The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) had some funny views about child sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s. They saw nothing to get worked up about. It was all hysteria on the part of those who had recently alleged there was a high-level paedophile ring operating in Britain. So it comes as no surprise that Brendan O’Neill, the Telegraph’s chief contrarian writes another blog in which he paints those concerned about child sex abuse as hysterical.
The headline for his blog sums it up “Is it really true that children are being sexually exploited in every ‘town, village and hamlet’ in England”? I’ve already written about the laager mentality of those who write for the Tory press but this title is mischief-making on O’Neill’s part. Reaching back into the recent past, O’Neill tell us,
In June, the deputy children’s commissioner Sue Berelowitz got tabloid headline writers hot under the collar when she declared: “There isn’t a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.”Now, in an effort to back up this Grimm-like claim about the horrors facing British children, Ms Berelowitz has issued a detailed report on the allegedly nationwide scourge of sexual exploitation, which is dramatically titled: ‘I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world’
This blog follows in the wake of ITV’s Exposure update last night and I suppose it was only inevitable that one or more right-wing writers would try to throw the public off the scent or chide them for being “hysterical”. Here’s some more,
The media are lapping it up. Some newspapers are slating Ms Berelowitz for downplaying the specific problem of Asian gangs abusing vulnerable white girls, but for the most part hacks seem pleased that there is yet another shock-horror claim about child sexual abuse for them to write and get angry about. The Daily Mail informs us that “some 16,500 youngsters”, or “the equivalent of 20 medium-sized secondary schools”, are at risk of sexual exploitation by gangs and groups. Which sounds genuinely scary.
What O’Neill seeks to do is shift the emphasis back to the notion that it’s only gangs of Muslim Asian men who groom teenage girls for sexual abuse. In the light of the recent revelations, we know that this isn’t true. O’Neill operates in an unofficial capacity to protect the establishment from possible exposure by penning poisonous pieces like this.
Living Marxism (LM) for which O’Neill and the rest of the RCP once wrote, carried occasional discussion pieces about paedophilia. Take this one from Mick Hume, written in May 1998.
As a father, I do not much care what happens to those individuals who are guilty of violent sex offences against children. Throw away the key, throw them down the stairs, whatever; I won’t lose any sleep over one less Sidney Cooke in the world.
But as a father with libertarian principles, I do care about the implications of the national panic about paedophiles that is now gripping Britain (and, it seems, Belgium, Italy, the USA etc).
So far, so good.
To me, the paedophile panic looks like the latest outburst of one of the most destructive sentiments of our age: ‘stranger danger’, the fear and mistrust of other people that has grown stronger as the old communal ties and collective solidarities weaken.
Stranger danger has helped to create a climate of insecurity where, recent surveys show, British children spend more time than ever before alone with their own TVs, CDs and PCs in the gilded cages of their bedrooms, worrying about what might happen to them to the point where some are already on Prozac. And worse is to come if we continue to fill our children with a fear of life.
The trouble is that while there is hysteria whipped up by the very media for which O’Neill and Hume write, there is a serious case to answer about the child sex abuse and its cover up by the authorities. There is nothing “hysterical” about wanting to get to the truth and wanting to obtain justice for the victims who, I might add, figure very little, if at all, in O’Neill’s articles or those of his fellow LMers.
The Moral Maze’s Claire Fox produced this rather typical piece in the same issue,
Dea Birkett thinks another reason she receives a lot of abuse on this issue is ‘because victims feel as though you are personally attacking them. I think the victims themselves become victims of this hysteria, which is no help to them. When you have Michelle Elliot on television with a victim sitting next to her I think that means being twice victimised – once by the abuse that she has suffered and twice by this parading of her victimisation. I get very cross when I watch those debate shows where the victim of abuse responds “I’ve been abused 135 times”. As if that was an argument. As if I’m going to say “no you weren’t abused” or “that’s good” rather than “that’s bad”. I didn’t say child abuse doesn’t exist; don’t parade a victim in front of me as an argument against me. I’m not talking about that. I am talking about our attitude towards offenders. But when the victim speaks, that’s it; it’s like a statement “There’s no debate now”‘.
But where is the victim in this piece? The victim here is transmogrified into a logical fallacy; the blunt instrument of a discursive hijack. Interestingly enough, Fox appears as a speaker at The Freedom Association’s (TFA) “Freedom Zone” Events.
This is another rationalization of paedophilia.
Paedophilia is not a new problem in Italy; the Roman Emperors were, after all, as famous for their favourite boys as for their harems of women. What has changed is the public reaction to it. In particular, unpopular politicians desperate to make links with their electorate are preying on popular fears about paedophiles in a bid to win new authority.
So because Roman Emperors indulged in under-age sex, this makes it acceptable? Has nothing really changed in two millennia? We no longer have the pater familias as head of the Roman family. So what is this writer trying to say?
Back to O’Neill,
Likewise, the definition of “child sexual exploitation” in Berelowitz’s report is dangerously amorphous. To most of us, sexual exploitation means something like prostitution, the effective selling of a person or persons to perverted or depraved men. Yet Berelowitz’s report defines “child sexual exploitation” as including not only situations where a young person “receives something (eg. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affections, gifts, money) as a result of them performing… sexual activities”, but also things like “being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones” and being involved in “exploitative relationships”. When you read through the report, it seems pretty clear that lots and lots of different experiences have been lumped together to reach this figure of 2,409 children who have been sexually exploited by gangs – not only real and terrible cases in which young people have been abused by gangs, like the one in Rochdale that was exposed a few months ago, but also boyfriends pressuring girlfriends to send them rude pictures, men in their twenties having less-than-admirable relationships with teenage girls, and so on.
Once again, O’Neill drags in Rochdale and attempts to racialize the debate and thereby deflect attention from the obvious fact that there has been a high level cover up. Pederasty cuts across ethnic and cultural boundaries but don’t expect O’Neill to acknowledge this. To make things worse, he says,
Who benefits from this conflation of so many different experiences and the inaccurate depiction of Britain as a hotbed of sexual depravity and perversion? No one, I would argue. Certainly not the majority of children, who are encouraged to believe that they aren’t safe in any “town, village or hamlet” in England. In fact, there is one beneficiary of this scaremongering: the Office of the Children’s Commissioner itself, which gets to launch a grand-sounding, self-serving moral mission to rescue the downtrodden and enslaved from the evil scourge of gang culture.
Who’s hysterical now, Brendan? By painting public concern as “scaremongering” is pretty damned dishonest and hysterical.
O’Neill is the editor of the LM network’s journal, Spiked! Here’s Tim Black railing against the child abuse laws,
First came the Sex Offenders Register in 1997. Currently listing around 29,000 people, from children who’ve groped other children, teachers who’ve had liaisons with students, to those who’ve sexually abused young children, it is an unwieldy, indiscriminate testament to the special place the child sex offender occupies in the contemporary imagination (1). Its effect has been profound. The sex offender has now been officially distinguished as a breed of criminal apart, one that requires constant monitoring and house visits. Unlike others who have broken the law, the sex offender is forever stained by his offence, a subject of endless control. For the public the paedophile has become an everyday nightmare; a faceless threat living amongst us, but not like us – the enemy within. Seen in this way, it’s not surprising that since the compilation of the Sex Offenders Register, there have been periodic attempts to have its listed names made publicly available.
One has to treat Spiked and the rest of LM with a great deal of suspicion. These were the people who argued that making a stand against apartheid was a”bourgeois” pastime. We should also remember that TFA supported the apartheid regime in South Africa and was behind the rebel cricket tour of that country.
On 15 October, O’Neill wrote more about “hysteria”. Here he draws some rather weak parallels between Savile and the Salem Witch Trials.
So as in Salem, Savile-obsessed modern Britain has its alleged conspiracy of witches, in the shape of Savile himself, described by the Guardian as ‘the devil who tries, and succeeds, in passing himself off as a saint’, alongside other named or hinted-at individuals. Together, these ‘blood-curdling child catchers’ (Guardian again) apparently ‘stalked children’s homes and hospitals… preying on the most vulnerable victims one could imagine’. They were part of a ‘child sex ring’, say the tabloids, which ‘lurked’ deep within ‘the corporation’ (the BBC). Savile was even worse than JK Rowling’s Voldemort, journalists tell us; he was a beast more wicked than could have been imagined by ‘even the most gifted weavers of children’s nightmares’.
This amounts to a tacit defence of Savile and those who allowed him access to vulnerable children. Elsewhere in the article O’Neill tries desperately to connect the recent child sex scandals with the American Red Scares of the 1950s. It’s intellectually dishonest. He closes his article with this blast,
There it is; this is where we get to the rotten heart of the Savile hysteria. The Savile story is really a vessel for the cultural elite’s perverted obsession with child abuse, and more importantly its belief that everyone is at it – that in every institution, ‘town, village and hamlet’, there are perverts and innocence despoilers, casually warping the next generation. In modern Britain, the figure of The Paedophile has become the means through which the misanthropes who rule over us express their profound fear and suspicion of adults in general, and also of communities and institutions – even of the institutions they hold dear, such is the self-destructive dynamic triggered by the unleashing of the Salem ethos. If Savile had never existed, the chattering classes would have had to invent him, so perfect an encapsulation is he of their degenerate view of the whole of adult society today.
My emphasis. Notice how he paints this as an “obsession” of the “cultural elite”, a phrase he often uses to describe anyone who disagrees with him and his fellow LMers. This is also his euphemism for “the Left”.
James Heartfield had this to say in a 1993 edition of LM,
In the seventies, before it was prohibited, the Paedophile Information Exchange used to argue that children were capable of making their own decisions about who they wanted to have sex with.
Notice how the author tells what the Paedophile Information Exchange said but doesn’t bother to challenge their view. It’s taken as axiomatic. Heartfield’s view is that children should never be believed. He wrote,
Children’s rights are not just a misnomer. If that were all they were it would not matter. But in fact the growing interest in children’s rights is positively dangerous. The extension of rights to children is not an increase in liberty, but a degradation of the meaning of individual rights.
My question to O’Neill and his LM buddies is this: why do you defend the indefensible? They would tell us that it’s because they’re “libertarians”. But can we take this to mean that they seek to dismiss allegations of paedophilia as trivial nonsense or is it the case that they’re actually doing the bidding of the elites that O’Neill rails against? It’s both.
It’s worth considering O’Neill’s position on the Leveson Inquiry. In February he wrote a piece titled “Why we’re launching The Counter Leveson Inquiry”. I shall quote a small portion.
This is about to change. spiked has been raising concerns about the likely consequences of the crusade against ‘unethical’ tabloids since before Leveson was set up, and we have continually criticised the Leveson process for creating a censorious climate in the here and now, even before its recommendations have been made. And now we plan to gather together our arguments, and intensify them, in a Counter-Leveson Inquiry which will put the case against Leveson, against judges and police getting to tell the press what its ethics should be, and against any stricture whatsoever on the right of the press, whether highbrow or low-rent, to investigate and publish what it sees fit.
Why? Not because we hold a candle for tabloid newspapers, but because we carry a torch for press freedom, because we believe that Milton’s rallying cry is as fitting today as it was in 1644: ‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
O’Neill also writes for The Australian, a Murdoch paper. Go figure.
In the 1980s I suspected that the RCP was a state-sponsored front to discredit the Left. It seems that I was, at least, partly right. LM’s successors work tirelessly on behalf of the state, its institutions and the corporations that benefit from state largesse. Its talk of liberty rings hollow when one realizes exactly how close it is to state and corporate power. Their strange brand of libertarianism blinds them to the damage done to those who have been victims of pederasty. They talk of freedom but what about the right of children to enjoy freedom from harm and exploitation? It seems eerily absent from their discourse.
I found this blog from George Monbiot that was written in 1998. Here’s an extract.
As you wade through back issues of Living Marxism, you can’t help but conclude that the magazine’s title is a poor guide to its contents. LM contains little that would be recognised by other Marxists or, for that matter, by leftists of any description. On one issue after another, there’s a staggering congruence between LM’s agenda and that of the far-right Libertarian Alliance. The two organisations take identical positions, for example, on gun control (it is a misconceived attack on human liberty), child pornography (legal restraint is simply a Trojan horse for the wider censorship of the Internet), alcohol (its dangers have been exaggerated by a new breed of “puritan”), the British National Party (it’s unfair to associate it with the murder of Stephen Lawrence; its activities and publications should not be restricted), the Anti-Nazi League (it is undemocratic and irrelevant), tribal people (celebrating their lives offends humanity’s potential to better itself; the Yanomami Indians are not to be envied but pitied) animal rights (they don’t have any), and global warming (it’s a good thing).
O’Neill often refers to himself as a “Marxist”. Some Marxist.
N.B. O’Neill has closed the comments thread to avoid a cyber pasting.