The police interviewed a man in prison who had been convicted of sexually abusing children. He told them that the bodies of several murdered boys had been buried in a car park. The police immediately dug the car park up, but found only a few animal bones. The same man then told the police that there were in circulation “snuff’ videos, showing children being sexually molested and then murdered on camera. The police issued this story to the press, who gobbled it up and spewed it out as the great paedophile scandal (“Snuff Video Fear for 20 Kids” — Star, 28 Jul).
It allowed the nation’s collective guilt about its generally appalling record of child abuse to be focused on a small number of pathetic inadequates who cannot make relationships with adults and so turn to children for gratification.
Hysteria mounted as “satanic sacrifices” and “black magic rituals” were paraded for the edification of a prurient public (“Sara’s Rape Hell in Satan’s Coven” — News of the World, 5 Aug). The outrage was genuine, but there was also a disturbing emphasis on the details of the supposed crimes. The paedophiles’ fantasies were being elaborated and almost drooled over by the tabloids.
Who were these stories supposed to be for? And what was their purpose? After all, there was not one iota of evidence that any of it was true. Nobody who could be trusted had ever seen any of these supposed “snuff’ videos, no bodies of children had been found, no corroborated evidence of “black magic” or “satanistic” rituals could be produced. And yet day after day the frenzy continued. A correspondent to The Independent (10 Aug) said: “Well publicised allegations… can easily lead to copycat fantasies by severely disturbed people. In the US there was a spate of similar allegations after the publication of the book Michelle Remembers where there had been none before.”
This was supported by an investigation in The Independent on Sunday (12 Aug) which concluded “There have been police investigations across the United States, in Canada, the Netherlands and now in Britain. They have produced no evidence. No bodies, no bones, no covens, no underground tunnels, no animal carcasses, no blood stains. Nothing.”
It seems that mass hysteria was at work and the papers were happy to fuel it. But how many “carbon copy” crimes will follow? Must newspapers themselves shoulder some of the blame if crazy people try to copy the obscene fantasies in real life?
If you are fond of conspiracy theories, there were plenty about. Simon Harris in The Pink Paper (11 Aug) thought the increasingly wild “paedophile” stories might be a plot by the police to distract attention from and discredit successful campaigns being waged against them by OutRage and other gay groups. If that doesn’t grab your fancy, what about this from Frederic Lamond in The Independent (10 Aug): “There is considerable evidence of an orchestrated and well-funded campaign to use these allegations of Satanic child abuse to create a climate of prejudice against anyone interested in any branch of the occult or alternative religion.”
Then, inevitably, comes the blurring of the lines between paedophilia and homosexuality. (“Gay sex pervert gets school job” — Sunday Mirror, 5 Aug). There has always been a suspicion in the popular mind that gay men can’t be trusted with youngsters. It could not have been more clearly stated than in this letter to the editor of The Ealing Gazette (21 July): “A recent radio chat-show brought in an expert who succinctly defined paedophilia as ‘an inborn sexual orientation’. This seems to class homosexuals and paedophiles together.”
Whenever there is a sexual motive for the murder of a boy by a man, reference is almost always made to his sexuality (remember The Sun’s disgusting editorial trying to blame the whole gay community for the murder of 14-year-old Stuart Gough?) But if a man murders a young girl (a very much more frequent occurrence) the sexuality of the offender is never mentioned.
Why is the reaction so much more hysterical when the victim is a boy? Indeed, The Star included pictures of eight murdered or missing children in its 28 July issue — all of them boys. What about the hundreds of missing girls? Is it because — as feminists would say —girls are seen as dispensable in our society? Or is it because straight men know that they have it within them to abuse — a fact that they are unwilling to face? Let’s not forget that the sexy schoolgirl is still a popular image in straight soft porn.
The Star’s insistence that boys were murdered in “homosexual orgies” is, I suppose, technically correct. But what about the case of lorry driver Reginald Harris (Guardian, 9 Aug) who seduced two young sisters aged 14 and 15? Did anybody refer to him as a “straight child abuser”?
The News of the World went too far in suggesting that Gay Times is “the paedophiles Bible” (5 Aug), because an innocently worded advertisement in the classifieds had led them to a man dealing in pornographic videos. Gay Times makes it clear in each edition that it does not carry advertising for unclassified videos, and nor did it on that occasion.
On page 39 of the same issue of The News of the World appeared an advertisement reading: “28 Adult Sex Video Films only 42p Each — these titles are for uninhibited broad-minded adults only — guaranteed to wet (sic) the strongest palate.”
We must be careful that the great paedophile outrage does not land on our doorstep. There are far more straight molesters than gay, yet the mud is sticking to you and me.
And even lesbians are child abusers. Or so you’d imagine if you read a headline in The Sun (11 Aug): “Boys Lose Home As Mum Runs Away with Lesbian”. These innocent, helpless little kiddies are aged — wait for it — 18 and 16 (a fact you don’t discover until halfway through the article). “Poor little Gary” is old enough to marry, vote, go to war, get a mortgage, stand for Parliament. How old do you have to be before you’re regarded as an adult? That seems to be at the discretion — and convenience — of those masters of twisted fact, Sun sub-editors.
I didn’t think the editor of The Star, Brian Hitchen, could still shock me. After all, he has, in his time, been responsible for printing some of the most disgusting copy ever to appear in Britain’s national press. But he really scraped the bottom of the barrel on 31 July, when writing about Princess Diana’s concern for those people living with Aids. “Whoever plans her schedules should cut out the endless handshaking with unstable dope addicts and the time spent listening to tales of woe from homosexuals whose promiscuity has made them HIV positive. There is nothing exotic about sticking hypodermic needles in yourself, and there’s no romance in buggery.”
He then re-stated the abhorrent two-tier system of sympathy: “I feel, desperately, achingly, angrily sorry for haemophiliacs — many of them children who have contracted Aids through transfusions of infected blood. Of course Princess Diana should continue to visit and comfort them. But as to the rest of them — forget it!”
He tells us that homosexuals need not complain that he is heartless. He assures us he isn’t.
Like so many others floating about in the cesspit of journalism, Brian Hitchen is not only heartless, he is a true misanthrope —incapable of sympathy or compassion for anyone or anything outside his own narrow experience. His opinions are an affront to civilised thought.
If you are a Star reader, just remember what your daily 22p goes to support.
Roger Screwball (sorry, that should be Roger Scruton) is another homophobic nuisance who recently got as good as he gives. In a review of Professor Scrotum’s latest book of essays “The Philosopher on Dover Beach” (Independent, 4 Aug), Tom Honderich called the bluff of Mrs Thatcher’s favourite philosopher. “It would be agreeable to be light-hearted about this wretched stuff,” writes Mr Honderich, “… The dark fact of the matter, however, is that the new doctrine of Dover Beach is akin to the old ideology of the authoritarian right, which thing in turn is neither to be confused with Fascism nor disconnected from it.”
Scruton’s well-known detestation of homosexuals gets an airing in the book, and a drubbing from the reviewer: “Consider a smaller matter, homosexuality, which is said to be an issue of the first importance at the present time. It is one thing to oppose proselytising homosexuals in the schools. It is another thing to speak of love-making between members of the same sex as an animal performance which somehow degrades the sacrament of heterosexual sex, and is such that we must instil in our children a revulsion for homosexuals.”
I wonder if the publishers of Scruton’s rantings are going to include quotes from this review on the cover of any paperback edition they are silly enough to contemplate. I hope so, for it might read: “The general level of argument is dragged low by passion and the desire for attention”; “a shuffle of tedious literary metaphors”; “inane”; “this brazen piece of self-advertising nonsense”. Well, Carcanet Publishers, what do you think?
The right-wing propaganda sheets which pose as newspapers were quick to claim the Rt Rev George Carey, next Archbishop of Cant, as one of their own. Attempting to set the agenda for him, The Sunday Express (29 Jul) wrote: “he promises to act against vicars who practise homosexuality. He condemns sex outside marriage. And he spells out precisely where he stands on abortion.”
The Sun (30 Jul) said: “For a start, he has ranged himself against the ordination of practising homosexuals. This is entirely in line with the needs and wishes of the people. If gay men and women want to take orders, they should start their own church.”
Meanwhile George Gale (Daily Mail, 27 Jul), conveniently forgetting his own self-confessed atheism, wrote: “It is going to take a bit of getting used to having an archbishop who actually believes in traditional Christianity, its faith and its morals.” This is more than can be said for Mr Gale himself!
As if to confirm all this apparent hostility The Independent (28 Jul) headlined: “Carey sets out tough line on homosexuality”.
However, The Guardian (30 Jul) told us that Dr Carey denied that he “intended to ban practising homosexuals” and quoted him as saying: “You can’t give blanket judgements. The proper way for an archbishop or bishop is not to pontificate from on high, but to get close to people and talk about it.”
In The Church Times (3 Aug), Rev Philip Crowe, Principal of Salisbury and Wells Theological College and “a friend of long-standing” was quoted as saying: “There is no question of witch hunts. I know for a fact that he isn’t against homosexuals, and much of the information being circulated is inaccurate.”
In a letter to The Independent (30 Jul), Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said: “Dr Carey has a lot of damage to undo already. I wish he had started off on a more conciliatory note. He could start by apologising and looking at the facts.”
Don’t be too hard on the Archbishop-to-be. I’m sure he’s learned a salutary lesson from his first brush with the press — if he doesn’t watch it, they’ll be running the whole shebang for him. Nice and gently — something on the lines of Saddam’s Iraq.
According to The Plymouth Evening Herald (27 Jul) a “West Country clergyman” by the name of Father Bryan Storey, said that the gay community was a “Mafia-style bullying fraternity” and that “There will be blood on the streets of the South West eventually as people are fed up with the pernicious and nauseating nonsense that the gay community shove down our throats daily.”
Fr Storey is Catholic leader of the Tintagel-based “International Crusade for Moral Reform” (Jesus-in-Jackboots Division, presumably).
Like so many of these ultra-right groups that pervert the true meaning of religion for political ends, their organisation loves to rant and rave hysterically. Far from trying to silence them, however, we should encourage them to continue with their public utterances. Any reasonable person listening to the crazy comments of the likes of Storey would soon realise that it isn’t gays who will cause the blood to flow in the streets, but the Church of Our Father the Loony of Tintagel.
Last February, Sir John Junor unwisely gave an interview to The Independent on Sunday, which was headlined “There are no gays in Auchtermuchty.” He must rue the day he ever agreed to it, because it has haunted him ever since. Latest appearance of the spectre is in Punch (10 Aug). Writer Mike Conway (“a wee man from Kirkcudbrightshire”) made the pilgrimage to Auchtermuchty to find out — among other things — whether Junor’s contention that there are no gays there is true.
“‘Of course there are’, said the librarian (Caroline John), ‘I wrote to The Independent on Sunday complaining about that headline’ said the incomer (Caroline Fladmark), ‘I’ve just been speaking to a gay man. He lives down the road with his boyfriend,’ said the 67-year-old housewife. ‘Oh, he’s popular. He sometimes jokingly shouts Hello gorgeous on the street’, said the policeman. I was forced down the road to meet him. And very charming he was too.”
So, we know Sir John’s opinion of Auchtermuchty as some idealised, racially pure, homo-free Thatcherite paradise, but what do the residents think of Sir John? “Well, he can be funny and he gives the town some publicity,” said the librarian, “but… well… he’s a ghastly old bigot and I think he’s getting worse.”