There’s no easy way to say this, so I guess I’d better just dive in. Heretic TOC is going to be taking a sabbatical, probably for at least six months.
I need the time. A whole heap of stuff I should be doing has been long neglected and I feel I really must give myself a chance to catch up. In “Heretic TOC gets its mojo back” late last year, I was honestly able to report that the blog seemed to be going very well after a difficult patch. However, I also said time was a problem: “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.”
It still ain’t. I don’t propose to take up space regaling you with details of all the projects I have languishing on the back burner – not just writing, but much more. I went into all that with an old friend of this blog, the estimable Leonard Sisyphus Mann, in an email exchange yesterday, and I can tell you my summarised sins of omissions pushed up towards 600 words.
And now, having mentioned LSM, it would be reprehensible not to add that he has a fabulous new blog post fresh out this very day, called “Dr Cantor & the Case of the Extrapolated Equivalence”, a title sure to whet the appetite of the many heretics who have followed the career of Jimmy the Screamer.
I nearly said I would be letting Heretic TOC lie fallow for a while, until it dawned on me that fields are left fallow when the crops are not growing too well and the land needs time to recover. But the “land” is still very fertile at the moment, judging by strong visitor numbers and encouraging feedback in terms of published comments and private emails. I also like to think some of my best work has been recent. Perhaps that is the root of the problem. Back in 2012 I started off with short top-of-the-head opinion blogs, doing one every day with what now seems ridiculous ease. But as you go on you tend to become more ambitious, probing the chosen topics ever more deeply. And that eats up more and more time…
So, after over 200 blogs in a little over four years (this is the 202nd) I need to change course, with almost immediate effect. A while ago, though, I said I would be tackling Ancient Greece as a theme, and I hope to do that soon as a final project before the sabbatical starts. It should be something very special as it will take the form of an interview with a leading scholar who has kindly agreed to grace Heretic TOC with his presence.
All I would add at this stage is my heartfelt thanks for your interest and often wonderful comments (of which 8,644 had been published as of yesterday), plus the suggestion that this would be a good time to think about becoming a regular subscriber to H-TOC, if you are not already signed up, so that future blogs will go straight to your email inbox. This will save the hassle of checking in from time to time to see whether anything new has appeared. That’s fine when there is always something new but could be irritating when there is a long gap between one blog and the next.
As for whether I will eventually return to blogging as regularly as I have until now, I rather doubt it. It’s not that I am running out of things to write about, quite the contrary: there are more and more, not least on account of the turbulent times we live in. On the plus side, my love of writing probably guarantees I will not be able to resist holding forth here again at least occasionally; guest blogs will still be welcome, too, and likewise lots of comments, of course. I will still be here to moderate and chip into the discussion. Also, I hope I will now be able to find time to bring out a Best of Heretic TOC book, with an e-book edition. This is one of those many projects I should be able to switch from the back burner to the front.
My blog last time about Milo Yiannopoulos, “Milo gives good (talking) head – usually”, coincided with one of those crazy spells when on-topic news is suddenly fizzing and exploding all over the place like a spectacular fireworks display. Lots of items would be worth a blog on their own, but – consistent with my intention to bow out for a while – I will settle for just acknowledging some of the main British ones briefly here.
- Towards the end of last month the much heralded hearings of the massively overblown, unwieldy “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse” (IICSA) finally got under way under its fourth chairwoman, having already frittered away well over £20 million of taxpayers’ money in the two and a half years of its existence. Totally in accordance with this disastrously dysfunctional background, the first hearings focused on events thousands of miles away, decades ago, with the allegedly guilty parties all dead and so unable to defend themselves, and the institutions they represented no longer engaged in the complained of activities, so there are no continuing wrongs that must urgently be put right. The events in question have in any case already been the subject of a massive investigation on the far side of the globe. Could there possibly be any more utterly pointless exercise than expensively going through the entire process again? Some of the survivors (of what admittedly do seem to have been some horrible cases, primarily of callous child exploitation and neglect) said they wanted to see the guilty parties “named and shamed”, even though they were dead. Shamed? Someone should tell them the dead cannot so much as blush. They are quite literally shameless. The barrister Barbara Hewson wrote a good piece for Spiked on how an inquiry should be run.
- Meanwhile, the police chief in charge of Operation Hydrant, which is supposed to be coordinating a whole string of other named police operations investigating allegations of “non-recent” child sexual abuse, has been showing signs of being just as overwhelmed as IICSA. So overwhelmed, indeed, that instead of redoubling his efforts in the face of hopeless odds, he has done a remarkably sensible thing by admitting defeat. But not on the “non-recent” aka ancient history front. No, apparently we can expect the police to keep on performing more “operations” than the NHS for the foreseeable future. Much more interestingly, the police chief in question has reiterated his remarkably liberal view that mere downloaders of child porn should not be jailed. Simon Bailey, who is the chief constable of Norfolk and lead on child protection for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said forces were operating beyond capacity because of the sheer volume of reports. This follows an NSPCC report claiming as many as 500,000 people in the UK could be involved with sharing illegal images of children online. Bailey said “we cannot arrest our way out of the situation…we must make prevention and rehabilitation a priority”. But this change of tack is surely far too humane and rational for the government to accept.
- Not strictly news any longer, having been reported last August and somehow been neglected here, the extensive new statistics on sexual, physical or psychological abuse experienced before age 16 in England and Wales, published by the Office for National Statistics, are nonetheless important. This is because, unlike other surveys, these figures have been touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”, conducted by a reputable survey body and based on a properly representative sample of adults aged 16 to 59, rather than a self-selected group, who were recalling their childhood experience. However, it has to be said that, in line with the spirit of the times, the questions asked seem designed to obscure rather than reveal the quality of the experiences in question. It appears to be assumed, for instance, that any sexual touching or penetration by an adult must have been unwanted. Table 9 is quite interesting in this regard, showing reasons why the “survivor” did not tell anyone about the sexual event. Although a number of reasons are set out their meaning is opaque, including quite a lot of responses categorised as “Some other reason”. What you will not find, but which is a definite possibility, is that many respondents did not regard the activity as “abuse” at the time. Another sign of the times is that genuine abuse – physical and psychological – is passed over very briefly in the report.