Heretic TOC gets its mojo back

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The year began with a night of doubt and sorrow for Heretic TOC, or rather a somewhat more lingering concern, hinted at briefly on New Year’s Eve in a blog called “Truth, reality and baby elephants”, which spoke in riddles suffused with existential angst.

I said I feared for the blog’s mojo, and by implication my own, but remained silent as to the reason. A couple of months later, though, the Daily Mail let the cat was out of the bag in a story that mentioned my conviction last year for “historic” offences in 1978. Now that the case had been propelled into the public domain, and not in a flattering way, obviously, I felt the time had come to give my side of the story. So I wrote about it in “A rare escape, without bribery or bloodshed”, explaining my good fortune in remaining at liberty despite the present trend towards very long prison sentences.

The reason I left the court a free man, I wrote, is that neither the judge, nor the prosecution, nor crucially even the “victims” themselves, appeared to have seen me as callously “predatory”. Also, the judge emphasised that I was entitled to express my views.

Why, then, would the case leave me feeling Heretic TOC might lose its mojo, putting the blog’s future in doubt? Put simply, I worried that I might find it hard to write honestly, confidently and positively on Kind issues in future without addressing why anyone had wanted to bring a case against me in the first place. The “rare escape” blog gave me the opportunity to do that. With the cat freed from the bag, I too felt liberated from my silence and able to put my side of the story.

Since then, I feel, Heretic TOC has been substantially reinvigorated. The spring and summer months following my personal revelations saw several of what I believe to have been my best ever blogs, notably  “The law, lore and allure of the jungle”, “Latin lovers versus British bum bandits”, “Acceptable danger: the sky is the limit?” and “Willy power and ‘the will to power’”. There have also been some excellent guest blogs, by  David Kennerly, Feinmann (twice), Cyril Galaburda, David, and Peace. Readers’ enthusiasm and engagement seems to have picked up more in the autumn and winter months, with blogs regularly attracting a hundred or more published comments, many of them of a very high standard in terms of richly informative content and cogent argument.

My anxiety at the end of last year that Heretic TOC might not recover its mojo following my narrow escape from prison was of course preceded by a long period in the run-up to the trial when mojo (by which I mean a mix of excitement, interest, energy and enthusiasm) was the least of my problems. The immediate threat was a long stretch behind bars, with a five- or six-year sentence a real possibility. If that had come to pass, Heretic TOC would probably have ceased to exist in terms of fresh contributions by me, although I did have kind offers from guest bloggers and other friends to keep things going if the worst came to the worst.

I had some very generous financial offers, too, at a time when it looked as though I might be faced with heavy legal costs in order to mount a proper defence. In the event, funds were mercifully not needed for this purpose but I was helped with hotel and travel costs for a trial that was held in Wales, hundreds of miles from where I live. Supporters also kindly sponsored my attendance at a classics conference at Edinburgh University in April and the Battle of Ideas debate forum at the Barbican, London, in November, staged by the Institute of Ideas (IOI). The former enabled me to hone up my knowledge of the sexual mores of Ancient Greece, which should come in handy very soon as I hope to be blogging on this theme shortly. The fruits of the IOI event were harvested much more immediately: as regular heretics here will have seen, a good deal of the information and inspiration for my mental health three-parter had its origins in this event.

There was another truly existential threat, too, one that has since receded but not entirely disappeared. In November last year, on the occasion of Heretic TOC’s third anniversary, I blogged under the title “Extremists plot to disrupt ‘distressing’ dissent”, which reported that the UK government was proposing to tackle terrorism by cracking down on the expression of “extremist” views. Depending on how “extremism” was to be defined, this sounded to me like a potentially very serious threat to free speech which could be used to suppress almost any views at odds with mainstream thinking, no matter how non-violent their expression might be. As Simon Calvert, director of Defend Free Speech, said:

Defend Free Speech believes innocent people will fall foul of this unnecessary and dangerous piece of legislation. It will criminalise those who hold unpopular, unfashionable or challenging views. This could include pro- and anti-religious groups, trade unionists, environmental and animal rights activists, critics of UK foreign policy and people campaigning for LGBT rights.

And a blog like this.

Well, a lot of water has flowed under the political bridge since then, and with so much happening on the Brexit front, the government has made little visible progress on countering “extremist” views. Theresa May’s new government revived the plan for legislation but an agreed definition of extremism has yet to emerge, and no parliamentary bill has so far been tabled. But in the wake of the Berlin street market attack and a succession, so we are told, of thwarted plots in the UK, May’s government is understandably loath to let go. So, yet again, it all seems to be a matter of wait and see. For recent parliamentary scrutiny see here and here.

The third anniversary blog would have been followed by a fourth last month but I had started my mental health three-parter by then and did not want to interrupt it. So today’s blog has ended up being a sort of late anniversary thing combined with a half-arsed end-of-year 2016 review. Messy, but there we are.

In terms of statistics, the present blog is the 195th in a little over four years since Heretic TOC’s launch. By Christmas Day there had been 8057 published comments, which works out at over 40 comments per blog – a very high figure, especially when taking into account that in the early days I was bringing out a new blog every day. The blogs were typically much shorter then but I nevertheless find myself astonished I could find the time.  As for the number of page hits, on Christmas Day they stood at 121, 915 for the year so far, already exceeding the previous highest total for a full year, which was 2015’s figure, 115,904.

Most visitors to the site in 2016 came from UK and US (fairly equally), followed by (in order) Russia, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands; then the next Anglophone country, Australia; then Hungary, Denmark, Canada and Belgium. However, I am told that these particular stats are not very meaningful because some readers will be mailing through proxy servers that bear no relation to where the reader is based. That’s a great shame. Until I heard this, I had been delighted to see that Heretic TOC apparently has readers in such exotic places as  Mongolia, Greenland, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and many others! Oh, well, one can dream!

Looking forward, what can heretics expect from this site in 2017? As already indicated, I expect to be blogging on Ancient Greece quite soon, and I said a few weeks ago that the transgender theme is high on my list. Beyond that, I have a whole heap of topics lined up, and so do several guest bloggers. Don’t be deterred, though, if you haven’t tried guest blogging before and are wondering whether you should have a go: I am always interested in fresh thoughts from new people.

The only limitations on Heretic TOC’s activities, apart from the still distant threat of curbs on free speech, are a shortage of time and money. As I have mentioned on other occasions, I would love to be spending time on writing books, and articles for academic publications, in addition to time spent on the blog. Right now, though, it just ain’t happening. Probably that is because I am not getting any younger. I still have immense enthusiasm for writing and research, but not the energy to produce at speed. Even just keeping up with an ever rising torrent of relevant new books, research papers, articles, TV documentaries and video presentations has become a full-time job in itself.

The demands made by the core task have become such that even simple maintenance issues can seem tough. For instance, with substantial help from reader “Ronnie”, I was able to make great strides in summarising previous Heretic TOC blogs with a view to more effective searching of the whole corpus of work and to select particular pieces (plus a limited  selection of the best reader comments) for inclusion in a Best of Heretic TOC book, with an e-book edition. Yet I was unable, in the whole of 2016, to complete the summaries or make the selection. Never mind, I hope to get there in the coming year.

Another neglected task is the Blogroll, where there are dead links, and live links to dead sites. If anyone knows of lively, relevant sites that really should be included, please let me know. Meanwhile, I hope I can find time in the next few days, before year’s end, to do a bit of weeding in this little digital flowerbed.

As for money, I don’t have much but you will probably be relieved to hear that Heretic TOC is able to soldier on without appealing for funds at the present time.

I’ll just give a moment for that to sink in. OK, so….

Must be half a mo by now.

Right, time up! Now that you’ve had time to enjoy a moment of relief in peace I will add that the coming year may see an appeal for funds, depending on how much progress is made towards certain tasks, and clarity over any financial commitments they might entail. We’ll see.

Now, in winding up, just a few words reviewing the wider year, beyond this blog. I’m not going to bang on about the horrors of Brexit and Trump, or Syria and the tragedy of the Middle East in general, or the looming perils of climate change, or the seemingly freakish number of celebrity deaths. I’m not even going to mention the appalling 13-year prison sentence imposed on a 101-year-old man in the UK, nor dwell upon how the hitherto strongly-held value of humane treatment of the elderly could be so deliberately and abruptly consigned to the trash can in this case with barely a whisper of protest.

No, I will remain silent on all of that but will just note, briefly, that this was a year in which, like the trashed old geezer in jail, I have arguably been demoted to a lower status. Nothing so obvious or terrible as imprisonment, mercifully. More a sort of gentle passing on downwards towards Boring Old Fart rather than (as I would prefer, obviously!) elevation to Elder Statesman of Kind advocacy.

Why do I say so? I guess it’s the Brexit and Trump thing, mainly. My horrified reaction to these phenomena seems not to be shared by some here, perhaps those of a younger generation. So maybe from now on my opinions will come to seem more and more embarrassingly out of touch as time goes by. I suppose my views might change. I might catch up. Or I might not. Either way, younger heretics will have to decide for themselves whether Heretic TOC continues to be worth reading. I hope so, of course. Again, we’ll see!

Happy New Year!

 

UNSENT LETTERS

Bruce Muirhead, or “B.J. Muirhead” as he publicly presents his name, is a writer and photographer whose thoughtful comments have graced Heretic TOC this year. See for instance what he says here about the ideas of biochemist and controversial parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake. In another comment accessible from the same link he had occasion to mention Unsent Letters, his own novel.

Among other things, he said the book “is based on many stories told to me, although I did, of course, also draw on my experiences with my first wife – and on my knowledge of girls around 13, resulting from talking to my children’s friends when they were visiting. Interestingly, my second wife attempted to use the first draft to prove that I am a ‘paedophile’ and therefore an unsafe parent for my children.”

Intrigued, I bought a copy of the paperback, although it was the best part of three months later before I got around it reading it, by which time, I confess, I had quite forgotten Bruce’s introductory words, so came to the book with no conscious preconceptions. I was impressed, and decided to review it. A short version of the review appears at the publisher’s website, both for the paperback and the e-book. I gave Unsent Letters a maximum five-star rating on quality grounds but, as I said in the review, that does not mean it is something everyone will want to read, or even every heretic.

By reading my concise review, though, you should be able to get a good idea as to whether this is going to be your cup of tea or not. A fuller version of the review has been posted on a website called  In A Foreign Town, which features Bruce’s poetry and fiction. He also has another website for his photography.

I might just mention a few more biographical details taken from the “About” notes Bruce has posted online:

Earlier in my life I studied philosophy and creative writing at various universities, published a very small amount of poetry, an awful lot of photography criticism in the Courier-Mail newspaper and a few other places, and held a few exhibitions of drawings and paintings, before turning into a full time parent and hiding away for about 12 years.

My aim here, just so you know, is to publish random thoughts, ideas and images and perhaps get some feedback …

So-called abuse was ‘best thing ever’

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The talk is all Brexit here in Britain, from breakfast to bedtime, and quite rightly so given its huge importance – that and the political shenanigans that have foisted a new prime minister on the country and threaten to shatter the main opposition party. But Heretic TOC is going to show Brexit the exit today as there has also been a lot of Kind news that should not pass unnoticed: not just the now horribly routine draconian sentences but a thoroughly mixed bag of significant stories, with glimmers here and there of resistance to the mainstream abuse narrative. Forgive me for trying to cram a pint into a half-pint pot, but it may be best this time if I pass fairly briskly from one item to another, giving lots of links to fuller accounts.

Let’s get the really nasty stuff out of the way first. Particularly shocking to me personally was a long sentence imposed on one of two guys who had been leading members of Paedophile Action for Liberation (PAL) back in the 1970s. They were Doug Slade, then serving as a petty officer with the Royal Navy, and Chris Skeaping, a racing driver. Slade was sentenced  earlier this month to 24 years for truly “historic” sex offences – over 50 years ago, in 1965 – after being extradited from the Philippines; Skeaping awaits sentence. Along with child welfare officer Ian Melville, they were blasted as “The vilest men in Britain” in the tabloid Sunday People’s exposé of PAL in 1975. PAL collapsed in disarray as an independent organisation soon after that and was eventually incorporated into the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE), which I later chaired. None of the PAL leaders ever became active in the running of PIE and I do not remember any of them even becoming members, though they may have done.

I met Doug and Chris on a couple of occasions, though. While they were never as committed to the political side as some of us in PIE, they struck me as decent enough guys who would never have been coercive in their relationships with youngsters. The salient point about their case, I suggest, is that it would not have happened but for the Daily Mail, who say they “persuaded” one of Slade’s former young boyfriends in the UK to shop him to the police. Once that happened, it was possible for the authorities to get him back from the Philippines last year, where he had been living as a “wealthy businessman” by this time. In other words, the complaint was not spontaneous. Even an NSPCC spokesperson quoted in the Mail’s account implicitly concedes that Slade’s offences were with boys who could well have been willing at the time.

For sheer vindictiveness, though, it is hard to top the response of compo king solicitor Peter Garsden, who has insisted that Slade’s sentence was too light, based on the malignant dogma that “sexual abuse imposes a life sentence of suffering on any victim”.

Fortunately, the falsity of this overworked mantra was made apparent in other news this month, about the chair of the Scottish government’s inquiry into historical child abuse, Susan O’Brien QC. According to the Guardian, published correspondence revealed that at the end of one training session O’Brien referred to a survivor of child sex abuse who had described it as “the best thing that had ever happened” to them! For letting the cat slip out of the bag in this way, O’Brien was threatened by a government minister with the sack, even though her inquiry was supposed to be independent. Clearly she was not going to be able to do the job without government meddling so she resigned. Good for her! It was the second such resignation in double-quick time. Panel member Michael Lamb, a psychology professor at Cambridge University, quit a week before saying the inquiry had been “doomed” by government interference. Good for him! Not good, though, for the credibility of government inquiries in this field.

From the vindictive and the meddling to the downright inhumane. In breach, I would say, of the human right to a private and family life, jailed footballer Adam Johnson was banned from talking to his own daughter because he had broken a sex offender rule stating that he was not to contact children. Guards had overheard him on the phone to his 17-month-old baby daughter after the couple’s mother passed the phone to the child. But the only offence that had put him in prison was of consensual sex with a girl of 15. There was never any suggestion that his own baby was at risk, so enforcement of the rule was utterly unnecessary as well as destructive and cruel.

Inhumane in a different way was the prosecution of a man thought to be the oldest defendant in British legal history, who appeared in court last month at the age of 101 charged with historic sexual offences against three children. His trial has been scheduled for December. Even supposing he makes it that far, which must be in doubt, one has to wonder what purpose is served by hounding him towards his grave.

OK, that’s all the really bad news out of the way. So what chinks of light can we discern? Well, never mind mere chinks, how about this for a great big sunbeam: A judge has allowed a paedophile music teacher to continue working with children after hearing letters of support from 12 of his pupils’ parents. A Daily Mirror report said that Neil Deller, 42, was charged after child porn featuring images “of girls as young as three and bestiality” were found on his computer. But he continued to give private lessons following his arrest two years ago and the parents of many pupils wrote positive references about him. These were presented to Judge Christopher Ball QC who spared Deller jail and refused to ban him from teaching children aged under 18.

Well done Judge Ball! He clearly has balls, as he could easily have been spit-roasted in the media for such a bravely unfashionable decision – although he has just retired at the end of an often outspoken and controversial career and perhaps felt he had little to lose. Congratulations, too, to the independently-minded parents who gave the teacher their support and made the judge’s action possible.

Parents were backing a teacher in trouble on the other side of the Atlantic too. Alexandria Vera, a 24-year-old English teacher, found herself pregnant, apparently by a pupil who was 13 at the start of a sustained relationship. In unusually sympathetic and understanding newspaper coverage, a story in the Santa Monica Observer pointed out that all concerned – the teacher, the boy and his parents – were Hispanic and that “in traditional Mexican culture, teenagers are allowed to have sexual relationships, and couples where the woman is older than the man are commonplace and not denigrated”. The parents had known and approved of the relationship, letting the boy stay with Vera overnight.

Charged with “continuous sexual abuse of a child”, Vera was granted bail last month. Her trial is expected to start any day now. Unfortunately, if she is convicted of the felony charge in question, it looks as though the judge will not have any discretion to take Mexican culture into account. A harsh sentence will be mandatory.

On the celebrity front, things are looking up for veteran pop star Sir Cliff Richard following the high-profile police raid on his Berkshire home nearly two years ago, conducted as part of an investigation into an alleged historic sex offence against a boy in 1985 – though the police in this instance used the euphemism “non-recent”, as though embarrassed (as they should be) by their destruction of people’s lives decades after the event. Or in this case non-event, as it seems, because the CPS finally announced last month that there is “insufficient evidence” to support a prosecution. And just a couple of days ago Sir Cliff launched legal action against the BBC and police for turning his life upside down. The Daily Mail had earlier reported that was about to start a £1mn action for worldwide damage to his reputation after the beeb filmed the police raid on his home. Good luck to him!

Broadcaster, writer, politician and chef Sir Clement Freud, meanwhile, who was himself accorded national treasure status like Sir Cliff, avoided the latter’s problems by very sensibly dying in 2009 while the going was good. This was well ahead of the open season on celebs that began with the posthumous fall from grace of that other once-dazzling knight, Sir Jimmy Savile. So why is “Clay” Freud, as he was known to family and friends, better off dead? If an ITV documentary (which I have not seen) and a Daily Mail report are to be believed, it is because he had at least a couple of sexual dalliances with underage teen girls, one of whom claims he “brutally raped” her later on when she was 18. I’m not sure how seriously we can take the rape claim but the rest does seem highly credible, on the basis of reported admissions by the old boy’s widow: Lady Freud, accused of setting up a three-in-a-bed scenario with herself, a 14-year-old girl and her husband, doesn’t exactly seem to have worked hard at indignant denial. Instead, she meekly apologised for Clay’s feet of clay.

Now another bit of good news: well, good in a way. Stephen Rice, a producer with the Australian TV documentary strand 60 Minutes, has been sacked. I do not know Mr Rice and would not normally celebrate an individual’s career setback, but I must confess to a warm glow of schadenfreude over the reputational damage caused to 60 Minutes from the disastrous misadventure that got the producer and the show into deep trouble in the Middle East, when four crew members found themselves locked up in Beirut for two weeks by the Lebanese authorities, suspected of complicity with a child abduction. A tragically broken family is at the heart of the disaster and that is certainly no cause for joy. But good could come of it if 60 Minutes is made to behave more responsibly in future. It was this same low-grade, grossly sensationalist TV series, it may be remembered, who interviewed me when I was trying to defend my friend Charles Napier at the height of the Westminster so-called VIP paedophilia scandal. 60 Minutes was among those media outfits that chose to believe and play up the now discredited lies of several fantasist opportunists who had concocted bizarre, obviously suspect, and gravely defamatory yarns about VIPs, including Edward Heath, the late former prime minister whose main achievement was to take Britain into the European Economic Community, which later became the European Union, which the nation has just voted to leave…

And so, perhaps inevitably, back to Brexit. My final glimmer of light in this blog comes from the day of the referendum vote itself. That is when I heard on the radio about a new report by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) drawing attention to the continued plight of prisoners who remain on indeterminate (IPP) sentences in the UK, despite what the PRT described as “near universal criticism of the sentence from judges, Parole Board members, HM Prisons Inspectorate, the Prison Governors’ Association, staff, prisoners and their families”. Steven Adrian Freeman, my successor as chair of PIE, has been languishing in prison on one of the sentences long after completing the 30-month “tariff” originally set by the court in his case.

Justice secretary Michael Gove said in a recent speech “there are a significant number of IPP prisoners who are still in jail after having served their full tariff who need to be given hope that they can contribute positively to society in the future.”

Without all the Brexit turmoil, Gove might well have decided it was time to scrap the IPP. But new prime minister Theresa May takes over today and Gove could be out of his job when she picks her new cabinet. Or he could be told to get on with it. May herself has already made some encouraging noises, hinting that she wants to be a reforming leader and sounding almost like former opposition leader Ed Miliband. Perhaps she will look favourably on prison reform. We can only hope that time will be found for legislation that includes the abolition of IPP. But many good ideas are bound to be crowded out, and the new government will inevitably find much of its time taken up by Brexit.

Judicial self-delusion on a global scale

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“Britain’s worst paedophile,” we learned earlier this month, “who abused up to 200 Malaysian children and posted videos of his depraved acts online has been given 22 life sentences.”

The Daily Mail version of a news story splashed globally said “Richard Huckle, from Ashford in Kent, admitted an unprecedented number of offences against children aged between six months and 12 years from 2006 to 2014.”

The judge, Peter Rook QC, was quoted: “You had become consumed with paedophilia. Your life revolved around your obsession with your own sexual gratification”.

We heard that as Huckle, aged 30,  was taken down to the cells, a woman sitting in the public gallery yelled: “A thousand deaths is too good for you.”

The Mail’s Richard Spillett reported that Huckle had “masqueraded as a devout Christian, photographer and English teacher to prey on poor children in Kuala Lumpur over nine years.

A stream of pictures and videos of his rapes and assaults on children were shared with paedophiles worldwide through an encrypted website.”

Huckle, it was said,  committed offences in orphanages and care homes in Malaysia and Cambodia, including “rape and assault against up to 200 pre-pubescent children as young as six months old”.

Britain’s worst paedophile? If it were clear he had been violently raping infants I wouldn’t dispute the claim, especially if the guy had also been a sadistic child murderer. But this is surely not a scenario where a large penis has been rammed into a small orifice, and there is mercifully no need for post-mortems. There is no hint in the court reports that any of his acts were violent, coerced or physically injurious.

On the contrary, Richard Huckle appears to have been welcome in the communities of the South East Asian countries where he lived. He didn’t just ““masquerade” as an English teacher: he obviously was an English teacher; there is nothing to suggest he was a less than sincere Christian either.

We will come back later to the unfortunate Mr Huckle, after switching our focus to another recent news story from the same region, the Philippines. The Guardian’s main headline was “How child sexual abuse became a family business in the Philippines”, with a sub-heading “Tens of thousands of children believed to be victims of live-streaming abuse, some of it being carried out by their own parents”. The United Nations is reported as saying that in some areas, entire communities live off the business.

There is the usual hyperbolic bollocks about the scale of the money involved and talk of children being “made to perform around the clock” as though they are sweat shop slaves – places that are really abusive but which go unregulated because global corporations like GAP, Zara and Primark profit from them. Anyway, despite all the spin designed to create a false impression, this was a big story – literally so, as the Guardian’s account ran to well over 2,000 words.

Yet the tabloids ignored it. Why? Because it was complicated. It was nuanced. Unlike the Huckle case, this one could not be made to fit the simple Evil Monster narrative. But it is precisely in the detail and the nuance that the real significance of the story is to be discerned. So let’s look at that.

We are told an undercover agent infiltrated an impoverished village pretending to be a Filipina sex worker earning her living in Japan. It was cover that enabled her to become friendly with the villagers and their children without arousing suspicion. After discovering the kids were doing webcam sessions police raided the village. This was back in 2011. At least one family were caught with their pants down, and that’s more than a metaphor: three girls were naked on a bed while their mother was typing on a keyboard in the same room, where a live webcam feed on the computer screen showed the faces of three white men watching the action.

After the raid, the family was broken up: all six children were taken away from their home and into a “rescue centre”.

And this is where we get to the heart of the real story: the kids did not feel they had been “rescued” at all. Instead, they felt betrayed by the undercover agent they thought was a friend. While the mother was jailed thanks to having been caught red-handed, and still languishes in prison five years later, the children “proved unwilling to incriminate their parents”.

The police were quite candid. They said they thought the children would welcome the operation, only to discover they were very much mistaken. Referring to the oldest child, the undercover agent herself admitted the girl felt betrayed, saying  “I know that she is angry with me”.

At the “rescue” centre, the six children – three boys and three girls –  “appeared oblivious to the fact that they had been exploited”. The three-year-old, it was reported, continued to do “sexualised dancing” in front of other children. A psychologist said that the eldest child, a boy of 16, was in shock after the arrest, but not from the abuse: “He was quite traumatised by the rescue operation.”

The Guardian story continues:

The two younger daughters had no idea that the abuse was anything but normal. “They said it was a business in the neighbourhood. It seemed natural to be involved in this as the other children were doing it,” she said. Police found that it was the children who first heard about live-streaming as a money maker when playing with their friends.

While the children have flourished – on the wall are photos of them, the two eldest beaming while wearing graduation hats and gowns – they are still unable, five years later, to understand the crime…

…The social workers, doctors, police, legal team and psychologists working with the children initially assumed they were trying to protect their parents out of love. But it became apparent there were other reasons for them holding back, especially the eldest.

And in therapy sessions, the eldest boy said their lives had changed for the better since they started the “shows”: the family had more money, they could eat at the local fast food chain Jollibee, and their mother could stop working in a factory.

Slowly, what had happened became apparent. “They saw the neighbours making money. They suggested it to their parents,” the prosecutor said. And at 13, it was Nicole who spoke to the paedophiles online, not her mother.

There were even times when the children did it without their parents present, the prosecutor said.

Bearing in mind this active engagement of the children as free agents, it’s time to get back to Mr Huckle.

Based on the grooming theme, and on the so-called abuse of trust, James Traynor from the National Crime Agency said: “Richard Huckle spent several years integrating himself into the community in which he lived, making himself a trusted figure.”

Now the thing is, you don’t get to be integrated and trusted unless people know and like you, including the children. We are told that Huckle dreamed of marrying one of his victims so they could jointly become foster carers for children. That was never going to happen without the continuing support of the community and of a woman who wanted to marry him. It is not as though he was betraying anyone’s trust as a fraudster does, conning them out of their money and making life worse. He was not making life worse. In the children’s view he was making it better, and who can really argue with them? Well-heeled western do-gooders who have no idea how tough and limiting Third World poverty can be?

Looking at it realistically, it would also be naïve to assume he was deceiving anyone. You cannot betray trust if a community already knows what is going on, as is clearly the case in the Philippines where families are actively involved on a significant scale. Huckle claimed in his own defence that sexual involvement with children was “endemic” in the region. The judge brushed this aside as being no excuse, but he did not deny the fact of the matter; he preferred to turn a blind eye, but that is no reason for us to do so.

The judge was also scornful of a 60-page manual Huckle had written and planned to publish online called Paedophiles and Poverty: Child Love Guide, which is said to have been about how to select deprived victims and avoid detection. The judge described it as a “truly evil document”, saying “It speaks volumes about the scale of your self-delusion, describing your conduct as child love.”

As we have just seen, though, it was the judge, not the defendant, who set his face against the facts. He is the one deluding himself if he thinks that children’s sexual “innocence” is anything more than a self-serving myth concocted by those who seek to control them. He deludes himself, too, if he dismisses Kind people as necessarily unkind and incapable of loving children, especially when the evidence suggests, as in Richard Huckle’s case, that he was well liked by the kids and was well regarded in the communities where he lived and worked for many years.

Not that Heretic TOC is suggesting Huckle should be imitated. Absolutely the opposite. The message from the courts is loud and clear: do as he did and you will be crucified, no matter what the rights and wrongs of the matter. The sentence, after all, was savage. Decades, at least, will pass before this tragically-fated young man has any hope of release.

Nor should we ignore the fact that his “how to” guide was so excoriated by the court. One shudders to think what the judge would make of Heretic TOC’s heresies. There is a big difference, though: it looks possible that the Child Love Guide could well have been interpreted in some quarters as inciting its readers to break the law; and so, once it was published, that could have amounted to grounds for a criminal prosecution in itself. This site, by contrast, much as we wish to see radical changes in our culture and law, emphatically rejects the view that the present laws should be defied. Apologies for finishing on this dreary but necessary note.

 

FROM BREXIT TO REGREXIT IN ONE DISMAL DAWN

Within sterling and the stock market plummeting and voices of alarm coming thick and fast from all around the planet, dawn had scarcely broken on the result of the Brexit referendum before the demos was thrown into doubt.

Suddenly the sovereign people’s distrust of the experts was turned on themselves, as they woke up to the awful possibility that they might have got it wrong. What a shame most of them hadn’t read Heretic TOC, where they would have learned that the people are always wrong!

Proof of the unpreparedness of many to make such a momentous and complicated decision was all too apparent, albeit too late: the most frequent Google search was the alarmingly basic question “What is the EU?” Many tweeted to say they hadn’t thought their vote would be all that important, what with so many other people voting! They had just wanted to tell the politicians they were fed up. It hadn’t occurred to them they might actually win, and now they regretted it!

This Buyer’s Remorse, or Regrexit as it was quickly dubbed, even appeared to be shared by politicians leading the Leave campaign. Instead of simply obeying the will of the people and getting on with getting out, the ruling elite on both sides of the great debate are effectively saying hang on a minute (or a few years), let’s not be hasty. Maybe we can fudge things a bit (or a lot) so that we can somehow keep free access to the EU market while also quietly ditching our promise to the people that immigration would be controlled. Plus ça change…

 

 

Should we stay or should we go?

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“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population – the intelligent ones or the fools?”  – Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People

Do you REMAIN confused, or does the Brexit decision LEAVE no room for doubt?

We British heretics may or may not have it all sorted before referendum day in a week’s time on Thursday 23 June, but should we really care? Why bother even turning up to vote in this rare exercise of true democracy, bearing in mind that it’s not going to liberate children or launch a Kind revolution? Sure, this vote makes a change from the usual sham democracy in which the big issues are decided by professional politicians at the behest of media moguls, corporate lobbying, and noisy, self-promoting, porky-peddling humbugs.

On the other hand, is democracy all that great? After all, a considerable proportion of the populace are ignorant idiots. The demos is swayed by demagogues. The people are always wrong. They have no idea how to evaluate complex evidence and arguments; they care only about their own interests and those of others like them, voting along race, class or other identity lines rather than putting the general good of the whole nation first.

Every thinking person has understood all this, from Plato (channelling Socrates) to modern times. Even the early leaders of that supposedly great democracy the United States of America were no big fans. It was John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers, who spoke of democracy’s tendency to degenerate into “the tyranny of the majority”, a criticism later endorsed by Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America, and John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty. But I doubt the concept could be more vividly explained than by the economist John T. Wenders, who said in relatively recent times that “Democracy is two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”

As for the Kind franchise, we are probably outvoted more like a hundred to one, and the coyotes are not interested in our suffrage; they are just happy to see us suffer.

Nevertheless, the Brexit vote is a genuinely Big Deal. It is going to decide loads and loads of really important stuff, with a potentially major impact not just on the British economy but also the European one and even global prospects for growth in the next few years – just look at the wobbles and panics caused by Brexit’s predecessor Grexit, even though it didn’t actually happen because the Greeks got cold feet.

And economic prosperity is not even the biggest issue. It is also about the importance of national sovereignty (and, yes, democracy) versus claims that peace and security, plus international cooperation on such vital matters as climate change and tax havens are better handled at the European level. Also, while the European Convention on Human Rights is not formally an EU matter, commitment to the fundamental rights in question is distinctly an issue that separates the leavers from the remainers – as does signing up to the  social and economic rights set out in the European Social Charter, which covers employment standards relating to working hours, equal pay, disability, trade union membership and much more.

Take Back Control is the mantra of the Brexiteers. To those in business, especially buccaneering types of the less scrupulous sort, it means cutting out “red tape”, which actually translates into trashing the Social Charter safeguards. But the working public who stand to benefit from regulations – which are vitally important to us all as consumers, too, when it comes to such matters as product reliability and safety – hardly seem to notice the threat of their removal. That’s because Take Back Control is sold to them as being about stopping the foreigners coming in – a message that must sound particularly appealing if you don’t have much in the way of skills or education, and fear being outcompeted in the labour market. With so much concern over immigration, not all of it unwarranted, Brexit looks a very real possibility.

By comparison, Prime Minister David Cameron’s slogan for Remain sounds clunky and unconvincing: Stronger, Safer, Better Off. A sustained blast of Project Fear statistics and expert opinion on the dire consequences of leaving the EU, including the strong advice of President Obama, seem to have cut little ice, and the positive case for continued membership has been muted.

The campaigning on both sides, though, has been outrageous, making the whole shebang look like a talent show for who can tell the most floridly blatant lies. We already have Would I Lie To You? on the BBC but it is all about telling improbable fictions in a cleverly plausible way. The referendum carnival of fools, by contrast, is more Britain’s Got Liars, where the contestants score highly – or hope to – for being even more stridently and stupidly implausible than their opponents.

What seems to have happened is that genuinely intelligent figures on both sides, not least the famously erudite Boris Johnson leading the Brexit charge, have dumbed down their rhetoric to chase the enormous Ignorant vote, in the hope that the Ignorant (especially the Ignorant and Stupid) will believe anything if you shout it loudly, often and preferably in spectacular fashion – a tendency that must surely have reached its high tide, so to speak, in a “naval battle” yesterday on the River Thames in London, when a substantial fleet of Brexiteer vessels was outgunned by a cunning Remain volley of extremely loud soundbites from pop star Bob Geldof. His side had fewer boats, and they were much smaller, but honorary Sir Bob knows a thing or two about blasting out noise with megawatt electronic systems. All in all, quite possibly the best maritime entertainment for us Brits since the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588!

Dazzled by the apparent triumph of showmanship over substance, we might easily conclude that the country has gone to the dogs and we would be better off emigrating. Well, there’s a case for that, and I’ll come to it.

Oddly, though, I have been quite impressed by the overall standard of debate, and I find myself deeply engaged in the arguments rather than alienated. Daft claims have been made on both sides, but they have also been challenged and rebutted in the course of this long campaign, not just by the leaders in head-to-head debate but also in direct engagement with the public in televised question and answer sessions, some of which have allowed the public to pursue their own particular issue with supplementary questions after the initial response. So we have heard from employees  and entrepreneurs with a wide range of skills and trades, from every quarter of the UK.

In my humble opinion – and this time I really do mean humble, not scornfully elitist – their contribution has been brilliant. They have probed the competing lines of argument sceptically and skilfully, bringing to the table all manner of local and expert knowledge. As such, it has been a great advertisement for democracy. Of course, these studio-audience affairs are very stage-managed. Vox pop soundings taken in the nation’s pubs and market squares among random unprepared potential voters tend to revive one’s doubts that the public at large are really up to making such a big decision. But take it they will. For those who like democracy, this has the great merit that for better or worse the electorate will own the choice they have made, and may become more engaged with public affairs in future as a result. Even those of us who continue to worry about the downside of the universal franchise must admit that it is probably here to stay, so it makes sense for us, too, to hope for a more participating and better educated populace.

I have not yet indicated which way I will be voting, and I do not intend to. Some may think it is implied in what I have said above, which is OK by me. But why would my choice be of any interest? While I feel I can claim some expertise on Kind issues, my knowledge of economics, and of what goes on in Brussels and Strasburg, is relatively slim. So your guess is as good as mine, or maybe better.

One could, I suppose, take a specifically Kind point of view, focusing on the future for children in or out of Europe. What sort of attitudes and education would they be exposed to in a Brexiteer-led, “independent” Britain? That sort of thing. We could also bring the future for Kinds into our purview. Would a separate Britain be even less tolerant? Should we worry that even our most basic human rights, to life and freedom, would be under threat?

Again, I think heretics here can speculate on these matters as well as I.

But there is one issue, free movement within the EU, that affects those of us who are on the Sex Offenders Register (SOR). A few words of comment may be in order on this as I have some relevant personal experience and have done a bit of digging too.

The general debate has of course focused on how to limit immigration, a debate influenced enormously by the massive recent influx of refugees and economic migrants crossing the Mediterranean into the EU from the Middle East and North Africa, bringing with it the fear of importing foreign criminals, including jihadis and sex offenders of the type seen in Cologne: men under the impression that white girls are sluts and who treat them accordingly.

If Brexit Britain takes extra measures to pull up the drawbridge against such people – which in itself is a perfectly reasonable objective – it would hardly be surprising if the EU were to reciprocate, clamping down on SOR people.

As I know from what happened to me last year when I went to the Netherlands and France, information is passed about those on SOR to the EU border authorities. I have to notify the police a week in advance of foreign travel and these days when you book a flight you have to give your passport details. So when I arrived at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, it was obvious they knew who I was: I was taken aside and asked a good many questions about my purpose of visit and schedule before they eventually let me in.

Could they have stopped me entering the Netherlands under the present rules? As I understand it, under the Schengen Information System (SIS) rules, to which the UK is a party even though we are not part of the Schengen free travel area, border control officers can only detain (for up to three hours) those thought to pose a high risk and when there might be grounds for an arrest. That is why, under those same security rules, Britain only stopped the very small figure of around a thousand individuals (according to former Home Secretary Alan Johnson, speaking on BBC2’s focus on immigration) coming in from the EU last year. Bear in mind that there were around 20 million visitors from the EU in this period. It seems I was checked under Article 36(2) after an alert put out by the British police for “ViSOR nominals”.

But if we come out of the EU, this relatively sparing approach is sure to change. Instead of a few minutes’ worth of questioning (which I also faced when leaving France, on the French side, to return to Britain), there will be the much greater likelihood of new rules coming in, such that one could be turned back to the UK at the EU border. So, it could become a really SOR point. Maybe some of us would be better off emigrating. But where to?

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