In Response To Today’s David Aaronovitch Comment Piece.

If I specifically address today’s comment piece in The Times by David Aaronovitch, it is not because I have failed to recognise that other articles in other newspapers aren’t also misleading their readership by deliberately conflating genuine allegations of abuse with false ones, it is simply because the issues are already complex and it is easier to address the broad point using David Aaronovitch’s comment piece as an example.

David appears to tackle the subject of non-recent child sexual abuse allegations against establishment figures as if it were a formal debate at university  in which the proposition before the society is ‘This house accepts that David Aaronovitch was right about Establishment Child Abuse allegations from the beginning’.

In such a debate both sides would speak, no quarter would be given to the opposition, and any concession would only be a tactical withdrawal from an indefensible point before bringing to bear the full power of one’s own argument – and on conclusion the assembled members would vote on which side had won. There would be a winner and a loser, the proposition would be carried or it would not.

Unfortunately, the issue of child sexual abuse is not very well suited to such a format. Each and every allegation must be examined on the evidence. This, of course, means that it is impossible to draw up hard and fast general rules, the kind so beloved of ideologists of every persuasion. Such ideological rule making abrogates the necessity for critical thinking – why trouble yourself to consider a complicated issue case by case when it is far less taxing to the mind to have recourse to a general rule that can be applied instinctively, once learnt by rote? Of course, that history has demonstrated time and again that such general ideological rules, when applied, can be dangerous, can be comfortably set aside – for the polemicist understands that such easy answers are tempting and each generation must learn for itself the folly of applying generalities to complex issues.

David writes:

“A few of us (at the beginning, very few of us) watched this process with alarm. From Watson’s acorn — or alleged acorn because, of course, no names were named and no cases detailed — grew a forest of lusty oaks.”

I would suggest that at the genesis of this sturdy English oak metaphor lies a desire on David Aaronovitch’s part to be validated, an altogether different and more personal acorn if you like. So, let’s look at that. Has David Aaronovitch been one of the very few who has called this correctly right from the start?

David mentions Tom Watson’s PMQ.  He writes;

Nearly two years have passed since the Savile scandal broke and — in its wake — the MP Tom Watson (now Labour’s deputy leader) stood up in the House of Commons and asked David Cameron to ensure that the police “investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to parliament and No 10”. In that time, the idea of a Westminster paedophile ring has entered the popular folklore of British politics. It has been deployed by social media partisans in the Scottish referendum campaign, in support of Ukip, and by just about anyone short of a stick to beat politicians with.

A few of us (at the beginning, very few of us) watched this process with alarm. From Watson’s acorn — or alleged acorn because, of course, no names were named and no cases detailed — grew a forest of lusty oaks. A phenomenon arose akin to a latterday McCarthyism, a general assertion that has relied on its own vigour to grow, rather than on anything as footling as evidence.

The Times

David is not the only journalist in recent weeks who has attempted to link Tom Watson’s original question to the Prime Minister [24 October 2012] and subsequent allegations of a ‘Westminster  Paedophile Ring’ that have been reported in the media. Is it fair to do so?

Actually it is not – and conflating these entirely separate issues risks misleading readers.

Here are the facts

  1. The evidence that Tom Watson referred to was retrieved by the Metropolitan Police. The specific piece of evidence regarding a PIE member boasting to Peter Righton that ‘a senior aide to a former Prime Minister could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad’ was found in the seven boxes of evidence that the police recovered from a repository in Leicestershire. So, to be absolutely clear, the police have in their possession the evidence that Tom Watson referred to in his question.
  2. As a direct result of Tom Watson’s question and the investigation that followed, so far two men have been convicted for offences against children. Charles Napier was sentenced to 13 years and Richard Alston is due to be sentenced on September 28th.
  3. As a direct consequence of Tom Watson’s PMQ and the police investigation that followed, so far 24 survivors of child sexual abuse have seen justice done.
  4. The police investigation that followed from the PMQ is ongoing and the evidence that was retrieved is still being acted on.

All in all, not a bad day’s work by Tom Watson and Peter McKelvie, his source…

The point that I’m trying to make is not that David Aaronovitch has been entirely wrong or that anyone else, including myself, has been entirely right. This isn’t a university debate and justice will not be the winner if it is treated as such. Each case must be considered on the evidence.

To conflate significantly different cases just because they might superficially resemble each other is just a way of duping readers. Yes, there have been a few false allegations that have been reported in the media in the last few years but there have been many more truthful allegations reported that have led to the convictions of child abusers.

On a subject where the public have been ill-informed for decades, don’t we owe it to them to make the effort to better inform them ?


Filed under Abuse, News, Politics

26 responses to “In Response To Today’s David Aaronovitch Comment Piece.

  1. dpack

    in some ways tom watson’s second question regarding the investigative work of geoffrey dickens et al is perhaps more important than the first one.

    although the “dossier”(actually several versions) has not been found by the home office that in itself is significant.

    is anyone aware if the allegedly existing version has been secured? and if it has by whom?

    that mr watson was “warned”is no surprise as the stakes are very high and to mix metaphors there are fires to be prepared under them.

  2. beetroot

    Ten days after Tom Watson made his speech he wrote “10 days that shook my world”.

    A short excerpt “Since then though, many more ordinary people have contacted me about suspicions they have had of a wider wrongdoing – in some cases so heinous it made me cry.They have talked of psychopaths marking children with Stanley knifes to show “ownership”. They tell of parties where children were “passed around” the men. They speak of golf course car parks being the scenes for child abuse after an 18 hole round.”

    Importantly he wrote “I’m not going to let this drop despite warnings from people who should know that my personal safety is imperilled if I dig any deeper. It’s spooked me so much that I’ve kept a detailed log of all the allegations should anything happen.”

    I believe he was given warnings, but no doubt, the hack David Aaronovtich would not.

  3. nuggy

    do you notice the diffrent treatment the media give to celebrates and positions accused of the same. thing.

    the cerebrates are more or less declared guilty as soon as there accused but when a politicians acused oh no the accusers just a nutter.

    ok soome of the celebrates and some of politions are innocent.

    but no reason to assume form the start.

  4. DR Laverty

    It should concern us all why so many take the side of abusers. These people enjoy sex with children yet they find support in the hierarchy of journalism and media in general, social media and the msm. Makes one shudder when you realise the support many guilty beasts receive. There’s a lorra lorra support for those who indulge themselves with youngsters. Sick bastards

    • chrisb

      You cannot assume that any particular journalist either knows or believes that the people accused of abuse are guilty. They have seen no proof of the abuse. Many of these journalists genuinely believe the accused when they plead innocence. There is a powerful psychological impulse for them to do so. They have spent their lives hanging onto the coat tails of politicians, desperate to be part of the world of the rich and famous.
      They do not want to believe that this world that they are so desperate to be a part of includes many of the vilest human beings in the country.

      • Bishop Brightly

        I disagree. I think they are well aware, through years of nods and winks. But they are on the same boat and can’t get off.

    • Good post DR Laverty.

      It deeply concerns me that so many top journalists, celebrities, politicians, and other powerful people seem dismissive of child abuse allegations, either dismissing them as false, or as “no big deal.”

      I am unable to understand their mindset. What kind of person instinctively believes and trusts the claims of members of the establishment, rather than the claims of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.

      It is truly disturbing. Many of these reporters should have a word with themselves.

      It is this attitude of denial that has allowed child sex abusers to get away with it for so many decades.

      • DR Laverty

        David Rose is one of the above

      • Aardvark

        You are absolutely right, It’s extremely difficult to fathom the position of these members of the establishment, who deny the seriousness of these allegations and appear to lack any empathy in general, to the most vulnerable in Society, but hasn’t this always been the way, either turn a blind eye or deny, probably because the whole edifice, the power and the connections that keep it all going, are now being threatened?

        It seems like a very entrenched Cultural position, which has always been there, it’s probably the Class system! If you think that many Victims have come from care homes, from poor backgrounds, with distruptive childhoods and probably poor educations, they are not the ones who have had a voice or are ever likely to be members of the establishment. There are many in the establishment that are happy with the way things are and don’t want the boat rocked and there will no doubt be a fight to the end for the truth to come out.

        Andrew O’hagan discusses how there was a Culture of turning a blind eye at the BBC, unbelievable, when you think that so many Children’s programme presenters, from radio days on and over many generations, that have been abusers and had access to Children. But it can’t all be put down to, “oh it’s just the way things were” and you didn’t talk about it, at some level there must have been institutional acceptance, at the BBC, in Public Schools, etc etc,over many generations and now, it is very difficult for the establishment to collectively admit that this is what happened and that it was very, very wrong. It seems like Britain needs to do a lot of soul searching!

  5. sponge_mike

    I have a problem with all the CSA sites/blogs and I’m not sure how to resolve it. As with the myriad of 9/11 sites/blogs, they seem to be getting nowhere apart from infighting amongst themselves thus causing the maximum dilution of relevant information – much like here and Exaro.
    Joining forces would be a start………

    • trish

      Gojam, this is a great post. However, I agree with the comment above that the infighting between survivors and those trying to uncover the abuse needs to stop.

      As you rightly said

      On a subject where the public have been ill-informed for decades, don’t we owe it to them to make the effort to better inform them ?

      However, David, whose article you wrote about here, and his ilk have no intention of creating a more informed public. Their mission is to destroy the issue of VIP child abuse, and they do not care who they destroy in order to achieve this.

      Keep that in mind when you reposting what they say – unlike you they have no concern for the truth. I see the BBC is to go ahead with its Panorama story. From the organization that allowed and encouraged Saville, irony does not even begin to describe it. At the very least one would expect them to start with a disclaimer on how they are compromised – doubt it though.

      • chrisb

        Quite clearly a move by the BBC to curry favour with the politicians. The BBC is effectively offering a pact to bury evidence of abuse both within the corporation and at Westminster in exchange for a new charter. There were reports out this week that the Smith report into abuse at the BBC is being delayed Chilcott style until after a new charter is awarded. Sickening. Quite how the luvvies, who signed a letter saying that the BBC should be allowed to continue to pay them lots of money (OK, I rephrased what they said), can sleep at night, I do not know.

    • chrisb

      There is no problem with people arguing over the evidence of child abuse. That is the only way anyone will ever find out what happened. The problem occurs when egos clash. Some people have forgotten that they should not be arguing in order to ‘win’ the argument and get some sort of ego trip. They should be arguing to arrive at the truth.

      • sponge_mike

        But that is the point – where argument meets disinformation (and there’s plenty of that about) it appears as a pissing contest when, in fact, it’s an excercise in misdirection.

      • Andy Barnett

        There are those that seek the truth, those that seek to be right, and those that seek to mislead. You can tell those in the first category by their willingness to admit they were wrong. You can tell those in the second by their attacks on anyone that disagrees with them. Recognising those in the third category is more difficult. However, anyone that uses an admission of error in the way Police described one witness as a way of undermining a whole class of allegations is either stupid or thinks the general public is.

  6. tdf

    ^ Nuance, research, sensitivity.

    “These winds and tides
    This change of times”

    “With wings like eagles
    You run, you run
    You run and not grow weary”

  7. Trudy

    And Peter McKelvie’s judgement is good how ? Fishing for “victims” on twitter to fulfill the story he had already told Watson.

    I think it is agreed that “Nick’s” credibility is questionable, that’s being very kind BUT he has received ringing endorsements from McKelvie on his blog.

    There are MANY survivors of horrific CSA but there are none amongst the Exaro “victim” stable.

    The Esther Baker story is risible , here she is as “Becky” in January 2015 pleading for the original CSA inquiry panel to remain , no guessing what the agenda was, and who is behind it.

    • I’d have thought it would be clear from the post that there was no need to “fulfill the story he had already to Watson” given that the police soon retrieved the evidence that corroborated what Peter McKelvie had to Tom Watson.

      I’ve edited the last part of your comment. I’m sure you’ll understand why.

  8. Funny how Aaronovitch singularly fails to mention the numerous articles and other stories, including some from the very rag he pens for, that have vanished from “online” under the auspices of the “data protection act” ever since Watson stood up in the HOC and made his speech. After all, why would public figures wish to see articles which establish their “whereabouts” during given periods and where they took their “holidays” removed from the public record?

    The irony of watching a whole slew of commentators who have trotted out ad infinitum, the old cant of; “If you;re innocent you have nothing to fear from the law” for decades, doing a total volte face and squealing like valley girls forced to attend a class trip to a museum, is painfully funny.

    The facts actually are that, of the 261 people investigated by Yewtree alone, the vast majority of those names have remained anonymous. Anyone with half a brain who has any interest in politics can name probably, 4 politicians who are dreading a “knock on the door”or, “a phone call from their lawyer”

    Remember Rolf Harris vehemently denying he had ever visited Cambridge, let alone made a TV show there where he abused some poor young person? How many still insist he was innocent even though, his mendacious nature was clearly shown when filmed evidence of him at the event he swore he’d never attended surfaced? You think it will be any different with politicians? No, of course not if anything, it will be far far worse.

    • sponge_mike

      Michael Aspel’s “I’ve never met Jimmy Savile” despite having interviewed him TWICE on ‘This is Your Life’ springs to mind……..