Dear Sarah Champion,
Let me salute your dedication to the cause of equality for women and children. Bravo. You’ve done some excellent work. However, your use of the word ‘culture’ is deeply problematic and indicative of the kind of ignorance I see being displayed by the far-right, who seem to believe that culture is determined by skin colour. I realise that, as a Psychology undergraduate at Sheffield University, you were unlikely to have encountered the work of sociologist, Raymond Williams – especially his seminal book, Keywords. Let me enlighten you.
Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language
Williams, 1988: 87
The determinism behind your use of the word suggests to the gullible and the terminally bigoted that there is a unique culture of paedophilia among men of Pakistani origin. There isn’t. Did it ever occur to you that is the kind of language that plays into the hands of the far-right? I doubt it. You’ve written articles on this subject for The S*n, a paper that lied about the Hillsborough Disaster and has spent the past 40 years attacking the party of which you are purportedly a member. Today, you’ve given an interview to another Murdoch paper, The Times, which takes a similar line to your party. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you’re not really a person of the left and, given your complaints about the left in the Times, perhaps it’s time to reassess your political position? Just a thought.
Let’s return to the issue of paedophilia and culture. What’s interesting is how quick you were to claim that there is a culture of paedophilia, which is perhaps unique to Muslim men or men of Pakistani origin. What’s revealing about these statements is that they ignore the white male paedophile grooming gangs or lone offenders, whose ‘culture’ is never mentioned. Take Jimmy Savile, for instance, whose depravity was frequently stated but whose ‘culture’ was never once mentioned. Let’s be clear here: Savile did not act alone. The VIP paedophile gang continues to operate in plain sight. Their ‘culture’ is never once referred to.
The far-right, to whom you have unwittingly handed a stick with which to beat your party, are also frequently in court charged with child sex offences. Again, their ‘culture’ isn’t once mentioned. For your information, the Malatesta blog has regular updates on far-right sex offenders. I would suggest you at least take some time to look at it.
Channel 4’s Fact Check has also questioned your statement, which I shall quote here.
“Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.
Britain has a problem with paedophiles of all backgrounds. The VIP paedophiles are most likely white – just like you.
Channel’s Fact Check concludes:
Self-evidently, sexual abuse of children and young people by groups of men – including Asian men – happens in the UK.
According to the best available data, Asian men make up 75 per cent of “Type 1” group abusers, who target children and young women because they are vulnerable.
But white men make up 100 per cent of recorded “Type 2” group abusers, who target children because of a longstanding paedophilic interest.
From the information available, we know that actual number of group abusers who are Asian is around three times higher than the number of group abusers who are white.
However, it’s worth remembering that child sexual abuse by lone offenders is more common than abuse by groups. What we don’t know is how many of those lone offenders are white or Asian. We should be wary of drawing too many conclusions.
May I draw your attention to the final paragraph?
In 2014, a grooming gang of white men in Sydenham, London were gaoled for child sex offences. They were all members of the local CofE church. There was no mention of their ‘culture’. Interestingly, the story was ignored by the national press but published in the local press. Even the far-right ignored it, but that’s no surprise: they don’t want to draw attention to their own sex offenders. Here’s a quote from the article.
Five members of a Sydenham paedophile ring who systematically abused boys from a church in the 1970s and 1980s have finally been jailed.
Four young members of St Bartholomew’s Church, aged between eight and 16, met their abusers after being introduced by choirmaster Tony Brockhurst.
Maybe the story was ignored because the victims were boys (there seems to be a blind spot where the abuse of boys is concerned – especially among the far-right).
A few weeks ago, I sent you a couple of links on Twitter to a couple of books by Pierre Bourdieu. One of those books was Language and Symbolic Power (2011). Did you get a chance to even look at the first page? I doubt it. Language isn’t uttered innocently. Ferdinand de Saussure, the ‘father’ of linguistics said that “language is a system of signs”. This tells us that the words we use open a window into our unconscious world. Bourdieu claims:
“Utterances receive their value (and their sense) only in relation to a market, characterized by a particular price formation. The value of the utterance depends on the relation of power that is concretely established between the speaker’s linguistic competences, understood both as their capacity for production and as their capacity for appropriation and appreciation.”
Bourdieu (2011: 67)
Power is expressed through language. Indeed, as an MP, your use of words carry more weight than those of the pub bore. Why? Because you’re in a position of relative authority. That means you have a duty to choose your words carefully. It is obvious, that such a consideration is far from the front of your mind and may not even be located at the back of it.
So, paedophilia is not specific to one culture or another and it is not confined to skin colour or religion. Child sexual abuse is an abuse of power. Nothing more, nothing less. However, it is perfectly acceptable to claim there are paedophile subcultures, for these things do exist.
Finally, the role of the local police in the Rotherham scandal has rarely been questioned. When girls went to the police with their complaints, they weren’t taken seriously. You need to ask yourself some questions: is that because the police were colluding with the grooming gang, or was it the case that they don’t take the complaints of working class girls seriously? This is from The Guardian,
The agreed facts show, at best, an alarming level of police indifference in relation to these vulnerable children, several of whom had drug and alcohol problems and who were from broken homes.
One of the officers named in the trial, Kenneth Dawes, had a string of misconduct offences recorded against him. He is still on the force, although suspended pending further investigations following the allegations by two of the women in the trial. He denies any wrongdoing.
You’ll notice that I didn’t rely on The S*n or any of the Murdoch papers, nor did I make use of anything from The Express or The Daily Mail.
The Sheffield Star reported last December that police officers stood accused of sexually abusing children in Rotherham. I find it strange that you haven’t once mentioned that or their ‘culture’.
Stephen Watson disclosed this week that a number of police officers are the subject of probes by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into allegations that they abused children in Rotherham. The exact number has not been disclosed, but Chief Con Watson made the admission during a discussion about the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, which was laid bare in an independent report which found that 1,400 children were abused by men of largely Pakistani heritage while those in authority failed to act. Professor Alexis Jay’s damning report, published in 2014, found that police ‘treated victims with contempt’ and failed to investigate while Rotherham council failed to protect vulnerable children.
South Yorkshire Police have a history of criminal misdeeds from the Miners’ Strike to Hillsborough and now this. I suspect the reason the police haven’t been mentioned is because they’re white, and that doesn’t make for the kind of sensationalist headlines the gullible public and the far-right so desperately crave.
Have a think about those things, though I suspect I won’t be hearing from you.
Bourdieu, P. (2011). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press
Williams, Raymond (1988). Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana