Max Clifford Needs to Unearth the Skeletons

Will Black is a writer with a background in anthropology and mental health care. He can be found on Twitter as @willblackwriter

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By Will Black

Much of the media coverage following Max Clifford’s conviction for sexually assaulting teenage girls has referred to his role in getting stories into the media. The way he latched onto those involved with ‘scandalous’ stories and brokered deals with the media is interesting but not as interesting as his role in keeping stories out of the media.

The function of PRs employed by disreputable people and companies is to kill or at least distort (spin) stories to protect clients. In doing so, PRs not only get paid but they also amass sensitive information about people, which can later be capitalised upon. For those PRs dealing with the most powerful people, this information is a goldmine. Actually, a better metaphor than goldmine is stash of powerful weaponry.

Before Clifford’s guilty verdict, I often heard it said that he ‘had enough on’ powerful people to be protected from conviction. The jury, however, listened to the evidence and diligently weighed it up for several days before passing eight guilty verdicts. So much for Clifford’s claims that Operation Yewtree, which was launched after Savile’s abuses came the light, is a “witch-hunt” and that his accusers are “fantasists and opportunists”.

There is a fascinating and disturbing clip of Clifford that I have not been able to share since his arrest. This is because the footage, which was shot in 2000, could have been deemed prejudicial to legal proceedings.

In the clip Clifford talks frankly to journalist Dominic Carman about creating a false image of prominent people to prevent them being destroyed by unwelcome truths. The footage also reveals how work conducted for those on either side of a ‘story’ gives the PR valuable and potentially incendiary information. The footage and transcript can be found HERE

Carman manages to get the subject onto deceased Tory minister Alan Clark, who Clifford says abused two underage girls while he was having an affair with their mother Valerie Harkess. Even if Mrs Harkess ultimately made money out of news of her affair with Clark, it doesn’t make his actions towards her children any less predatory or wrong. Clark himself acknowledged, when confronted by the allegations in 1994, that he deserved to be horsewhipped. He also said: “I do not want to cause the Harkess girls any distress. I wish that they would take the money Max Clifford is raising for them and push off.”

This superficial expression of empathy followed by extreme callousness is in keeping with Clark’s character. Perhaps personality disorder might be a better term than ‘character’. His life was characterised by cruelty, deceit, betrayal and manipulation. Clark married 16-year-old Jane Beuttler in 1958, when he was 30. From the moment he met Beuttler he regarded her as prey to be victimised. A diary entry written by Clark when Jane was just 14 reads: “This is very exciting. She is the perfect victim, but whether or not it will be possible to succeed I can’t tell at present.”

Such sadism perhaps shouldn’t be surprising as, in an entry from 1981, Clark described Nazism as “the ideal system”, adding: “It was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished.”

As trade minister Clark encouraged the sale of weapons to Iraq when it was under the control of Saddam Hussein. The UK had an embargo about selling weapons to Iraq but Clark secretly encouraged the company Matrix Churchill to go ahead illegally. When the weapons – disguised as machine parts – were intercepted at customs, Matrix Churchill said Clark encouraged the sale. Clark denied involvement, which led to Matrix Churchill executives being prosecuted. They were only saved from lengthy jail sentences because Clark was forced to attend court and admit he had lied to the police.

It is perhaps poetic then that Clark should have found himself having the devious Max Clifford in the corner of Mrs Harkess. In the 2000 footage of Clifford speaking to Dominic Carman, he talks about managing the public image of powerful people under scrutiny, stating: “No problems at all as long as they’re not interfering with little kids. Absolutely no problems. Because I know that the truth will destroy them, and they don’t deserve that. So I create a false image. I’m deceiving people, I’m lying, for sure.”

In relation to Alan Clark’s affair with Mrs Harkess being publicised, Clifford claimed: “Alan Clark loved the whole thing. The only thing about it, you had…they made a lot of money out of it. He’d used them, so they wanted to make money out of it, they had a moan, so they did. He enjoyed it – he sold even more books. The only slightly serious side about it was he’d actually interfered with those girls from the age of fourteen.”

Speaking generally about information he has gathered on prominent people, Clifford went on to say: “I’ve got all the evidence. I’m the one who’s hidden it from the world. I know where everything is and the proof is…that’s why I have such a good relationship with the people I work with. Because 10, 20, 30 years go by and no one in the world knows. I could have retired on one of these things.”

As Clifford awaits sentencing, let us hope he finds it in his conscience to pass any information he has about Establishment and celebrity child abuse and other crimes to the police.

If the Clifford case had failed, there would be many people claiming that historic abuse allegations should not be pursued and they are driven by opportunism and malice. If the Savile scandal has led to any opportunity, it is for those who have been abused to come forward and to have confidence they will be listened to. This opens the way not only for those individuals to heal but also for society itself to recover from the wounds of injustice and deceit.

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Will Black is a writer with a background in anthropology and mental health care. He can be found on Twitter as @willblackwriter

22 Comments

Filed under Abuse, News

22 responses to “Max Clifford Needs to Unearth the Skeletons

  1. I echo Will Black’s sentiments … and would add the following to explain, perhaps, why Clifford got away with it for so long.

    Shortly after he was charged I approached Channel 4 with a proposal for a documentary film investigating Clifford. After two meetings with its current affairs commissioning editor and vague promises to see whether this could “work” for the Channel in its schedules, Channel 4 simply stopped communicating. It ignored repeated efforts to get it to do something.

    We get – as Mr Cllifford once observed – the media we deserve.

    • The relationship between the media and Max Clifford was symbiotic. As this relationship developed, and Max Clifford’s perceived power increased, ‘Don’ Max Clifford became untouchable.

      I think similarities can been seen in the relationship between News International and governments from the 1980s onward.

      A US General once declared that; “Power perceived is power achieved.” and I think this is true.

    • Will Black

      This is very troubling Tim. It will be interesting to see if any broadcasters dare to pick it up now or if the network surrounding Clifford is too powerful to do so.

      It would be very interesting to get a list of some of the more powerful people Clifford has worked on behalf and explore why they employed him at those points.

  2. Will that is a well crafted insight into into the live’s of some of the most trusted and respected member’s of society,in an inocent sort of way part of me is sadened at my discovery of the internet,because all those year’s of abuse whilst in home’s as a child,i only thought it happened to me! everyday i’m discovering the painful truth of what happened to thousand’s of forgoton and lost children,i’m not being dramatic,tear’s are rolling down my cheek’s as i pen this,combined by convulsive shaking,my nose is full of mucus,reliving,and thinking about the forgoton children who had nobody
    to take care of them affect’s me very deeply, i can’t’ help being emotional,when you see what i have had to enjure? a judge at AYLEBURY
    CROWN COURT ONCE SAID,AND I QUOTE,IT’S AMAZING YOUR STILL ALIVE,HAVING READ A 5 PAGE DOCUMENT I HANDED TO THE CLERK OF THE COURT? Iv’ tried to commit suicide on a number of occasion’s,and recentley after disclosing the dwp are defrauding the disabled out of benefit’s,totaling million’s a 6 ton fork lift truck nearley killed me,it was no accident,the timing was perfect i’de stepped out of the docker’s toilet’s on huskisson number 3 dock in liverpool,i went to light a ciggarete,i glnced to my left,a large fuell tanker mersey endurance was awash with activity,blue
    hard hat’s and viz clad body’s were buisy, i raised my lighter and lit it ,iwas know standing outside of the toilet,suddenley a gust of wind extingushed my lighter,i stepped back in to the toilet’s and lit my cigarete,standing in the doorway, suddenley a 6 ton fork lift truck come hurtling around the corner
    wich is 3 foot away from the toilet entrance ? i saw the rapid 6 ton fork’s through a cloud of smoke,my leg’s buckled beneath me?.
    i composed myself and ran down to the mersey enjurance and boloked the
    the fork’s, this isn’t the first time iv’e enjured an incident like this?
    I WHOLE HEARTDLEY AGREE,WTH ALL YOU HAVE SAID! WATCH THIS SPACE!

  3. I’m confused by:

    “There is a fascinating and disturbing clip of Clifford that I have not been able to share since his arrest.”

    This piece has been widely available and shared since it first appeared. The implication of the sentence is Will Black had it exclusively?

  4. Will Black

    Thank you Anthony, your comments are much appreciated.

    Bishop, no it was available on Youtube (although it vanished for a while and I was one of those encouraging people to make copies of it before charges were brought). The point is that once proceedings were active no journalist could share it on Twitter or elsewhere without risking being accused of prejudicing the case.

  5. green

    “Clifford talks frankly to journalist Dominic Carman about creating a false image of prominent people to prevent them being destroyed by unwelcome truths… let us hope he finds it in his conscience to pass any information he has about Establishment and celebrity child abuse and other crimes to the police”
    If he made a living from creating a false image for people, i.e. lies and deceit, what would his information be worth? Why should someone convicted of these crimes and who put the victims and his own family through a court case have a conscience? If he also made money from setting VIPs up for a fall and then representing the apparently wronged party (His Wikipedia entry says: “In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Clifford ran and took part in discreet weekly adult birthday parties for his friends and clients in South London. This brought him into contact with various madams and prostitutes, a connection which still serves him well in his business to satisfy the often bizarre needs of his clients, as well as an early warning system of interesting behaviour of various persons.”), what would his information be worth, especially behind bars and with nothing to lose?

  6. Will Black

    Yes, perhaps “finds it in his conscience” would be more realistic as “through self-interest drop some clients in it to try to get a shorter prison sentence”.

    Particularly when we consider what Neil Wallis, former executive editor of News of the World said: “Max Clifford was a great white shark. He had absolutely no conscience, the only thing that mattered was what Max wanted when he wanted. it. Max used to boast about his sexual antics. He used to boast about his affairs and he used to boast about playing tricks on young women.”

  7. I think it’s worth baring in mind that. If you needed the services of Clifford the chances were you were either, in deep doo doos or, you were a “no-one” with dirt on a “someone”. He was never someone you’d brag about being represented by if you had a “decent” reputation. It’s a tad like Simon Cowell, he got the job on the talent show, I use the term loosely, after just about everyone with any sort of genuine reputation in the music biz, had turned it down.

    To quote my old manager on Cowell.. “Oh, that annoying little shit who deals with soap stars and tacky cover versions”. One can take it as read that, Clifford occupied a similar status, reputation wise, amongst most showbiz types.

    The likes of Cowell and Clifford found their niche with the increasing obsession with people who are famous simply for being famous and there is, within show biz,, a genuine snobbery,, be it right or wrong,, about those people who really are famous for nothing more than being famous.

    One question that would be interesting to know the answer to would be. Just how many of Clifford’s clients were put up jobs in the first place, designed to specifically entrap various “famous people” and report back to Clifford? Hence him bragging about “having the dirt” on so many people.

    If one reads between the lines then it does appear that, Clifford started off life as a little more than a pimp and then moved into PR off the back of his extensive inside knowledge of the sexual peccadilloes of the famous and powerful..

  8. Bond007

    Reblogged this on Bond007.

  9. Will Black

    Thanks for the re-blogs guys, very kind

  10. Bob Marney

    I don’t think he will ever reveal the truth.

    If he does have damning evidence on others, they will go out of their way to keep this information hidden. Maybe continue to pay him large fees on an unofficial basis.

    He also knows that his best option is to reassure his clients of his silence as he is in a very vulnerable position at the moment and could be easily targeted if the need arose.

    It has been alluded to that Cowell has a lot of skeletons to hide. I don’t think these will be revealed for some time to come. Cowell is the income generator. He’s the one to has massive deals with Sony & ITV. His over-hyped boy group earn him millions from the teen girl market. Money which ironically has been used to pay Clifford (£250,000 a year plus large bonuses) and cover up Clifford’s abuse of teenage girls.
    Let’s not forget that Cowell also put up £50,000 of bail money for Jonathon King.

    The full truth will only be revealed once the income is cut off and the big names lose their ability to decide how they are portrayed by newspapers, magazines and on tv.

    • Will Black

      This is very interesting. I suspect Clifford won’t be able to be a PR man when he is finally released (and there is a chance he will be charged Spain for the case of the young girl that the judge believed was abused there) and so any money changing hands between any former clients and Clifford can be monitored. Whether the police do follow the money (or if they are allowed to) is another question.

      It’s also rather awkward that the ongoing trial of R Brooks, A Coulson and others makes it hard for journalists and others to ask question / express outrage about the amount of money he received from News International.

  11. david

    Police are now looking into more cases of abuse by max clifford because more people have now come forward and said they were abused also this could end up being as bad as saville yet people like clifford hall dont get punished enough

  12. Will Black

    Though Clifford’s sentence isn’t what he deserved (given that the law has changed and he could get life now – and since one of the attacks that the judge is sure did happen happened in Spain) it seems to have shocked many.
    I hope that this helps tip the balance from these networks keeping their mouths shut when anyone person is charged to people passing on intelligence about others in order to get their own sentences down.

    It certainly will help others have the confidence to come forward and give evidence, not just again the Yewtree celebrities but ‘VIP’ sex abusers and procurers. It seems very unlikely that Savile was the only procurer

  13. green

    “Max Clifford case: stars fear revenge by shamed publicist: Max Clifford wrote letters during his trial to former clients asking for money”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10806694/Max-Clifford-case-stars-fear-revenge-by-shamed-publicist.html
    “The Telegraph understands that when police raided Clifford’s home and offices they found damaging material, including a sex tape involving a well-known television presenter. It is not clear what other evidence Clifford has kept…”
    Why would a person give incriminating evidence to someone else, rather than just putting it in their own safe or destroying it? It seems very gullible, assuming that any evidence is genuine and created with their knowledge.

    • will black

      I’m no lawyer but if someone is on record saying that they have loads of dirt of prominent people and that they ‘could retire on anyone of them’ and then to write to clients asking for money sounds a little bit like blackmail doesn’t it?

      But yes, who in their right mind would tell anything to such a shady person? I wouldn’t buy a used car of someone so patently insincere

  14. Your thoughts on the Max Clifford case – and the role of publicists in general – echo my own suspicions. The whole murky world of PR fills me with a nauseous feeling and I suspect the void left by Clifford will be filled by equally duplicitous and morally repugnant ‘experts’. I strongly suspect that the story is not over – on the contrary, I think it’s only just started.

    There are very powerful people with a vested interest in looking after eachothers secrets. The incarceration of Clifford could prove to be the catalyst for some of those secrets to ‘slip’ out – for the right fee.

    The whole sordid affair is an utter disgrace. Please continue your diligent work in exposing the truth, in the hope that Max might yet have a few crooked friends to play backgammon with in the prison library.

  15. will black

    I hope the shaming and incarceration of Max Clifford might make people look in a new way at PR. Many many people have known him to be dodgy for decades but it was seen as a necessary evil.

    However, celebrity PR driven ‘news’ is only a necessary evil if there is a desire among both the public and powerful people for newspapers to be full of sensationalist dross, rather than a reflection of the reality of the world. I know there are plenty of PRs who are decent people but – Clifford’s sex attacks to one side – the industry at best promotes the dreary ‘churnalism’ of press releases into tedious soft news and, at worst, hides and capitalises the squalid secrets of the powerful. I will have some stuff about this in my forthcoming book, about psychopathic cultures and toxic systems.

  16. Janine

    interesting that some of the young girls abused by other celebs had gone to Clifford for advice and help in what to and in one instance, a confidentiality document was signed that neither party would talk to the press to expose the matter… what a brilliant premeditated tactic… he was protecting himself all along as he was doing it himself too!!

  17. Janine

    As per comment from article above – “Speaking generally about information he has gathered on prominent people, Clifford went on to say: “I’ve got all the evidence. I’m the one who’s hidden it from the world. I know where everything is and the proof is…that’s why I have such a good relationship with the people I work with. Because 10, 20, 30 years go by and no one in the world knows. I could have retired on one of these things.”

    It is interesting that some of the young girls abused by other celebs had gone to Clifford for advice and help in what to and in one instance, (regarding the Tom Jones story) a confidentiality document was signed that neither party would talk to the press to expose the matter… what a brilliant premeditated tactic…

    Max Clifford was protecting himself all along as he was doing it himself too!!