Three days after Mark Williams-Thomas outed Rolf Harris via Twitter as the ‘fourth man’ in the Operation Yewtree investigation and the mainstream media is still playing dumb – or maybe smart: perhaps in the aftermath of the Leveson enquiry and an ill-fated Newsnight documentary, they’re simply on their best behaviour. Alternatively, Harris has taken out an injunction, strongly suggested by newspaper reports’ familiar wording ‘cannot be named for legal reasons’. But how many well-known Australian, children’s television presenters in their 80s, with waterfront property in Berkshire (currently besieged by camera crews from major press corporations) can there be?
A confidante of Harris‘ is quoted by media sources as saying
“Quite frankly I think police should be ashamed of what they are doing … Is everyone who has ever worked with that man Savile going to be hauled in? He is being tainted with guilt by association.”
Actually this is misleading, since police sources have clarified Harris‘ questioning falls within the third, ‘others’ sub-category of Yewtree and is thus unconnected to Savile. Also, and contrary to a large percentage of Tweets claiming that Harris has been arrested, he was in fact merely questioned and subsequently released without charge.
Exponents of the MSM and public users of social media alike, love to trumpet British justices’ lofty maxim of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – much as I and others in the catering profession glibly adhere to the fanciful notion that ‘the customer is always right’ – and many are doing so in this case. It is a conceit, however – one that only the truly naïve would take at literal, face-value – as evidenced by the case of MP Cyril Smith which – eventually, and posthumously – made national headlines, though, as with Savile, never resulted in formal criminal charges.
A strong Prima Facie case – including a confession from Smith himself – was first presented by Greater Manchester Police to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 1970. It was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who nixed it. This also happened on two further occasions in 1998 and 1999. Whilst not necessarily conclusive evidence of the widespread conspiracy mooted by the likes of David Icke (who, as one of the few long-term campaigners outside of the Women’s Movement to have worked to expose institutionalized sexual misconduct and violence, forever pissed on his own credibility chips by tainting potentially believable stories of corruption with fairy stories involving Satanism, lizards and alien blood-lines) it certainly proves that as far back as the ’60s, authorities were colluding to suppress knowledge of serious criminal activities perpetrated by the ‘great and the good’ in public life. This will inevitably lead to increased public and press speculation regarding knowledge and suspicion of paedophile activity within the care system, Whitehall and even the DPP itself. Also, as Williams- Thomas Tweeted later, conversing about the broader issue of institutionalized sex-abuse :
‘We can learn a lot from the past -but only if we want to.#Savile has changed a climate & given confidence for many to report’.
This in a nutshell demonstrates why, in spite of (in my opinion, much-exaggerated) fears of a witch-hunt, it is imperative that every case is properly investigated, including, where possible, the interviewing of suspects and other witnesses. In a statement regarding the original complaint against Smith in 1970, Nazir Afzal (Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS) agrees, concluding his statement by saying ‘Any victims who are considering coming forward should not be dissuaded by the decisions of the past … [t]he decision made in 1970 would not be made by the CPS today.’
It is also equally important that these matters be openly and freely discussed; a conversation that a MSM overburdened with regulation, and subject to injunctions on behalf of those rich and well-connected enough to serve them might find harder to report. It bears reiterating that it is not the government, the DPP or the CPS which are ultimately on trial here, either in the media or thru the courts. As the buck doesn’t really stop with the BBC or the education and care systems for enabling and acting – or not acting – to conceal Savile‘s criminality, nor does it stop with politicians and prosecutors in Smith‘s case; although they were arguably in a more powerful position to act should they have so wished. The real culprit is our (male) establishment, hierarchical to a fault and a two-faced arbiter of specious morality. That the likes of Savile and Smith moved in higher circles differentiated the nature of their offences little if at all from similar crimes committed within the domestic sphere, schools, churches, sports clubs and other less-lofty institutions inhabited by the great unwashed. One common feature of sex-crime (amongst other moral and criminal outrages) is the degree to which institutions and their membership – whether the government, the police, the state, the church or the family – have historically connived and colluded to protect the integrity of the establishment at the expense of individuals’ integrity and safety; the integrity and safety of women, children and minorities in particular.
As I applauded Philip Schofield for raising the issue of criminality within The Commons, so I applaud Williams-Thomas for doing likewise in his profession. If it is regrettable that apparently innocent parties such as Lord McAlpine have, and will inevitably continue to become embroiled in this unfolding scandal, then the fact that said scandal has gone unpublicized and its perpetrators unpunished for so long is infinitely more so: indeed, ‘regrettable’ barely begins to describe it. Let it unfold, and in the full glare of publicity, the better to banish the shades of deceit and denial. If the MSM allows itself to be unduly constrained by regulation and legal machinations then it may well find itself made redundant, in similar manner to the way that old media within the entertainment industry is likely to be made redundant by filesharing, streaming and direct-marketing and selling. Efforts to stem the flow of information and other media content via email, Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere have thusfar proved largely ineffectual. Napster, anyone? This is a two-edged sword, mind – the once maverick Facebook shows signs of succumbing to the old institutions’ double-standard: yesterday it removed a page sharing information on the identities and whereabouts of convicted sex-offenders, in response to a court order; yet in the past it has repeatedly failed to take down pages created by sex-offenders for the purpose of grooming and procuring children for sex. This is not to say that the internet and social media are inherently bad things: they’re neither inherently good nor bad, and on balance the benefits probably outweigh the drawbacks, but they do place responsibilities on us as citizens of today that previous generations have not had to contend with. We need to embrace and discharge those responsibilities to the best of our ability. To talk of ‘learning lessons’ has become trite in recent years; glib jargon that glosses over a personal and collective desire to do anything but; to wish a problem – whatever it may be – away. But there are lessons here, for anyone ready and willing to learn: that denial cannot wish problems away; that the very means – in this case social media and the internet – that enable organized criminals to a heretofore unprecedented degree, might also empower their opponents and ultimately bring about their (criminals’) undoing. If old media are losing out to new in consumer market-share it’s because they are still playing by redundant, old institution-led rules that fail to take account of new realities. In days gone by, Fleet Street and its imitators around the world would have been champing at the bit to report in full on stories such as Harris‘s. McAlpine‘s rearguard action – which as justified as it may superficially be, ought not to discourage future testimony from abuse victims – and any potential fallout from Leveson must not be allowed to plug this current volcano of truth.
If enough good people speak out then evil will not triumph.