‘It’s all the fault of the Internet’, cries the dead tree press. ‘We have to compete with them, and their wild landscape, and that has driven us to excesses we would never have thought of without their insane ramblings’.
Remarkable then, that Leveson has devoted 1973 pages to how the dead tree press should be behaving, and the nature of the naughty step that he thinks they should sit on when they fail to behave, and a mere 12 pages to the Internet that they claim to be aping in their rush to compete. The Internet is, Leveson says, an ‘ethical vacuum’, and as with the Curate’s egg, that is surely true in parts. Like Catholic priests, he believes the media should remain celibate, and foreswear the cyber pleasures. Theirs is a higher calling – that to inform, educate and entertain.
This morning, they are doing their best to do just that. To a man, they have eyed the excesses of ‘Rolf’ trending on Twitter, made their excuses and left, in time honoured fashion, pausing only to confirm that ‘an 80 year old man from Berkshire was interviewed under caution by appointment on matters not directly related to Savile’. Perfect – the Internet can do their dirty work for them, and they can merely slyly confirm that actually ‘it’ is on the right track, giving lofty credence to the rumours.
At a stroke, Leveson has ensured that in future the newspapers will behave – or face strict regulation to ensure that they do so. He has also ensured that it is the Internet which will be seen as the villain in the piece; the child that was left standing on the doorstep after the big boys had run away. Leveson claims that he was only mandated to look at the print media, not the Internet. Once the print media is behaving, assuming that this continues to happen as it has today, there will surely be renewed calls for a similar Inquiry into the Internet. Divide and Conquer.
That being said, we should look at who and why is busy fanning the flames in the Internet. Yesterday, whilst the Police were being suitably circumspect in giving information regarding the fact that ‘an 80 year old man’ had attended ‘an interview’ by appointment – which could be anything from, for instance, their role as Landlord of premises that might be of interest, to an allegation that had been made directly about them – ‘under caution’, which merely means that whatever they said was being formally recorded. The media followed in similar fashion.
However, someone, who self evidently didn’t get their information from either the media or officially from the Metropolitan Police, was very keen that the Internet should be given a new football to kick around. That someone was an ex-policeman.
Mark Williams-Thomas. A police constable who had finally climbed the greasy pole to get away from pounding the streets after 11 long years, and made it to Detective Constable - only to pack the job in a brief 12 months later. Mr Williams-Thomas claims to have ‘15 years in child protection‘ – the obvious inference from this statement, if not read in conjunction with his police record, would be that this was within a formal, professional environment such as the police. But he was only in the police for 12 years, and some of those would have been as a probationary PC. So a self made expert then?
When Mr Williams-Thomas first emerged from the police service, he described himself as a ‘freelance investigative journalist’. A much misunderstood ‘investigative journalist’, certainly misunderstood by one of his first subjects who was under the erroneous impression that Williams-Thomas was trying to blackmail him rather than document wrong doing within his organisation, a matter happily discharged by a jury.
A man who has since reinvented himself as a ‘child protection’ expert and talking head of choice to several TV stations whenever the issue of child abuse comes up. Madeleine McCann, Tia Sharp, Ashleigh Hall. A man who says he is all too well aware of the dangers to children posed by the Internet…and the need for, in his view, ‘policing’ of the Internet.
For the internet is full of people with sexually deviant desires – the level of danger goes way beyond even the most worried parent’s imagination.
Now why would someone who wants to see the Internet more effectively regulated and policed, ignore the restrained and professional behaviour of his ex-colleagues and the new found restraint of the print media – and, surely unintentionally, surely, be the cause of much possibly libellous chatter, speculation and gossip on the Internet by naming – and ‘hash-tagging’ with ‘Savile’ and ‘Sexual’ the mystery 80 year old as Rolf Harris?
The cynical amongst us, including myself, could almost believe that it was in such a persons interests to fan the flames in the ‘Ethical Vacuum’. Either that or he is a complete dipstick.
I can feel only sympathy for Rolf Harris – and his wife. We have absolutely no idea whatsoever why he was interviewed. It could have been as tenuous as having been named as an ‘alibi’ by someone else. At 80 years old though, at the end of his life, when he should have been reflecting with some satisfaction on his legacy, he is now subject to endless speculation on the Internet that he may be connected with such a vile practice as Paedophilia. Responsible people in the police and media gave him the benefit of the doubt pending concrete information, and chose not to link his name to Savile and the various allegations.
Mark Williams-Thomas didn’t.
‘Why not’? – is a question I shall ponder more over the coming weeks.