Saturday, 6 October 2012

Of cans... and the worms that lie therein

In a blog entry written round about this time last year, I concluded with the observation: "In an age increasingly dominated by revelations of sleaze amongst the rich and famous, it's a refreshing change to have come across a genuinely good person".  Normally, I stand by what I write on here as being an accurate reflection of my thoughts and feelings, based on my own perceptions and experience.  However, I'm neither omniscient, infallible nor clairvoyant and so I wasn't to know that other peoples' childhood memories of the late Jimmy Savile are considerably less happy and innocent than mine were.

The full story is yet to emerge.  While I have considerable reservations about the principle of launching accusations against people who are dead and therefore unable to respond to them - and the cynic in me can't help wondering if there's a "me too" element involved with an eye on a prospective claim for compensation - can this many people really be making it all up?  There's certainly a disturbing element of complicity and cover-up allegedly involved and a better-than-average chance that other famous names may get caught up in the fall-out.

Thinking back to when I was a teenager at the time, I'd have been an innocent victim, too.  Would the word of an unknown 13- or 14- year old boy be believed against that of a "respected" broadcaster?  Of course it wouldn't.  Would I have been naive enough to believe that being groped - or worse - by a famous DJ was 'par for the course'?  I might well have done, having overcome the initial shock.  The "untouchables" rely on their victims' continuing silence, as well as on the co-operation of their accomplices.  No-one, but no-one is in a position to blow the whistle.

What's going to eventually happen is at the moment pure conjecture.  The police are still trying to build up a complete picture of the extent of what went on, and you can't of course prosecute a dead person - although you can strip someone posthumously of their knighthood (incidentally I think it's high time we ditched that particular anachronism which has its origins in medieval chivalry, but that's another story).  But if a prima facie case is eventually made out, what good's it going to do?  It's bound to give the victims some sort of satisfaction, certainly.  Perhaps more significantly, it might at last make some headway towards encouraging other victims of abuse to come forward and take a firmer stand.  As events in Rochdale have recently shown, the problem is still being swept under the carpet just as it apparently was thirty or more years ago.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Trial by Jury Facebook

His dream in ruins, the hapless Jeremy Forrest was hauled into a Bordeaux court this morning, handcuffed - and complete with a coat over his head!  What was the point of that, incidentally: his photo was in every paper in the land last week, everyone knows what he looks like?  Anyway, if all goes according to plan, the extradition will be finalized on Thursday and he'll be winging his way back shortly afterwards.

Talking of things going to plan (or rather not, as the case may be) the journos have been busy digging away to find out what really went on last week.  The answer, we're told, is a staying in a seedy back-street hotel, living out of packed bags and subsisting off kebab takeaways.  Oh, and the thing that "betrayed" him - the dodgy fake CV.  Personally I'd have thought that was enough to tarnish the gilding a smidgeon on any fairytale romance, but maybe that's just me.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Megan Stammers, who was flown home on Saturday, has been staying at an "undisclosed location" being interviewed by the authorities (I do hope they're feeding her well after all those kebabs).  Presumably she'll soon have to start back at school: I mean, she's had a week-and-a-half of 'unauthorized absence from school' already or hasn't anyone else cottoned on to that yet?

There's certainly been no shortage of comment on all this.  After all, being a pupil at school is something almost everyone has had at least some personal experience of.  One that struck a particular resonance with me is this one on pupils' changing perceptions of their teachers.  Coincidentally I was just fifteen, when at my all-boys grammar school, we got our very first female teacher.  Married (well, a Mrs at least), 40-ish and by swinging sixties standards somewhat frumpish, she was in our eyes definitely not flirt material.  Her arrival to take our German O level classes nevertheless provided us 15-year old boys with something of a lively conversation topic, which soon descended into plumbing depths of hitherto uncharted vulgarity.  Certainly no-one had a crush on her, and if she had one on any of us she kept it well hidden.  Had she been on the other hand young, single and attractive (or even two out of the three) I can think of several of my ex-classmates who'd have been more than willing to test the water to see if they were in with a chance!  Taking that line of thought one stage further, I'm willing to bet that - then as now - if a 15-year old boy had run off with a 30-year old married female teacher, the level of outright condemnation and frankly rather judgemental criticism would be much more muted.

Perhaps rather tantalizingly if cryptically, Jeremy's lawyer has indicated that we can "look forward to the full story emerging".  Fair size chunks of it already have, courtesy of some determined ferreting.  Some of it scrupulous, some less so.  In my schooldays this would have seen the light of day in the form of a scandalous 'exposé' in the now-defunct News of the World.  Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, considerable material can be amassed and pieced together bit by bit: a tweet here, a photo there, a wish list, a diary entry, a link.... there's a reason it's known as the "Web", you know.  Everyone can play at being detective: forget privacy settings, a picture of sorts can still be assembled.  It may be incomplete or inaccurate: stuff uploaded in all innocence or with the best of intentions can appear to assume a sinister significance far removed from the one its owner or author may have intended.  The finger of guilt will point.

And maybe that's the moral in this story for all of us.  If you're ever accused or suspected or wrongdoing, the thing that will hang, draw and quarter you - even if you're innocent - will be your Facebook page.