Turning our view of power upside down

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Heretic TOC’s two-part review of The Fear of Child Sexuality, by Steven Angelides, began last time with a focus on the author as himself a prisoner of fear.

We noted that while he clearly acknowledges children as sexual beings and is positive towards their sexual expression and agency, he is very tentative as regards the practical implications when it comes to their freedom to choose an older partner, opting to discuss it solely in relation to the more easily defensible possibilities, notably mid-teen boys in relationships with women. In Angelides’ own country, Australia, the boy in these liaisons dangereuses has traditionally been lionised as a “lucky bastard”; rather than being pitied as a victim, the young larrikin who gets to shag his own teacher – a figure of some salience on our modern sexual battleground – has been seen as a masculine success story, a legend among his mates, the subject of envy even among older males. Angelides puts a lot of good work into challenging the fierce feminist attack on this narrative, but his analysis at this point is not in an especially radical place, being applied only to narrow, particular circumstances.

His ideas can be put to more general and substantial application, however, if we dig to their roots. As we saw in part one, Angelides is held back thanks to his unwitting complicity in a Foucauldian “strategy of fear”. But there is a wider aspect of the celebrated (and execrated!) French philosopher’s work that Angelides discusses and which I can take up with more enthusiasm and positivity: this is Foucault on power.

This is complicated stuff but let’s see if we can keep it tolerably simple. Feminists have been banging on for decades with their dogmatic insistence that children are supposedly powerless in their dealings with adults, such that these older people are bound to dominate, exploit and abuse the younger ones in “unequal” sexual relations. Using Australian “scandals” in the media, Angelides very clearly demonstrates that in the (admittedly limited) cases of the teenage boys in question, a confident youth sometimes has considerably more power in practice than a young, inexperienced female teacher, both in the classroom and the bedroom.

The main thing to note about Foucault at this point is that he saw power as relational, rather than something that powerful individuals, institutions or classes possess unilaterally and impose in a top-down way on the powerless beneath them. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy usefully summarises his position in a way that hints at the potential for power flowing sideways and even upwards within society as well as downwards, no matter how formally hierarchical its arrangements may appear:

We should not try to look for the center of power, or for the individuals, institutions or classes that rule, but should rather construct a “microphysics of power” that focuses on the multitude of loci of power spread throughout a society: families, workplaces, everyday practices, and marginal institutions. One has to analyze power relations from the bottom up and not from the top down, and to study the myriad ways in which the subjects themselves are constituted in these diverse but intersecting networks.

The most obvious sorts of power, such as the power of a Henry VIII to have his wives’ heads chopped off on a whim, or the power of governments to pass laws that we must all obey, possibly on pain of losing our liberty, are of course experienced as top-down phenomena (or, in the case of tyrants’ victims, top-off!) Sometimes called sovereign, or juridical power, the unilateral imposition of force needs to be distinguished from the subtler power interactions that typify modern society – notably the power associated with knowledge, exercised through the influence of all manner of professionals and experts, whose understandings influence each other and society in ways so multifarious and complex that no one is in control. We are governed less by cunning elites pulling the strings in a deliberately conspiratorial way than by fashionable ideas such as victim feminism that seem to come out of nowhere but which reflect an awful lot of “discourse” – books, speeches, lectures, podcasts, documentaries – constructing “knowledge” about the world that may later come to be sceptically “deconstructed” by others, including Foucauldians!

The discourse of victim feminism in recent decades has all but eradicated the idea of child sexuality. As Angelides notes, the sexual child “is being reduced to (adult) sexual effect – victim – and generally disappears into debates about the corruption and sexualisation of childhood and innocence” (p. xxiii). This insistence on children’s victim status is tied to age of consent laws that deploy top-down  sovereign/juridical power in an arbitrary way to distinguish legitimate (adult-adult) relations from illegitimate (adult-child) ones. In doing so, we lose sight of the two-way power (operating sideways and bottom-up) to which Foucault drew attention when speaking of power as relational.

Angelides has an early chapter on the fear of child sexuality in which he invoked the Freudian figure of the “uncanny” or scary child. Anyone familiar with the spooky kids in The Turn of the Screw, or the possessed (especially with sexual manifestations) child of horror movies such as The Exorcist, will get the idea. A personal experience of this kind made a great impression on him. He describes how, as a teenager, he was at a dinner party hosted by friends of his parents when he was confronted by an eight-year-old girl “confiding in me and recounting in great detail, and with great delight, her sexual exploits with a thirty-year-old man”. It was an “intensely disconcerting” experience for him. “I distinctly remember fearing this child,” he said, “and feeling ashamed at being privy to her inner world.”

This little girl had unsettled not just his idea of childhood innocence but even “my own sense of self as an adolescent”. In other words, she had blown his socks off, producing such a powerful effect that he would later write about it in ways that have already been felt in the academic world, at least, around the globe. Not bad for a supposedly powerless kid! Not bad, either, as an example of bottom-up relational power in action.

Victim feminism’s focus on children, notably through the 1970s work of Florence Rush and later David Finkelhor, was produced against a background in which feminism in general sought to create relations of greater equality between men and women. In seeking an end to “patriarchal” male dominance, most feminists (apart from radical lesbians who wanted nothing to do with men) entirely reasonably wanted a society in which women received equal pay for equal work and men were not allowed to beat their wives for disobedience. Where some of them have lost their way has been in their doctrinaire insistence on promoting even undesirable forms of equality. Are poor black women, then, only to be allowed to have poor black husbands as partners because a relationship with a rich white man would be unequal and “inevitably” exploitative? This would be the logical outcome of identity politics, which is now all but ubiquitous and which has its roots in the racial and gender politics of victimhood.

Where adult-adult contacts are concerned, at least, thoughtful feminists have taken on board Foucault’s insight that power is relational. But they fail to apply this model to child-adult relations, especially with regard to sexuality. Instead they crudely seek to impose sovereign/juridical top-down power through the age of consent laws.

Angelides understands and elaborates on this. He takes issue with feminists who say that power ceases to be a factor in relations of equality. He says he cannot agree with this, adding:

…my disagreement issues…from a post-Foucauldian, nonjuridical conceptualization of power which assumes that where there is a power relationship between two people – and not a state of bondage or pure force – power is exercised and not possessed…Dominance and submission are not fixed positions determined by the presence or absence of power.” (p.56)

He seems to have been referring here at least in part to the work of the British psychologist Wendy Hollway, to which he turns some fifty-odd pages later, where he speaks of “the post-Foucauldian reworking of relational power as an intrinsically intersubjective phenomenon animated by the dynamics of recognition”. This “dynamics of recognition” turns out to mean, basically, people’s emotional effect on each other e.g. someone might feel personally empowered by being recognised as competent at their work. Under this model, he says, “power is not to be conceived as a substance or entity that an individual possesses, wields, and controls, as Foucault argued. Instead… power is always only a relational phenomenon referring to struggles to control the giving and receiving of recognition.” (pp.110-111).

Hollway is a new name to me and I have only a sketchy idea as to what is meant by the “dynamics of recognition”. The concept sounds promising although I suspect it might turn into the blind alley that is identity politics. Angelides also mentions the sociologist Norbert Elias (1897-1990), who outlived Foucault (1926-1984) but who was born long before him. His intellectual output was such that he might be considered pre-Foucauldian, although he came to fame – or at least to recognition as a towering figure in his field – late in life, at around the same time as Foucault’s books began to appear, from the 1960s onwards.

Angelides mentions Elias only very briefly, in the context of his ideas about the power of shame as a sexually inhibiting factor. I learned much more about him from The Cambridge Handbook of Sexual Development: Childhood and Adolescence, which I reviewed recently for Sexuality & Culture (see separate item below). There was one quote from his work that struck a chord with me:

In so far as we are more dependent on others than they are on us, more directed by others than they are by us, they have power over us, whether we have become dependent on them by their use of naked force or by our need to be loved, our need for money, healing, status, a career or simply for excitement” (Cambridge Handbook, p.40).

Now compare the Elias line with what Angelides says when he proposes that children are far from being universally positioned outside of power. On the contrary, he says:

…no non-physically forcible sexual relations (adult-adult or adult-child) and no parent-child relations can be disarticulated from power. Children exercise power in myriad and subtle ways in their relationships with parents and adults” (Angelides, pp.54-55).

Note that Elias refers to being subjected to the power of “naked force” but he then draws attention to a range of other factors, such as love, and excitement, that can put us under the spell of another person – the magic power, as it were, of really wanting to be in their company and esteemed by them. Now consider one final passage, by another author:

…power, in paedophilic as in other relationships, doesn’t necessarily reside with the elder party. It depends on the circumstances, especially on which partner needs the other most. One might even propose, as a law of human nature, that power in a relationship resides with the party that needs the relationship less.

Any idea who this writer was? Ring any bells? Full marks if you knew, or guessed, that it was me, in Paedophilia: The Radical Case, 1980 (p.173). This “law” was explicitly limited to de facto consensual relationships, hence no “naked force” or other coercion. I was writing from my own direct personal experience rather than from contemplation of Elias or Foucault, or any later theorists such as Angelides or Hollway. Elias was not on my radar at all in those days. Admittedly, I had just read Foucault’s History of Sexuality Vol. 1, hot off the presses as a new title in 1979, and even discussed it personally with sociologist and historian Jeffrey Weeks. But I was not impressed by the fashionable Frenchman’s obscure, abominably written ramblings. I have warmed to him since, after reading a fair chunk of his other work, but my writing on power back then owed nothing to his influence or anyone else’s so far as I am aware. The chapter in question, Chapter 9 on “Power and Equality”, was the most original aspect of The Radical Case and probably the best.

Who was listening though? And who will now take much notice of Angelides? Some of his work has been intellectually influential (there have been over 220 citations of his paper “Feminism, child sexual abuse, and the erasure of child sexuality” on Google Scholar, an exceptional score) but it is already clear that his new book has not set the publishing world on fire, nor the reviewers or the public. Put it this way: in the Amazon Best Sellers Rank, as I write, it is not in the top 100, or the top 1000, or even the top million. It languishes at position number 3,100,263!

But, hey, let’s not judge a book by its popularity. The Fear of Child Sexuality does at least explore and clarify issues of importance to us heretics. I do not regret the time I spent reading it.

 

SUFFRAGE LITTLE CHILDREN

Jesus said “suffer little children to come unto me”. He did not say extend the suffrage to children. But as we find ourselves coming up to a general election in the UK in less than two weeks from now we might want to ponder whether votes for kids would be a good idea. They could hardly get us into a bigger mess than the country is in at the moment, torn apart as we are over Brexit.

Oddly enough this idea has just been proposed not from the radical fringes of politics but by Polly Mackenzie, who served as director of policy to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, from 2010-2015. In an article for the rather good online journal UnHerd, she points out out that the age of criminal responsibility in England is 10, and says:

How can we argue that a 10-year-old has the judgement required to understand the law and the consequences of breaking it – and then argue that a 10-year-old doesn’t have the judgement required to understand democracy or the consequences of voting? If you have to follow the law, you should have a role in making it.

 

CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK

As briefly mentioned above, another book review of mine was published recently. This was an extensive (over 4,000 words) critique of The Cambridge Handbook of Sexual Development: Childhood and Adolescence, a huge (600+ pages) multi-author academic tome from Cambridge University Press. The article is in Sexuality & Culture. As will be seen at the journal’s official link, which has the Abstract, publishers Springer Nature are charging £34.74 for the privilege of reading the full text, which pro rata would work out at around a princely £1,000 for a book of average length. Not that I will see so much as a penny from any sales as the traditional academic publishing model involves scholars surrendering their commercial interest. Happily, though, free full-text access is available here.

As many be imagined, it was very gratifying to a “paedophilia apologist” such as myself to be afforded a prestigious platform on which to pontificate about, of all things, childhood sexual development. Perhaps S&C were assuming that only paedos have sufficient direct knowledge of the subject to be able to write with authority on the matter! However that may be, I can report that a couple of professors have already responded: one found my review “very interesting”; another sent a PDF of her latest paper, saying she thought her work would interest me – it did!

 

INCREDIBLE AND FALSE

The hot news this morning is that former MP Harvey Proctor is to get a £900,000 pay-out from the police in London after being subject to false accusations of brutality, rape and murder against children.

This is the latest fall-out from the Met police’s Operation Midland investigation, which disastrously chose to believe lurid, bizarre and utterly incredible allegations made by fantasist Carl Beech, who claimed boys were raped and tortured in the 1970s and 80s by members of a VIP paedophile ring involving leading figures in politics and government. Even more astonishing, and incredibly stupid, was that a senior officer – supported from the very top of the force – went public with the declaration that Beech’s fabrications were “credible and true”. Beech is now serving an 18-year prison sentence for perverting the course of justice and fraud.

 

 

People who live in glass houses…

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Today Heretic TOC welcomes a debut guest blogger, “David”,  who is a 50-year-old security officer from Southern England and a  spare-time student of current affairs, politics, history, and religion. He deplores the use of paedophilia by the Far Right as a stick to beat Muslims with, attacking the hypocrisy of some key figures. The Far Left does not escape his critical attention either. 

ISLAM, RIGHT-LEFT EXTREMIST POLITICS AND PAEDOPHILIA

Islam is one of the world’s major religions with more than one billion faithful followers and growing rapidly across the globe with every year. We are all familiar with the media demonisation of ordinary law-abiding Muslims as a result of the actions of the “Islamist” extremist minority. In recent years Muslims have also come under attack from UK Far-Right groups such as the British National Party, National Front, Britain First, English Defence League, Infidel groups and so on, who criticise Islam as a “paedophile religion” due to the fact that the Prophet Muhammad was married to a child bride, Aisha when she was six years old and he consummated the marriage with her when she was nine years old:

The Far-Right organisations in Britain also point to the much-publicised Rotherham case of alleged ‘child abuse’ involving men of predominantly Pakistani Muslim heritage.

However, the UK Far-Right so-called “Christian” anti-Islamic groups choose not to publicise the following facts:

  • It was legal in medieval Christian England and Europe to marry…child brides! “…in 1396, Richard II of England was joined in marriage to young Isabel of France, who had been 7 years old when their engagement was announced the previous year in Paris. Not only was there no uproar; there was considerable happiness expressed over the assumed probability that this marriage would end the Hundred Year’s War then in one of its periodic states of truce between the two kingdoms. Peace was to be ensured by joining together this man and this little girl in marriage.” – John McLaughlin, “Medieval Child Marriage: Abuse of Wardship?” (Paper delivered at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH Conference on Medieval Studies, April, 1997)
  • The British National Front (NF) organised violent demonstrations against the London meetings of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) during the 1970s and yet…the NF had paedophile members of their own party at the same time! Was this a case of NF hypocrisy, “do as we say not as we do”, or more a case of the extreme right-wing NF being opposed to the progressive left-of-centre causes championed by PIE such as Gay Liberation, and due to PIE’s links with the National Council for Civil Liberties (now known as Liberty) and the Labour Party, perceived as enemies by the Front? Or would the NF claim they had been “infiltrated by paedophiles”? Judge for yourself:
  • Quote: “Hughie Porter (NF Leicester Branch activist) was a particularly unsavoury character with several convictions for child molesting, another fact known but tolerated by the local NF leadership.” – Ray Hill and Andrew Bell, The Other Face of Terror: Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network (Grafton Books 1988)
  •  “… Contrary to popular belief, there are boy-lovers of almost every political persuasion. Two former members of the National Front (British equivalent of the Nazi Party) were recently convicted here of having had sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. One man, Colin London, a former fish shop manager, received a two-year sentence, and the other, Harold Nash, a former company director, one year. SOURCE: Gay News, September, 1979.” – PAN (bi-monthly magazine published by Spartacus, Amsterdam), Vol.1, No. 3 November, 1979. This issue also includes an interesting letter from a correspondent regarding NF radical extremist, Robert Relf’s imprisonment and solitary confinement in the “leper wing” with paedophile prisoners where he relates the shocking ill-treatment meted out to them and he claimed “food sent to the wing was contaminated by other prisoners (real criminals) with urine and spit” and “Hot cocoa is also poured over them.”
  • The late Colin Jordan, the founder and leader of the neo-Nazi British Movement (BM) was found to be listed on documents as a “VIP guest” seized by police investigating alleged “paedophile sex parties” at Elm Guest House in London, along with named Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, Sinn Fein activists and leading members of the Right-wing Conservative Monday Club. Jordan was fined £50 in June 1975 for shoplifting women’s underwear from the Leamington Spa branch of Tesco (despite his virulently anti-Semitic movement being opposed to “Jewish-founded supermarkets and department stores”), and he resigned soon afterwards as BM “fuhrer” to be replaced by his deputy Michael McLaughlin who launched a purge of alleged “perverts”. Roger Gleaves, a paedophile Bishop of the Old Catholic Church, who was recently released from imprisonment for alleged “child rape” offences had founded the Keep Britain Great/Keep Britain White Campaign in 1962, the same year that Jordan formed the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). (Note that Ernst Rohm, the homosexual chief of the Nazi Brownshirts was caught in bed with a 15-year-old boy during the Night of the Long Knives clampdown on Hitler’s revolutionary rivals in 1934).
  • In 1950, Alf Flockart, Organising Secretary of Sir Oswald Mosley’s neo-fascist British Union Movement (UM) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for having sex with a youth in a public lavatory in London.
  • Martin Webster, who was the homosexual NF National Activities Organiser during the 1970s (when PIE members were attacked by the NF) was rumoured to have written a love letter to a young boy and homophobic NF members left the party in droves – Webster himself was expelled from the Front during the 1980s.

In more recent times, Left-wing anti-fascist websites such as Hope Not Hate have publicised the following cases of alleged Far-Right paedophiles (just as, Right-wing websites such as Labour25 have publicised cases of alleged Far-Left paedophiles – members of the Labour Party, and Marxist figures such as “Comrade Bala” of the Brixton Maoist “sex cult”, “Comrade Delta” aka Martin Smith of the Socialist Workers Party and the late Gerry Healy of the Workers Revolutionary Party, who were put under the media spotlight for alleged sexual abuse of young women and girls):

  • Martyn Gilleard was a paid up member of the NF, White Nationalist Party and the British People’s Party who was found to have more than 39,000 images of children on his computer, and during 2011, Michael Cowen, a NF member was caught by police with 17,058 images of children, 215 videos, and he made contact with other paedophiles on social networking sites.
  • English Defence League member, Co-Founder and Organiser, Richard Price, was convicted of possessing images of children. The EDL released a statement that he was a “political prisoner”.
  • Liam Pinkham, an active member of the North West Infidels (NWI) Islamophobic group admitted to having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
  • Britain First (BF) and EDL activist, John Broomfield was convicted of possessing images of children.
  • During 2012, Ryan Fleming, an activist of the neo-Nazi National Action group was alleged to have been involved in the sexual assault of a teenage boy.
  • British National Party (BNP) members and supporters who have convictions for possessing images of children and engaging in sexual activity with children include: Nigel Hesmondhalgh, Ian Hindle, Andrew Wells, Roderick Rowley, Ian Si’Ree, Darren Francis and Gavin Leist.
  • The former leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) wrote on Twitter to a young girl called “Asianish”: “your pretty fit for a muslim” to which she replied: “I’m 15 and you got the cheek to call muslims paedo’s”.
  • Right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party paedophile members have included UKIP party aide, Aaron Knight, who was jailed in 2016 for alleged sexual activity with a seven-year-old boy, and former Bury UKIP chairman, Peter Entwistle, who was gaoled in 2014 for alleged grooming of children and having 200,000 images of children.
  • The late controversial Right-wing Tory MP, Enoch Powell was recently accused by the Church of England (itself having paedophile members of its own clergy) of being involved in lurid allegations of “Satanic child sex abuse” without any real proof.

All this is disturbingly reminiscent of the allegations and trial by media surrounding the late politicians Cyril Smith (Liberal MP), Leon Brittan (Tory MP and Home Secretary), Lord Greville Janner (Labour MP and Peer), Edward Heath (Conservative Prime Minister) and Clement Freud (Liberal MP), who are also no longer alive and so unable to defend themselves in a court of law. One Tory Right-winger and supporter of Powell who was able to successfully challenge the far-fetched and ludicrous accusations of child abuse and murder which were made against him by a suspected serial fantasist called “Nick” is former MP, Harvey Proctor, and Operation Midland was closed down by police as a result.

So dear reader, you may well ask what is the point of this article? As issue No.3 of PAN (an acronym of Paedophile Alert News/Paedophile Action Network) previously quoted made clear, paedophiles and child-lovers can hold a wide range of political views, including those of the anti-fascist Left, Far-Right, UKIP, Liberal, Labour or Conservative, and are also represented in all religions and none. However, the leaderships of the Far-Right movements need to stop hypocritically attacking “Muslim paedophiles” (as the British hard-right groups used to mainly attack “Jewish paedophiles” and still do, with less frequency) when they have paedophile members of their own extreme Right organisations, just as the Far-Left groups need to think twice and consider their own paedophile supporters before demonising all paedophiles and tarring them with the neo-Nazi brush.

 

 

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.

Prime Minister was my buddy – NOT!

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I thought I’d heard it all earlier this year when my kind, avuncular, friend the late Peter Righton was accused of a particularly brutal murder. The victim had allegedly been torn apart when roped by his wrists and ankles to a car and a pick-up truck that slowly reversed away from each other, one driven by Righton the other by “another man”.

The scenario is so Hollywood, like something from a Mafia movie or a racial murder in the Old Deep South, it might be thought a screenplay career beckons for the accuser, a guy named by Exaro News only as “Darren”, apparently a former rent boy. After all, Peter had been an outstanding senior social worker noted for his rapport with troubled kids, not a ruthless gangland capo or a white-robed redneck with a pointy hood.

Since then, though, the Exaro stable of suspiciously anonymous accusers appears to have been running their own version of World’s Biggest Liar, which is a great idea for a pub competition, but not such harmless fun when the rightful heirs to Baron Munchausen are let loose on the media.

Lately, Darren’s stablemate “Nick” has been making all the running. Early last month he upped the ante in sexual abuse allegations being made about the late Sir Edward Heath, Tory British prime minister from 1970 to 1974. This was after a Wiltshire police press conference, theatrically held outside Heath’s old home, included a call for anyone to come forward who “believes they may have been a victim” of the putatively pervy premier, who had been “named” as an abuser.

This was an open invitation to fantasists, and world-class liar Nick was never going to miss it. After all, the police only required the accuser to “believe” they “may have been” a victim, not to have actually or definitely been one. So Nick could fit the bill by recovering a memory during therapy, perhaps, or even by simply dreaming a dream that seemed really, really real.

Not that Nick needed even this excuse. He had been screaming True Blue Tory murder for months. According to Exaro, he went to the Metropolitan police, who started Operation Midland, the enquiry into “VIP paedophilia”, on the basis of claims they decided in their wisdom were “credible”.  But now, with the Wiltshire police going high profile, came his chance (and Exaro’s) to make the big-time: his extravagant allegations would far outdo the existing ones, which were themselves sensational enough but of a rather less extreme and more plausible nature. Heath had, after all, been a lifelong bachelor with no visible sex life or romantic interests whatever: in such circumstances, a secret interest in minors is by no means a long-shot. A former senior police officer had claimed that a criminal prosecution of a woman for running a brothel had not been pursued by Wiltshire Police in the 1990s after she had reportedly threatened to expose Heath as a child abuser. Also, the Daily Mirror ran a man’s claim that Heath had “raped” him in a Mayfair, London, flat in 1961, after he had run away from home. Actually, the story makes no suggestion the boy was sexually innocent at the time, nor that Heath forced him into anything. On the contrary, he said had been “on the game”, pimped by his own father, long before meeting Heath, and remained a rent boy throughout his adolescence.

Enter Nick, who told Exaro that Heath was one of a number of prominent men who abused him when he was a child, “raping” him many times at a variety of locations. Oh, yes, and another thing: three boys were murdered, two of them by Tory politicians. As with Darren’s claims, it is Nick’s florid allegations of brutality and murder that look well OTT, not the sexual ones. The Mirror’s witness credibly describes what seems to have been a pleasantly conversational night in Heath’s company, in additional to mutual masturbation and anal sex. I find myself wondering whether the Mirror’s rent boy is one and the same as Exaro’s Nick, his story for the Mirror being true (hence giving him well founded credibility with the police), while the rest was gilding the lily to make extra money from Exaro.

The next we hear of Nick is less than a couple of weeks ago, when former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor held a press conference, accusing police of a witch-hunt after disclosing that he had been questioned over the alleged murder of three boys supposedly linked to an “elite Westminster sex ring”. This turned out to be a reference to Nick’s allegations, and the Operation Midland investigation.

He added that he had been accused of being part of a child sexual abuse ring along with the late prime minister Edward Heath, ex-home secretary Leon Brittan and former heads of MI5 and MI6.

Proctor said he was “completely innocent” of accusations of murder, rape and torture of children and should either be charged with murder or his accuser should be stripped of his anonymity and charged with perverting the course of justice.

Nick was said to have claimed that during one alleged sexual assault Proctor had been going to cut off his (Nick’s) genitals with a penknife. Edward Heath was supposedly present at the “large townhouse in London” where this took place and only his intervention stopped the terrible deed. Proctor said he and Heath couldn’t stand each other, despite a shared party allegiance. So it was unbelievable he would have been invited to the former prime minister’s home to take part in a sex attack.

Proctor said Nick had accused him of stripping and strapping a child to a table, before stabbing him all over his body during a 40-minute attack. Also, after raping a boy, the former MP had allegedly strangled him until the boy’s body went limp. And for good measure he was accused of punching and kicking another boy to death.

Bearing in mind that no bodies were found, nor have there been any reported disappearances of boys matching the times and places in question, Nick was already pushing his lying to the limits of the believable, making him a shoo in for Worlds’ Biggest Liar. But no! Amazingly, he was about to be outdone, and not by stablemate Darren but by a dark horse coming through late on the rails. This new contender was going for the really big one, not just the world title but also the hugely coveted, rarely awarded, Munchausen Mendacity Medal, the MMM, which only ever goes to a truly incredible tall story, a tale so bizarre the only sane response is to fall about laughing.

And guess what: that story deeply implicates PIE! Whereas last year the hot news was all about PIE’s supposed connections with big beasts in the Labour Party, including the current acting leader Harriet Harman, this year the yarn is that we were in bed with Conservative Ted Heath! The media were asking me last year about PIE’s connections with Harman et al. through the National Council for Civil Liberties. Now, just a few days ago, a “quality” national newspaper has asked me what was PIE’s connection with prime minister Heath!

The interest arose, I was told, from claims made in the distinctly non-quality, downmarket tabloid the Sunday Mirror. It is one of their journalists, a guy called Don Hale, who has made a bold bid for the MMM. In a story published on 9 August Hale reported on another missing dossier on VIP “child sex abuse” to compete with the already fabled one supposedly compiled by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. This time the dossier is one that nobody seems even to have heard of before, whereas the Dickens file was rumoured for years.

This takes us from Baron Munchausen to Baroness Castle. Barbara Castle was a leading Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s. Hale writes: “We can…reveal that Heath, under investigation by seven police forces over child abuse claims, was present at more than half a dozen Westminster meetings of the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange.”

Further down, he continues:

“Baroness Castle showed Heath was present at Westminster meetings with paedophile rights campaigners from the PIE group. Heath is said to have attended at least a quarter of the 30 or so monthly or bi-weekly meetings. His name is said to have appeared on minutes of the private gatherings, also apparently attended by other MPs, along with scoutmasters and headteachers. But the Castle files have been missing since the mid 1980s.”

Ah, yes, Sailor Ted, my old good buddy! I remember him well from when I was Chair of PIE and he was sitting in on our meetings in our palatial Westminster suite of offices! What a laugh he was, what a riot, always regaling us with salty seadog stories about the marvellous sex parties he had aboard his famous yacht Morning Cloud, with young boys hired from that children’s home in Jersey. What was it called? Haute de something.. Haute de la Garenne, that’s it! Managed to get myself an invite to a couple of those sessions. Very good too. Fabulous kids, really hot, nothing but the best for Ted and his guests! Better not tell you about all that, though. Don’t want to incriminate myself, eh?

Only trouble was, once Ted got started on his stories in those meetings, there was no stopping him. If only we had been able to get him to stick to the agenda for the meeting we might have found his advice incredibly useful. What we really needed was a strategy for building up funds and connections across the media, business, the academic world, all the centres of political and cultural power and influence. Instead, the opportunities were somehow just frittered away, so we remained open to attack from the forces of law and order. And when the arrests started, wily old Ted just quietly slipped anchor and buggered off back to the safety of the high seas. Ah well, such is life!

As for that newspaper who approached me last week, I denied everything, natch. Me and Ted were pals? Come on, I said, you’re having a laugh, aren’t you?

In truth, I didn’t speak to the paper’s reporter directly. He said he’d be happy if I’d answer some questions by email. I was content to do that. Whether he’ll ever make use of my boringly negative answers is something we’ll just have to wait and see. For the moment, the paper must remain nameless, for reasons that may become apparent in due course.

 

SAD NEWS FROM CANADA

Sad news reaches Heretic TOC from Canada. I had an email on 30 August from Robin Sharpe’s daughter Katherine, informing me of her father’s death. She wrote: “It was as always on his own terms, in hospital on August 27th. He wanted you to know.”

Robin, who had been ill for a long time and on my calculations would have been 82 when he died, was a fine writer. In a Heretic TOC piece a year ago I focused on the wryly ironic black humour he brought to his fiction, which managed to be both satirical and erotic. His Pagunan Masks: An Ethnofiction, in particular was an all too unsung masterpiece – although even the Supreme Court of Canada found itself obliged to concede that the man had literary talent.

As for why such an august court of law would be making this judgement, I can do no better than refer readers to my earlier piece, which I think stands pretty well as an obituary: Hail to a hero of “transgressive expression”. I am glad Robin was able to read it as he closed in on his final year. I hope it will have been of some comfort in a life that saw not only official attempts to suppress his work but also censorship by even those bookshop owners and printers who had a reputation for sympathetic treatment of radical material.

Even until late last year I was hearing from him of his frustration in trying to deal with such people, who tended to take a hard line against his “child porn” – a term as ignorant as it was cruel: just as misplaced as denouncing a Renaissance painting of the “Madonna and Child” for depicting the genitals of Jesus. Yes, Robin’s writing was erotic, and even pornographic, but the best of it was so much more than that. He was a fine, brave, gifted, man, whose loss is a great one.

See also:

http://www.robinsharpe.ca/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_v_Sharpe

https://www.boywiki.org/en/Robin_Sharpe

 

BOY’S NAKED SELFIE ‘WAS A CRIME’

No time to say much about this horror story featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, but listening is recommended. There were two separate pieces, both featuring excellent interviews by presenter Justin Webb. The first, at shortly after 7.30am, featured the boy and his mother. The second, just before 8.30am, featured a lawyer from the Criminal Bar Association and – more significantly – a senior police officer.

The latter interview, with Olivia Pinkney, the “National Police Chief Council’s lead on children and young people” is particularly revealing. She explained very well a series of “decision points” the police go through when dealing with such cases. It all sounded perfectly rational and reasonable until Webb gently asked what harm the boy had done. Suddenly cut adrift from her bureaucratic comfort zone she is all at sea, inadvertently admitting that the young “criminal” was the only victim of the “crime”.

Story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-3413638

Earlier interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p031fztz

Later interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068c7n8  (This is the entire programme. This interview starts at  8.21am, which is a little over 2 hours 20 minutes into the recording.)

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