I won’t stoop to counter the slurs and smears cast upon Tim Tate in the last couple of days.
I’ll just give him a voice.
I can only hope that those with ears to listen pay heed. Certainly anyone who really cares about this issue should.
BEWARE THE BACKLASH: THE MEDIA AND THE POLITICS OF PAEDOPHILIA
By Tim Tate
“We are at a vital crossroads.
The coming weeks and months will determine the course of how paedophilia is investigated and how children can be protected from those who seek sexually to abuse them.
For the first time in a generation the public is being relentlessly bombarded with stories alleging the existence of VIP paedophile rings, cover-ups (both governmental and institutional) and accounts of men and women of the abuse they suffered as children.
This very public pressure – both in the mainstream press and in social media – has forced the government to announce official enquiries into historic abuse and how the problem is presently dealt with.
We have been here before. And there are lessons which need to be heeded from past experience.
I have spent a quarter of a century making documentaries and writing books about the sexual abuse of children. It has not been easy. Not for the obvious reason that this is a miserable subject which inevitably leaves its mark, but for the less-recognised problem that our society has, in general, a preference for turning its eyes from the problem and – when unable to do so – all too frequently seeks a way to believe that accounts of child sexual abuse are in some way made up, exaggerated or maliciously prompted by outsiders.
Cast your mind back across those 25 years. Cleveland, Nottingham, Rochdale – each began in a blitz of screaming headlines about the appalling abuse of children, and collapsed under a sustained and vicious backlash (often by those newspapers which had so willingly published the original stories) suggesting that the abuse was a ”myth” or a “moral panic”.
And in this noise of claim, counter-claim and recrimination, children’s voices get drowned out. Worse, the comfort and promise of being protected is reneged on: the adult world rights itself and once again allows the needs of victims to be swept back under the carpet.
And there is a consistent factor in this: lazy, shoddy and cynical journalism.
We tend to be complacent about the role of the press and the media in this country. We somehow allow ourselves to believe that it is not terribly important. But it is.
How (and whether) the public gets to know about abuse is entirely dependent on the behaviour of the media. If – Cleveland being a glaring example – the newspapers and television collectively decide that the much-hyped allegations of abuse were untrue, that is exactly what the public will be led to believe. The fact – again, see Cleveland – that the evidence shows the complete opposite is neither here nor there: that traditional media mantra “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” is all-powerful.
Nor is it only the public which can be misled: the lessons of the past show that the police, the social services departments, the courts and the judiciary are equally pushed by the press to a (pre-)fabricated conclusion. In Cleveland, for example, one judge sitting in a case to determine the fate of a child whose social services record showed ample evidence of risk, announced that he could not help but be influenced by what he read in the press. Hardly surprising, then, that courts across the region simply stopped working and the children’s protection was left to ad-hoc deals worked out between opposing barristers.
For Cleveland read Nottingham, read Rochdale. In each case it proved easier to shoot the messengers – whether social workers, paediatricians or the children themselves – than face up to the painful truth. And what made it easier ? Shoddy, lazy, cynical journalism.
I have been one of those working – sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes in the press or via television news – to build up the head of pressure which has forced this government to hold new enquiries. Others have done as much – and more. All of us have patiently and carefully sought out witnesses, sources and those with a story which needs to be heard. We have then done that old-fashioned thing: sought confirmatory evidence or – where appropriate – evidence which undermines or disproves what we have been told. No supporting evidence ? Then no publication.
But there are others who – as in previous times – don’t bother. To them, it’s open season – a rolling news story that obviates the need for careful journalism. Social media – blogs, and Twitter accounts – carelessly publish rumour as fact and half-facts as gospel truth.
But it’s not just the outer reaches of the democratised public discourse.
Exaro News – run by a rag-tag collection of soi-disant ¬investigative journalists has promoted itself ceaselessly as the main source of truth about historic sexual abuse. Its editor is interviewed repeatedly on national television and quoted in mainstream newspapers.
Unfortunately, Exaro is also one of the most prominent offenders in publishing – and then hyping – inaccurate and over-sensational stories. Its story this weekend about the audio tape it acquired of a conversation between a former customs officer and a journalist [transcript published elsewhere on this blog] makes claims and deductions about a former government minister that are – to my certain knowledge – simply false. Worse, they obscure the real evidence which indicate that the man needs to be properly investigated.
Why does this matter ? Because these over-hyped, inaccurate and sensational stories will – if history repeats itself (and it will) cause a vicious backlash which will put back child protection (and the investigation of paedophilia) for years to come.
We can’t afford this. We must not allow it to happen. No government ever wants the truth about child sexual abuse to be uncovered: if the scale and impact of it are fully realised vast sums of new public money will have to be devoted to combatting it.
This is the politics of paedophilia. And my lot – my brothers in this vital trade of journalism – play with it like a careless infant with a cheap toy. That is irresponsible. And it’s plain wrong.”