2. To stir up; foment.
It is said that success has many Fathers whilst failure is an orphan – surely no foundling was so swiftly denounced as ‘no son of mine’ than the grandiosely named Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Founded in 2009, with a £2 million pound donation from that well known Labour benefactor, David Potter, it initially attracted support from such trusted journalistic luminaries as Heather Brooke. Sadly, few of them stuck around, leaving those remaining with all the credibility of their initial interest and none of their experienced oversight. Now even those who share the same building are at pains to point out that this physical proximity doesn’t mean it’s anything to do with them….the animated Dr Jean Seaton on Sky news last night, and this morning, the respected Roy Greenslade.
The author of the infamous Newsnight programme which fed the unfortunate Steven Messham to the ravenous hordes in the same way that the sad figure of Karin Ward was used and abused, shares much in common with the ‘embittered nephew’ – Meirion Jones. Both are investigative journalists who had had stories ‘canned’ for lack of corroborative evidence, who suddenly found that in the present fevered atmosphere whereby even the NSPCC is prepared to denounce Jimmy Savile as ‘probably the most prolific offender’ ever, without a shred of tested evidence, they were able to breath fresh life into their favourite conspiracies, without being troubled by experienced hands demanding balanced reporting and fact checking.
Even the mighty New York Times, whose integrity I had respected up til now, has fallen victim to the mob led meme. Last night it published an exclusive with Deborah Cogger, claiming variously that ’the institution was in thrall to Mr. Savile, a wealthy benefactor whose money it depended on and whose picture was prominently displayed on its walls’, and “They pimped us out,” she said of the teachers at Duncroft. The New York Times might not be in a postion to check out the claim that Jimmy Savile once kissed Deborah and once touched her breasts - but how hard could it be to check whether a State run institution could possibly be ‘dependent’ on Savile’s money, or whether there were indeed ‘teachers’ at Duncroft who were in a position to ‘pimp’ anyone out? The mob would cry that these small details are not as important as ‘hearing the voices of the abused’ – I would disagree; these are the checkable details which could give strength to the voices of the abused.
When a journalist is faced with an uncorroborated account labeling someone as a paedophile, especially when part of the story is that they had neither told their parents nor the police – but have touted the story round several media outlets whilst the alleged perpetrator was alive, only to be told that the story was libelous without corroboration or affidavit, ethics alone should question the morality of running with the story merely on the grounds that the alleged abuser was now dead. News-shite Mark ll attempted to circumnavigate this morass, faced with a victim who was naming a ‘very much alive’ alleged paedophile, by saying nudge-nudge, wink, wink, say no more, look on the Internet…main stream media fact checking by relying on Andrew Marr’s pimply bloggers in their mother’s back room? Truly we have fallen down a rabbit hole.
I am indebted to the reader who sent me a link to this blog. I have no idea who the writer is, but he/she does link to sources, and it is a fascinating tale of a previous moral panic with predictable results. At the height of the ‘all Catholic priests are paedophiles’ meme:
In May 2011, RTE, the Irish state broadcaster ran a report on its Prime Time Programme imaginatively entitled Mission To Prey which alleged that Reynolds had raped a girl during his time as a missionary in Kenya, fathered her child and was paying her financial support. Both mother and child were interviewed by the programme.
Reynolds swore that he was innocent, even offering to take a DNA test before the programme aired to demonstrate conclusively that he wasn’t the father of the child concerned but RTE rejected his offer. It had to be true. Reynolds was a Catholic priest, after all and we all know what they get up to once they strip off their cassocks.
Sometime after the programme had aired and the mob had had its fill of denouncing priestly paedophiles two separate and independent DNA tests confirmed that Father Reynolds was not the father of the child but by then the damage had been done. Reynolds had been removed from his home and parish ministry, his name demolished.
RTE broadcast an apology to Father Reynolds – stop me if this is sounding familiar – and Reynolds went on to win an out of court settlement with the broadcaster.
It is worth reading that blog post in full for an excellent analysis of how this could have come about.
One of the difficulties with this story is that whilst we have six unhappy ladies who have spent years trying to get someone to publish their tale, although are somewhat reluctant to speak privately about it to counsellors or family, a curious anomaly, we hear little if nothing from the hundreds of girls who passed through Duncroft and went on to have happy fulfilling lives. Can I just lay down some facts perchance there are some journalists interested in such boring old fashioned artifacts?
The Oxford English Dictionary tells me that the term ‘teen-ager’ was coined by a sociologist in 1921. It didn’t appear in print as ‘teenager’ until 1941, and was not in common usage in the general media until early 1960. To all intents and purposes, that generation, my generation, that reached their teens in the early 60s, were the first British teenagers. That may not mean anything to the wet behind the ears young journos of today, but it does have a profound significance.
Until ‘teenagers’ were acknowledged, you only had ‘children’ and ‘adults’ – those over 21. The key to the door and all that. Children, particularly girls, were subdivided into ‘good girls’ and bad girls’. That is to acknowledge that we were not the first generation to have had sex before marriage, or to have given birth to children before we were 16, or partaken of drugs, or the myriad other ways in which one could become a ‘fallen woman’ – but we WERE the first generation to be given a chance to step back from that ultimate fate of being a ‘fallen woman’, unmanageable, unemployable, fit only for a life of prostitution. It was a time before Social Services, before flats and maintenance for single Mothers, when maternity benefit was acquired on your husband’s National Insurance – no husband, no money; when rooms were advertised for No Irish, No Blacks, and most unthinkable of all – ‘No unmarrieds’. The pill might have been on sale in 1967 – but for married women, you dorks!
Duncroft was that fledgling opportunity, a unique experiment. A halfway house, a stepping stone between the Father who said ‘never darken my doorstep again’ and an adult world that had you ‘pegged’ before you even entered it. Hundreds, not half a dozen, girls took that opportunity. Went on to train as secretaries; married farmers and Doctors, and plumbers, reared three and four children, have homes full of pictures of the grandchildren, sons and daughters in law, positions as school governors, friends and reputations – and they don’t want to find themselves plastered all over the Sun as former residents of Duncroft.
I could weep for the e-mails I have received over the past couple of weeks, and am humbled by the faith shown in my integrity that so many girls have given me their real name. Not because they wish to contact ITN or BBC4, or get a quick quid from ‘Bella’ magazine – but because they are terrified that someone will name them as a former resident of Duncroft. They want me to watch out for any attempt to name them on this blog. They want to stand up for Duncroft, to counter the disgraceful slurs being put about – but not at the cost of their new lives – and who can blame them? I have removed all those e-mails from my computer, and I give them my word that no one will ever prise those names from my lips. No, not even the police. Go on, jail me if you dare!
Those hundreds of girls, including myself, took the opportunity that a more enlightened age granted them, and made the most of it. A mere half dozen failed to climb back up the slippery slope, and have emerged into middle age as embittered women. Those half dozen, with their tawdry tales of ‘Jimmy grabbed my bottom’ have run full tilt into an age of moral panic, unethical journalism, charity empire building, a dying main stream media, and a couple of unsupervised journalists, to take centre stage in a drama that is threatening our entire information source.
Truly a case of the power of the 1% as the Guardianistas would say.
I speak for the 99%.