After the two world wars, at the time when many people were acclimatised to friends and family being slain right left and centre, the importance of our emotional and psychological ‘rights’ paled into insignificance. Heaven help the young woman who found herself pregnant out of wedlock. It was almost as sinful to utter the word bastard as to be one. What life-long trauma for everyone involved, all for the sake of respectability.
Right up until the 1950s children were still being caned in schools and in some places beaten with something called the tawse, for misdemeanours ranging from disobedience to making a slight mistake. Scotland was renowned for this brutal practice. In the early 1900s left-handed children were routinely smacked with a ruler when they tried to pick up a pen with the wrong hand, which perhaps ‘trained’ them to use the right hand at the cost of instilling profound insecurity, guilt and low self-esteem.
Sir Alex Ferguson is probably not an expert on child psychology, and even if he did actually advocate the reinstatement of corporal punishment as the panacea for education ‘going forward’ during his interview with the TES, (which he didn’t) you’d hope that Emily Maitlis, Kathy Lette and Anne Atkins might have taken a more intelligent, more nuanced approach.
At least more sophisticated than ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ (Maitlis,) more enlightened than ‘Piaget’s and other dogs,’ (Atkins,) and less simplistic than whatever it was that Lette was trying to get across. As it happens, of the three, I agree with her the most, which I suspect is not the position expected of me. I’ve seen many an example of a parent hitting a child while shouting “You. Must. Not. Hit” one whack at a time. Like dog-training, punishments that use fear and intimidation smack (excuse the pun) of Sharia. They bring about fear, sadism, anger; the opposite of helpful.
People who are aghast at the idea of the progressive 60s and 70s should get things into perspective. it’s a pendulum thing. Stuff happens, then people realise it’s time for change; so things change, slide too far in the opposite direction. People realise what has happened and we swing back again. Some lessons are learned, many are not.
In the 60s we took a look at ourselves, with our perms and repressed attitudes. We pronounced ourselves misguided and unenlightened and looked to a brighter future. Along came rock’n’roll, long hair and Philip Larkin, and repression, prudery and buttoned-up puritanical disapproval went out the window.
In the 70s various things, which we now view as outrageous, seemed like a good idea at the time. They seemed like progress. Some time later people realised that they weren’t much better off. In a different way, many people had suffered psychological damage, perhaps, who knows, an equal amount as their predecessors under the morally dictatorial regime that had been so carelessly dispensed with.
Things began to change, and along came the new morality, political correctness and people calling for a general tightening up of loose morals. But we mustn’t put the clock back without learning anything. Calling for the reinstatement of corporal and capital punishment ignores everything that should have been learned. Scientific and medical advances have been made in the last few decades, in case nobody has noticed.
As well as being relevant to the deeply unsatisfactory item on Newsnight between Ann Atkins, Kathy Lette and Emily Maitlis, this preamble is also about the Harriet Harman paedophile scandal that was whipped up by the Daily mail and the media.
First, the title of the PIE group “Paedophile Information Exchange” evokes sinister paedophile rings exchanging information (pornographic images) and passing them from pervert to pervert, when it seems it was in fact a lobby group, advocating the decriminalization of child-adult sex. Not wholesome, not harmless, but not actually criminal.
When it looked as if the BBC was in denial and wasn’t going to report the issue at all, Quentin Letts published a spoof in the Daily Mail:
“Surprise, surprise, the BBC has ignored our expose of Labour's links to a child sex scandal. QUENTIN LETTS imagines its reaction if those involved were Tory” .
The article was conceived when the BBC’s reluctance to tackle the Harriet Harman exposé was becoming conspicuous. Inevitably, something had to give, and.... out it burst with a vengeance. Quentin’s piece was a bit long - he got the point across well enough in the first few paragraphs, but my prize for perspicacity goes to the last two:
“10.30: Time for BBC2’s Newsnight — and editor Ian Katz, formerly of the Guardian, has excelled himself. Jeremy Paxman is dressed as Whack-O! actor Jimmy Edwards with a cane. Kirsty Wark is in a dominatrix costume. Reporter Emily Maitlis visits a brothel in Chelsea to interview vice girls, who tell her about clients who are ‘Tory types wanting them to wear school uniforms’.
Katz later wins a prize for his ‘no-holds barred’ reporting. No holds barred? If only that were true of the BBC and Britain’s Left-wing establishment when it came to the scandal that dare not speak its name: the true story of Harriet Harman and the Paedophile Information Exchange.”
The other night Newsnight even had someone dressed up as a magician to demonstrate the malleable properties of statistics. Or something like that. I mean, do they think we are all infants?
I think David Aaronovich in the Times (£) “Sex, hugs and rock ‘n’ roll: how the 70s got it wrong” took the right approach to the PIE affair, and so did Ed West His final paragraph is spot on:
Nowadays no one would defend the rights of paedophiles even to lawfully campaign, and we’ve become much less permissive about this one area of sexuality, in some ways hysterical.
But the mindset still exists, and expresses itself in the way that Islamism is treated, with certain sections of the Left prepared to defend and pander to people with indefensible views and aims, and in the process harming the real victims – Muslim women, apostates unable to openly proclaim their atheism or Christianity in Britain, the moderates and modernisers.The ‘allied groups’ are remarkably different, but the moral leaps and twists are pretty much the same. Maybe in 30 years’ time people will again be asking ‘how could they have supported such people?’
The BBC lags behind the thinking person. It’s slow to turn, like a gigantic tanker. Cumbersome and stagnant like a beached whale. If it’s going to turn around, let it do so thoughtfully and intelligently, and please don’t let it dumb down any more.