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Moral panic, Think of the Children, sneaks, skunks, and poets - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Moral panic, Think of the Children, sneaks, skunks, and poets

It has been some years now since I had occasion to defriend someone: an arrant liar who simply could not cease misrepresenting and indeed, if I could be arsed to instruct my man of business, libelling me.

It is not something I at all care to do; and – although the converse is by no means true, which is precisely what one should expect, really, of the Oh-So-Tolerant – I have never defriended anyone over a political disagreement, however profound. Presence on my friendslist is not endorsement of anything save the person’s capacity to be kindly or interesting or gifted as a writer or artist (and of course not infrequently all three at once).

However, I am now compelled to drop a not-unskilled poet and photographer. As GKC had Fr Brown once say of a villain, many sneaks and skunks in history have also been poets, and contrariwise.

I am old enough to remember the moral panics of the 1980s in the UK and in the US: prosecutors and policemen acting like so many Witchfinders-General, persuaded beyond reason that covens, Satanic rings, ritual sacrifices, and networks of child-minding pædos were absolutely everywhere. They believed in such utter shit as ‘recovered memories’ and that rot. And miscarriages of justice promptly ensued precisely as one should expect.

The advent of the Internet, and further decays in the capacity for critical thinking, has made this sort of thing much worse. We are on the verge of seeing pædiatricians again targeted by oiks incapable of distinguishing between words with Latinate derivations. Let me be clear: it seems inarguable that Jimmy Savile, that vile man, was a vicious and contemptible career criminal, a pædophile battening upon the idolatry of fools and ensconced in the heart of the BBC. But that is as far as we can yet go. If, say, any politicians, policemen, market gardeners, or indeed former clergy in the diocese of Chichester, should be proven in a sound, secure, and not unsafe conviction to have committed crimes against children, they should be punished with maximum legal severities, and I shall, as commonly, complain that we no longer flog and hang.

But mark this and mark this well. These are matters for the CPS (late DPP) and police, and the Courts.

The Common Law has always been based upon what was only comparatively recently labelled the presumption of innocence, or, in the formulation of Sir William Garrow KC, that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. That it long failed to live up to that principle and had difficulty in enunciating it in no way renders the principle false, any more than the fatal chippings-away at that principle by contemptible recent governments – vide the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003 – vitiates the principle: these treacheries merely condemn the politicians.

As Lord Chancellor, Lord Sankey, in giving judgment in Woolmington v DPP [1935] AC 462, [1935] UKHL 1 (23 May 1935), had the right of it:

Juries are always told that, if conviction there is to be, the prosecution must prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. This statement cannot mean that in order to be acquitted the prisoner must ‘satisfy’ the jury. Throughout the web of the English criminal law one golden thread is always to be seen – that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the prisoner’s guilt…. If, at the end of and on the whole of the case, there is a reasonable doubt, created by the evidence given by either the prosecution or the prisoner ... the prosecution has not made out the case and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal. No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained.

The mob – including persons on LJ – have, as mobs will, disregarded this principle. The usual Think of the Children cry has been raised: then let us do so. It is for us to hand to them a system of law and ordered liberty; that is their best defence against predator and mob alike. If the administration of justice is corrupted, purge it; but do not abandon its principles in a heat of passionate fury. Lord McAlpine was happily libelled – and some, including my now-ex-flister, were not only happy to libel him, but yet insist, even after the withdrawal of the accusation by the witness, that there is smoke there, and that there must be fire – in no small part because of partisan political animus. I suppose the refusal to extend to Peter Ball – who, again, if duly convicted in a sound judgment, wants to be flogged and hanged, and failing that, banged up in as unpleasant a place as possible for as long as possible – the refusal to extend to him the presumption of innocence proceeds in no few quarters from odium theologicum. (I am not inclined to take advice on holiness or intellectual rigour from anyone who has left the C of E for the steaming pile of shit and fakelore that is ‘paganism’: such persons are intellectual dung-beetles. And – let me anticipate the usual fallacy in argument – this is not because I ‘feel threatened’ by other beliefs, holders of which, so long as they comport themselves properly, I am happy to read and befriend; a half-wit with a toy sword is not a threat to, say, a major in the Gunners, any more than a ‘pagan’ is a threat to my beliefs, which I hold not out of sentiment but rather from right reason.) If the man is guilty, let him be punished to the utmost extent of the law: but let him first be adjudged guilty, properly, until when he is to be presumed innocent. Nor does it butter any parsnips to rally the mob and in the next breath assert that you’re ‘sorry if an innocent man got fingered’ and your ‘main concern is that this foul-up over Lord [McAlpine] doesn’t prejudice the investigation of the crimes committed…. If there are famous people involved I’d rather their names came out in the course of a proper forensic investigation and not because they’re being particularly targeted. We’ve been burned once in a truffle hunt’ – ‘we’? – ‘after celebrity abusers, let’s not make the same mistake twice’: least of all when you then proceed to relish the arrest of Peter Ball. Such pretended concerns are simply false as measured against contrary actions: the sort of falsehoods a man first tells himself, and, once persuaded to them, then asserts publicly, credulously believing them.

This is how Chris Jeffries got fingered – and tried in the press – for the murder of Joanna Yeates … the real murderer being poles apart from Jeffries when the whole mob mentality went Bristols-up. This sort of thing injures the innocent and does nothing for the victim. And this is how Colin Stagg got fingered – and tried in the press, and then wrongfully convicted – for the murder of Rachel Nickell … thereby leaving the real murderer, Robert Napper, free to kill again. This sort of thing injures the innocent, does nothing for the victim, and may allow the real criminal to commit further crimes.

Succumbing to the temptation of moral panic, even contributing to the febrile atmosphere of mob justice: these I could perhaps forgive to the extent of condemning them and seeing if due amendment were made.

But not this, which is where the final break comes. ‘I don’t know where pædophilia comes from and I may be barking up entirely the wrong tree but it occurs to me that if you place young males of the ruling class in schools where it’s covertly (or not so covertly) accepted that bigger boys take smaller boys as their bitches you shouldn’t be entirely surprised if some of them carry this behaviour over into adult life.

Let me leave aside the appalling ignorance of that – both parts: the ‘I don’t know and I may be wrong’ – in that case, keep your damned gob shut – and the grotesque idea, drawn from distorted notions and half-remembered history, of what life is like in the public schools – and consider where it leads. I’ll tell you where it leads. It leads to a blurring of the line, a solidified insinuation, an overt conflation – by a would-be whipper-up of mobs – of homosexuality with pædophilia. (And Angus Stickler, the ultimate source of the latest witch-hunt, has form in whipping mobs into moral panic and directing it and them against minorities.) Pædophilia is not a sexual orientation, straight or gay; it is a pathological defect. Full fucking stop. To inject into an atmosphere of hysteria and moral panic this ‘just sayin’’, allegedly innocent wonderment and speculation, linking homosexuality to pædophilia, is contemptible, it is dangerous, it has every prospecting of exciting a mob … in fact, it’s precisely what I’d expect of a squishy Lefty with a chip on each shoulder about ‘the Establishment’ and ‘the toffs’, and a disposition to conspiracy theories. After this, the next step usually involves Jews and Freemasons.

Right, then. No amount of versification, no skill with words, no well-framed snaps of rural scenes, nothing whatever justifies one in remaining on civil or indeed civilised terms with a man, if you can call him that, capable of this sort of thing. The old canard that homosexuals and pædophiles are in some sort two of a kind deserves to be treated, and those espousing it, let alone pushing it in the current atmosphere, deserve to be treated, as little different in kind and in degree from the assertion of, and those asserting, the blood-libel against Jewry, or the claim that persons of African descent are lurking in wait for the chance to ravish white women.

My former-f’lister I leave to public execration and the judgment of the God in whom he has ceased to believe. To the rest of you: the presumption of innocence for the living is absolute; so also is the utter delinking of homosexual orientation and pædophilia. Should you – which I find in almost every case unimaginable – contravene in these regards, you do so at your peril. I trust I am understood.

ETA: Press of business is delaying my replies to comments; I am unscreening screened comments on a regular rota. To those writing in support, I am not, I assure you, without a sense of obligation, and shall in time reply.
16 comments or Leave a comment
ashiiblack From: ashiiblack Date: November 14th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well said.
poliphilo From: poliphilo Date: November 14th, 2012 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for the "not unskilled."
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 14th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

I try to be just.

Credit where due.
shezan From: shezan Date: November 14th, 2012 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Obvious advantage of such asinine stupidity - it gives us the opportunity to enjoy such a superb rant.

Also, I would have thought the last thing a young man fresh out of boarding school and interested in furthering the study of his own sex (or indeed the other) would be - gawds - more adolescents. Maturity looks so much more attractive.

Edited at 2012-11-14 06:35 pm (UTC)
craftyailz From: craftyailz Date: November 14th, 2012 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is the fact that the Bishop had already been done for Gross Indecency, accepted a caution and lost a job because of it.

He was also a public schoolboy - at Lancing College which your late lj friend may know a bit about as he was a boarder there too
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 14th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

I commend your loyalty.

I shan’t even suggest it wants a better object. But please understand a few things. There are sub judice rules for a reason. And the presumption of innocence is an absolute, one of the wards upon our liberties.

It’s quite immaterial to me where Tony was at school – so long as it wasn’t Eton; there are any number of Old Harrovians and all manner of Wykehamists who’ve a prodigal’s quarrel with the Establishment and chips enough on each shoulder to make kirk or mill, to put it in guid Scots. Nor am I taking up the cudgels in behalf of any prelate – it’s regrettable in fact that that issue came up after the offending post, and wanted to be dealt with – save insofar as I insist for any bishop as much as for any old lag that new charges, or newly formulated ones, nevertheless leave an accused (and I don’t know that Peter Ball has yet been charged, actually) presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The point is quite simple, and perfectly inarguable – which is as well, as I’ve much work to do and little time to repeat myself, although I shall try and unscreen comments as they come in lest anyone claim he is being stifled: for a man who has apparently regarded himself as specially virtuous for leading and inciting an internet libel, to then go on and suggest that schoolboy homosexuality, whether orientational or situational, is in any way linked to pædophilia, is morally equivalent to a BNP thug’s – even if the thug read Law at Cambridge, eh, Mr Griffin – pleading the bris in aid of the blood libel. That is simply all there is to it, and there is no palliating it.
craftyailz From: craftyailz Date: November 15th, 2012 08:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I commend your loyalty.

You misunderstand your lj friend, in part, his beef is - always - abuse of power, and suspicion of the powerful. Rich over poor, adult over child, older boy, younger boy. Abuse, in any form is a show of power. I don't agree with all of his views, and I think it bad that McAlpine was named, but he has power enough to sort it out, suing etc., if it happened to some guy on a council estate, he wouldn;t
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 15th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

My dear lady:

I accept yr statement of his motives; and what follows? What follows is that he all the more ought never to have selected a minority historically and indeed currently, in some countries, subject to violent persecution, and suggested that we were or are linked, as he linked us, to pædophilia. I repeat: it is morally equivalent to claiming that a concern for the poor justifies insinuations that their poverty is the fault of 'an international cabal of rich Jews'.
matilda36 From: matilda36 Date: November 14th, 2012 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Word. I read the thread at the source and it's utter bullshit. There are so many things that could be said on the subject but I think you have captured the most important: there is no link between homosexuality and paedophilia and this way of thinking can only lead to a witchunt of the worse kind.
inamac From: inamac Date: November 14th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well said. And I hadn't realised that Rumpole's infamous 'Golden Thread' speech had a real life origin.

This is what happens when you give 'the man on the Clapham omnibus' internet access.
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: November 14th, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
You've nothing to fear from these quarters as I've absolutely no idea what you are on about. However, as a man who lived through the witch hunts and gay purges in the American military during the late 70s and early 80s I can tell you I've no patience for it. This kind of behaviour need always be assiduously stamped out the minute it begins and be denounced immediately for what it is. Too many are harmed by such behaviour and apologies rarely ever due to make its victims whole again. Amazing that those who would "enforce" the prohibitions of Leviticus so stridently do so while ignoring Exodus so utterly.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: November 14th, 2012 08:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know... adult life.

There are those who carried a tendency for torturing and brutalising the young and powerless forward into their adult lives. Then there are those who, possibly through the agency of being monastically confined with their own gender at a time of maximal hormonal tension, discovered the true nature of their sexuality.

They are very largely distinct groups, and any overlap is an accident of chance. Anyone who automatically conflates the two in their entirety is, as you so rightly state, contemptible.

Speaking of contemptibility, the Government of the Large Southern Dominion has just announced a Royal Commission into institutional crimes of abuse against children. There are unofficial suggestions that the particular focus of this Commission could be the Roman Catholic Church, of which the current Leader of the Opposition in that Dominion is openly a member of the Congregation and also openly known to be a former aspirant to its Priesthood. The inferences that might be drawn are obvious - as obvious as they are odious. I cannot help but think that this is the prelude to the most disgusting display of personal libel ever seen in Commonwealth electoral politics.

Edited at 2012-11-14 08:31 pm (UTC)
muuranker From: muuranker Date: November 14th, 2012 09:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I am really sorry that you have had to loose* the link with someone whose kindly or interesting thoughts, or whose gifted writings or arts, you prized.

I am rather incomprehensible (especially to myself) at the moment as to where I stand on the dead/alive divide on innocence. The dead cannot be convicted**, but the victims are, nonetheless, and clearly, victims. Death moves us from being answerable to our victims***, and to (depending on your belief) answerable to historians, to God, or to no-one.

* bother my spelling - I mean 'let loose of' not 'loose/can't find in my handbag'

** as with presumption of innocence, this is not true for all jurisdiction at all times

*** I am speaking of any crime/victim here - the continuum from snapping/guilt tripping at the bus driver who pointed out that pressing the bell 2 seconds earlier would have helped him and made a smoother journey for my fellow passengers to the worst crime against humanity imaginable.

tazlet From: tazlet Date: November 14th, 2012 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Speaking as the child of a gay parent, your former f'lister, and all his f'list unto the f'lnth generation, fell out of the stupid tree and hit every branch.
From: optasia Date: November 15th, 2012 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)

I can see why you are upset!

Such an eloquent rant Wemyss. Thank you! It all needed to be said.

My sister was one of those caught up in the "recovered memories" thing back in the 80's. She is still batshit crazy and I avoid her like the plague. She to this day is very quick to fling about false accusations based on no evidence.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: November 15th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been alarmed by the numerous people I have heard saying that "we should have known" Jimmy Saville was a paedophile because he looked weird - which is nonsense, and that sort of thinking is the reason poor Mr Jeffries suffered the way he did. What should have been done, of course, was a proper investigation into the girls' complaints at the time, but I hardly need say that.

I hope that the investigation of Peter Ball establishes the truth; that, it seems to me, is just about all that can be said on the matter at this stage, though I don't suppose that will stop some people.
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