed that I have not shown more anger over this in today’s blog. But that is not my way. All too often, I have found, those activists who burst into flames of outrage under attack tend to burn themselves out quite quickly: they don’t last long.

That does not mean we should always ignore libellous attacks. We should do what we can to defend ourselves when it is practical to do so. For instance, one serious allegation against me in these latest articles has been sourced to a news story from years ago in the Irish Times. The story is false but it was only many years after its publication that I first heard about it, when it was put on Wikipedia (WP) as one of several sources used to justify repeating the allegation in the biographical page about me. A number of newspapers, including the Irish Times, had published stories put out by the Press Association in the UK that appeared to rely on incorrect information that had found its way into a police press release. The BBC carried a similar report.

I decided this was intolerable. Whereas old news reports are quickly forgotten, what is said on WP is permanently on high-profile display. It is the first source everyone turns to when they “look up” people who are in the news. So I complained to WP. After several months of detailed, documented explanation on my part as to the unsoundness of the allegations my complaint was upheld. The offending allegations were duly withdrawn from the WP page in question – not something WP ever does lightly, as those who have put themselves through the mill of their labyrinthine, intensely bureaucratic complaints procedures will know.

However, I was advised by one of the senior figures at WP that the only way to resolve the problem permanently would be for me to get the BBC and others to remove their old web pages in which the offending story was mentioned. I always knew this would be a gargantuan task. The Press Association story would have been published all over Great Britain and Ireland and perhaps even beyond. But my first target had to be the BBC. As a prestigious national broadcaster, this organisation’s reports tend to be believed. So if I could get them to remove their story other editors and web archivists would be inclined to accept that my case must have merit.

Accordingly, I launched a complaint against the BBC some months ago. This complaint was rejected at the first and second times of asking. But I persisted, and it finally landed on the desk of Andrew Bell, the Complaints Director. When he too professed himself unwilling to remove the report from the BBC’s website I sent a letter shortly before Christmas threatening to take legal action.

That is where the matter stands. There has been no reply so far from the BBC’s Legal Department. In the event that I do not receive a satisfactory response within the first week of January I will be consulting one of the country’s leading firms of libel lawyers with a view to bringing a court action.

So, rest assured, I am not taking all this lying down. It is impossible to tilt at every windmill. The libel laws are so lax in the US that it might not make sense to pursue Lee and the rest into the courts just yet, but a successful case against the BBC might change that. We’ll see. Watch this space. But don’t hold your breath as these things can take years, so don’t expect to hear any more for a long time. Just wish me luck!

 

Time to say R.I.P. to V.I.P. ‘paedo scandal’?

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At last, a welcome return to some semblance of sanity as the “Westminster VIP paedophile ring” goes up in smoke – a smoke ring, as it were, or a stinking but otherwise insubstantial blast of gas from arse-talking fantasists and a few politicians on the make.

The most prominent of the politicians, Tom Watson MP, was recently elected deputy leader of the Labour Party but now finds his reputation slithering into the toilet faster than a dose of diarrhoea. Last night he faced criticism in parliament from prime minister David Cameron, no less. He made a spirited fight of it in his reply but will soon face tough scrutiny from his own party too.

The most colourful revelation in the last couple of days reached us from the Daily Mail, where we learned that Watson invited the police to his office in parliament to take a statement from a certain Mike Broad, said to be a notorious online gossip and conspiracy theorist. Talking about the Elm Guest House, long bruited as a house of horrors for the sexual abuse of children, Broad claimed “half the bloody Cabinet” went there, and said a neighbour told him “two transit vans took away children”. So, not just a few abused kids, oh no. Keeping those VIP loins a-thrusting required industrial scale deliveries and collections!

This all follows a landmark Panorama documentary on BBC TV, which exposed key  witnesses “Darren” and “David” as grievously unreliable figures. Darren, we heard, was a convicted bomb hoaxer; David backed off from his earlier claims of sexual abuse by the late Lord Brittan, saying at first they were a “joke” but he had been pressed into sticking with the allegations by an ex-social worker called Chris Fay, who has a conviction for fraud.

“Darren”, as Heretic TOC readers may recall, accused two of my friends, claiming Peter Righton was a brutal murderer and Charles Napier was a partner in crimes of violent sexual assault. Both of them had been members of PIE’s executive committee back in the 1970s when I was Chair. Darren had also corroborated yarns emanating from the most notorious of all these anonymous witnesses, “Nick”, who claimed to have witnessed three murders by VIP paedophiles and implicated former prime minister Edward Heath in a VIP sex abuse ring.

Nick alleged that for a decade he had been farmed out as a boy by his father to a paedophile ring including Ted Heath, former Home Secretary Leon (later Lord) Brittan and Harvey Proctor MP, as well as two generals and the former heads of the secret security and spying agencies, MI5 and MI6.

It was Nick’s outlandish allegations that a senior police officer incredibly described as credible and true, thereby setting up the police as judge and jury in the case.

Panorama focused on one of Nick’s claims,  namely that he witnessed a hit-and-run murder of a boy in Kingston, committed by his abusers to scare him into silence. A thorough investigation by the programme could find no report of any such incident in Kingston at the time alleged: there were no newspaper reports, no eye witnesses, no child reported missing. In other words, the claim was patently false.

In truth, Nick’s story was falling apart well before Panorama. Operation Midland has been launched by the police specifically to investigate Nick’s claims but had failed to come up with any solid evidence to support them. And a key figure against whom allegations had been made, Harvey Proctor MP, gave a feisty press conference in which he not only strenuously denied the claims (well, he would, wouldn’t he?) but also spelt out in detail their horrific nature, giving cogent reasons for their implausibility. He was no friend of Ted Heath, for instance, with whom he was supposed to have jointly committed offences.

Proctor would soon find heavyweight support from Lord Ken Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, who warned that detectives investigating historical child abuse allegations should not indulge “narcissists and fantasists”, saying they should conduct “impartial, objective investigations” and there was a danger concern for victims is “morphing into a medieval contempt for the accused”.

Even Mark Williams-Thomas joined the sceptics. This ex-police officer, the man who opened the floodgates to the Jimmy Savile scandal, warned that many of the allegations against political figures were unsubstantiated. Building up a crescendo of bad omens for the believe-any-allegation-unquestioningly lobby,  radio broadcaster Paul Gambaccini lashed out at Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for failing to apologise over their handling of discredited sexual abuse allegations he had faced. He criticised the police for publicly inviting more “victims” to make complaints against named individuals such as himself, smearing them without evidence and encouraging fantasists. Fellow radio star Sandi Toksvig said she had been approached by detectives, who invited her to make allegations against Gambaccini or others.

It would be interesting to know how all this is playing with the wider public. Tom Watson has long been building an image for himself as a fearless crusader against powerful vested interests, coming to national prominence for holding global media baron Rupert Murdoch to account when his News of the World tabloid was in trouble for phone hacking. This was a much more worthy endeavour than his squalid bullying of dying peer Lord Brittan, and was probably the main factor in his winning the Labour deputy leadership.

So many will see him as a noble figure who has at worst been naïve in believing the wrong people. Not his parliamentary colleagues though. They know him at close quarters and can see through his populist opportunism: he is neither loved nor respected.

The Anna Raccoon blog has got his number too, where industrious guest writer Petunia Winegum did a hilarious Billy Bunter parody of the portly Watson recently. Give yourself a treat and read this piece of sustained comic brilliance: it neatly exposes the Fat Owl’s dubious methods.

Most satisfying for me in all this was the exposure of an outrageous bluff by Watson. You might remember that a good while back he was the first MP to claim there was a “powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10”.  As the Daily Mail put it,  he “used the fact that an innocent Tory MP had a paedophile relative to bolster his claims”. He told the House of Commons in October 2012, without giving any names, that there was a child abuser who “boasted of his links to a senior aide of a former Prime Minister”.

We now know this “boast” was nothing whatever to do with an implied paedophile conspiracy. We have been told he had been referring to Charles Napier, whose half-brother is John Whittingdale, who was once Margaret Thatcher’s political secretary.

If there was a “boast”, it was not Napier’s but Watson’s – and an empty one at that. His boasted knowledge of a VIP conspiracy reaching right to the heart of government at No 10 Downing Street, was just a bluff, an attempt – a successful attempt – to hoodwink the nation, in the full, clear, knowledge that there was no merit in his claim.

Not that Whittingdale is quite as “innocent” at the Daily Mail claims. As Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the present government, he is currently doing his damnedest to preside over the destruction of the BBC, in an orgy of cultural vandalism that constitutes a far greater crime than anything his half-brother Charles has ever done. But sadly Charles is the one currently serving a 13-year prison sentence, not John.

As I say, we still have little idea of how Tom Watson’s come-uppance is going down with the public. Will he be discredited, or will he be seen as a victim of the Establishment? And will the Metropolitan Police get away with their disgraceful arrogance in the face of Panorama’s exposure of their foolish faith in Nick’s “credible and true” tripe? Instead of ’fessing up, and admitting the BBC had done a good job, they went into attack mode, furiously arguing that the programme “could compromise the evidential chain should a case ever proceed to court”. In other words, as Stephen Pollard pointed out in the Daily Telegraph, “no journalist should ever investigate anything, because any investigation by journalists upsets the police applecart. That is the nature of investigative journalism. That police statement is, in its own way, as idiotic and inappropriate as the earlier statement that Nick’s allegations are true.”

Refreshingly, for an opinion piece in such a right-wing paper as the Telegraph, Pollard praised the Panorama programme, saying it had been “…surely one of the most important programmes the BBC has ever broadcast.”

I would like to agree. It would be great to see it as a new beginning, a sign of the tide turning against the excesses of recent years, in which, as Pollard wrote, “Ever since the revelations about Jimmy Savile emerged, we have been engulfed in a form of mania about paedophilia.”

I would like to think we have passed the darkest hour, but we have been here before and seen false dawns. There were earlier panics, were there not? There was the mania over Satanic abuse; there was the “recovered memory” fad, and much more. These bubbles were pricked, their absurdity exposed, only to be replaced by new nonsense. A resurgence of similar alarmism in as yet unexpected guises can safely be predicted until such time as there is a deep underlying shift in the economic and social conditions that are driving them.

Still, there has to be some hope that the Goddard enquiry, the overarching mega-investigation into child sexual abuse in all its manifestations going back as far as living memory can stretch in the UK and perhaps further, will take on board the recent hiccups and steer a course away from permanent hysteria.

Even creepier than the creepiest creep

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It is a good bet that anyone described as “creepy” these days has earned the unenviable epithet through suspicions he is a paedo: for lazy reviewers of novels and films it has become the go-to cliché for hinting that the scenario includes a sinister and scary perv.

Far more sinister and scary, though, is a rather different kind of creepiness: Mission Creep. In a sexual context, it is everywhere. Feminist analysis that began quite reasonably some decades ago with a long-overdue assault on entrenched “patriarchal” power structures, may have been hostile to adult-child sexual contacts but care was generally taken to emphasise that if children wanted to express themselves sexually it was fine and dandy to do it among themselves. Not anymore! Even kids are under attack now for “inappropriate” sexual behaviour, which has come to mean pretty much anything sexual at all. With anyone. Including yourself.

Nor do “normal” adults escape the ever-widening remit of the nay-sayers. The fight against grotesque abuses of male power expressed through such cultural practices as female genital mutilation, rape as a weapon of war and so forth, is a legitimate, vital and continuing one: gang rape in India is a particularly horrific phenomenon right now, as registered in Heretic TOC’s “No wonder women turn against ‘teasing’”. But the cause will not be helped by Mission Creep that extends to wiping out – or trying to – every conceivable manifestation of male sexual interest.

The viragos now conducting a vicious, vindictive campaign to oust a leading member of the minority party in Britain’s governing coalition are a case in point. Lord Rennard, formerly chief executive of the Liberal Democratic party, was accused of making passes at female party workers, touching them as he did so. One “victim” said he brushed parts of her that she “didn’t want to be brushed” (Would that be as opposed to the parts she did want to be brushed?). An internal party inquiry concluded there was credible evidence “the women’s personal space had been violated”, but not enough evidence to establish that there was a case of sexual harassment to be answered. Brendan O’Neill, in Spiked, rightly asked “who benefits from this redefinition of normal human activity as harassment. It certainly isn’t women, who come to be treated as fragile creatures ill-suited to the rough workplace – an argument I’m sure feminists might once have challenged.”

The attacks on entertainer Jimmy Savile, no longer alive to defend himself against mere allegations, are another case in point. In “Savile: The Power to Abuse” on the BBC’s Panorama programme this week we were treated to such gems as a man testifying to his horror after taking his young niece to meet Savile at a public event and seeing him kiss her. This was supposed to show that Savile, as a huge celebrity with great influence in high places, was able to offend in plain sight and get away with it. The uncle, asked whether he had tried to intervene or complain on his niece’s behalf, unwittingly and hilariously revealed the true source of Savile’s evil power. He had not felt able to intervene, he said, because there was a whole crowd of girls lining up to be kissed! The superstar’s power, in other words, was fan power. If, like James Bond, he had a licence to do what others could not, it was a licence to thrill, not kill.

Also this week we see a third kind of Mission Creep. Or rather we would see it, but this creepy beast is a monster of the shadows: I feel like shouting “Look behind you!” to the all-unseeing British public. This is the creeping mission of the security establishment. The securitocracy, as noted here recently, is now adding paedophilia to its empire of anxiety. “Paedophiles to be treated like terrorists” was Heretic TOC’s headline. It referred to a forthcoming measure against online “paedophile manuals”, a proposal sold as analogous to sanctions against terrorists who download guides to bomb-making.

This measure, it must now be solemnly reported, was duly if obscurely announced in the government’s new legislative programme, in the Queen’s Speech. Well, not quite in the Queen’s Speech. Perhaps it was thought too embarrassing for Her Majesty to utter the word “paedophile”. Instead, she said briefly “a Serious Crime Bill will be brought forward to…disrupt serious organised crime”. An official briefing note issued with the published text added, just as briefly, that the Bill would “create a new offence of possessing ‘paedophilic manuals’.” Perhaps the government found it too embarrassing to spell out how they intend to define “paedophilic manuals” in a way that will not include this blog – or maybe a disguised intention to outlaw Heretic TOC is another aspect of Mission Creep!

Finally, I would just add that I will be guilty of Mission Creep myself unless I am very careful. Heretic TOC’s mission does not include defending the indefensible, and some of Jimmy Savile’s behaviour may have gone too far. As for Chris Rennard, His Lordship was perhaps a bit free with his wandering hands and should be made to sit on the Naughty Step for 10 minutes, or perhaps offer his “victims” a decent meal out with him at a posh restaurant by way of penance. If they don’t want to kiss and make friends again (or just make friends again), well, tough: their apparent determination to crucify the guy is out of all proportion and should not be indulged.

My invocation in this context of a voguish punishment for errant toddlers (the Naughty Step) is not accidental: how to liberate childhood sexuality while maintaining reasonable sanctions against precocious liberty-taking by little Lord Rennards is a topic that needs discussion and which I hope to take up soon.

 

PS: I’ve just noticed that pageviews on Heretic TOC have now topped 100,000. Standing at 100,723 over 575 days, that comes to 175 per day since launch in November 2012. Is that good or bad? Hard to say: the top blogs in popular mainstream subjects doubtless have a vast readership, but they number only a few thousand whereas the total number of blogs in the world is now heading for the hundreds of millions, with an average of under 10 pageviews per day. What interests me more is the increasing number of comments received as time goes on and the generally extremely high quality of these contributions, especially latterly. So there is clearly an appetite for intelligent discussion. Well done all you heretics for providing it!

Bring me the head of Meirion Jones

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                                                                                                                                                                      “I “I want to see heads roll at the BBC. Not trustees, or the Director-General, token sacrificial lambs. I’ll start with the despicably dishonest Meirion Jones. On a pike. Outside BBC headquarters.” – Anna Raccoon blog, 26 October, 2012

When Meirion Jones emailed me early last month, asking for an interview, I was intrigued. Here was a guy, as I soon discovered, with a big reputation as a top flight TV documentary maker, winner of the Daniel Pearl Award for his investigation of Trafigura’s toxic waste dumping in Africa and star of numerous other genuinely important exposés. Yet he was the also the man behind the wretchedly inadequate Newsnight exposure of Jimmy Savile, rightly dropped by BBC executives (who were then castigated for their cowardice) because it did not stand up. Yes, there were BBC cockups, but the independent Pollard Report concluded in December that the decision to drop the programme had been taken in good faith. Jones was also the man so ball-breakingly denounced by a woman who had been right at the epicentre of the allegations – a former pupil at Duncroft School for girls. Blogging as Anna Raccoon, her detailed assessment portrayed a “despicably dishonest” Jones who had exploited a vulnerable, unstable, supposed “victim” and failed to disclose that his own aunt had been headmistress of the school.

Strong stuff, and before deciding how to respond to Jones’s invitation, I decided I would first  interview him, quizzing him for about 45 minutes by phone over Anna Raccoon’s allegations. His mixture of plausible denial, and assurances supported by contextual detail, left me unable to nail any particular falsehood or bad practice on his part: for that I would have needed aces up my sleeve from serious investigative legwork of my own, and I had not been resourced for that. His strongest point was that his accuser had not been at the school in the era when Savile was a regular there, whereas Jones had visited his aunt frequently at her home in the school grounds and personally seen Savile on the premises a number of times. My impression remains that Raccoon is entirely right to regard the Duncroft part of the case against Savile as thin to vanishing; but that does not mean Jones was dishonest or behaved improperly.

In the end, I think, it comes down to a clash of values: what constitutes a scandal depends on what you think is reasonable behavior. Public standards have changed. Duncroft was clearly a very special place decades ago. It was a residential school for highly intelligent but “wayward” girls, as they would once have been called – the “hard to handle” daughters of elite families, including top military brass, film stars and even minor royalty. Jones’s aunt has admitted the girls were “no angels”. Many of them – including the key witness in Meirion Jones’s ditched film, who later “starred” in the ITV follow-up, were thrilled at the time to see a bit of action with Savile. It was all very St Trinians: “…an unorthodox girls’ school where the younger girls wreak havoc and the older girls express their femininity overtly, turning their shapeless schoolgirl dress into something sexy and risqué.” Would the audiences of the early St Trinians films half a century ago have been shocked by Savile’s escapades? They might have been merely amused, as they were by the films themselves.

But why, you might wonder, was Jones interested in me? After all, I’m not an old Duncroft girl, and I doubt I’d be mistaken for a St Trinians one either, even if I were to slip into a gym slip (perish the thought!) Turns out he’d been alerted to my existence as a result of discovering this very blog, Heretic TOC. Or, rather, my continued existence. He knew of my work with PIE in the 1970s – which is why he wanted to talk – but until seeing Heretic TOC he thought I was dead! Like Jon Henley of the Guardian a few months ago, he said he would like to get my views on why British society, along with others, is now so militantly hostile to paedophilia compared to just two or three decades ago. He said he just wanted an off-the-record discussion, not an on-camera piece. No particular programme had been commissioned. He wanted background because the theme is “hot” and likely to remain so for some time to come.

Obviously, it would have been crazy to hold out hopes of good publicity coming out of a meeting with a guy who had done so much to trash Savile, and I didn’t. But I was curious: on my side there was nothing to lose, as my life has long been an open book.  Besides, he was offering a modest fee and I thought such a meeting could yield some lowdown on any other looming scandals he might be nosing into; it might also offer insights into how a guy with Jones’s reputation goes about this type of story. Anna Raccoon’s “take no prisoners” views on that are entertainingly colourful but, well, there may be a touch of St Trinians in her!

So Jones and I met. Not, dear readers, clandestinely in an underground car park, but in a plain business boardroom suite chosen and hired by me in a quiet location in the north of England where I could audio record the whole encounter with good sound quality. That was one of my terms: off the record, but on my recorder! He readily agreed to that, but unfortunately I cannot go into specifics about the questions he asked: that was his prior stipulation, although he knows I’ll be blogging.

What I can give, though, is the clear impression I formed of a man who, without being in the least bit underhand or devious, so far as I could tell, is still on a mission to identify and hunt down “guilty parties” from the past – not Savile, this time, but other “powerful people in high places”, perhaps people “at the heart of government”. These and other clichés of the conspiracy-minded appear to depend for their appeal on a simplistic Manichean split between goodies and baddies, with the baddies as the evil, controlling insiders. Meirion Jones and his ilk, in another dodgy binary, appear to see themselves as heroic lone rangers, outsiders riding into town to right all the wrongs. Well, it may work with tightly focused, rather distinct wrongs, such as toxic waste dumping and – Jones’s latest big story – bogus bomb detectors, reliance on which may have cost hundreds of lives in post-war Iraq; but in matters of more complex cultural change it seems to me like a hopelessly wrong-headed mode of investigation.

It is too narrow, too blinkered. Yes, we discussed some of the “wide-ranging” background issues in which he had initially expressed an interest – the rise of feminism, for instance – but there were strong indications that to him this was all just a nebulous and irritating distraction from the real business at hand. Only when we were focusing minutely on the culture of the Home Office in the late 1970s did I sense from him any real sense of engagement, and that is not even my area of insider knowledge: he would do better to ask a conventional historian! Perhaps he will.

 

 

 

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