The paedophile editor and the sound of silence

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Can you imagine the fuss that would be made if a well known editor of a major newspaper, education expert and well known commentator on politics and current affairs was to be found guilty of being a long term paedophile? Especially when that editor had written many articles which argued that allegations of paedophilia were often witch hunts against innocent people.

If you were relying on the British media you would largely have to imagine, because whilst one of their own, Peter Wilby, former editor of the Independent on Sunday and The New Statesman has been convicted of possessing images of children being raped, the reporting of this has been somewhat muted. Wilby was also a Guardian columnist and used his position as an education 'expert' to denigrate and cast suspicion on those who dared to bring up accusations of child sexual abuse.

Every moral and sane person will find Wilbys' crimes and hypocrisy utterly reprehensible, yet to say they have been underreported would itself be underreporting. The silence has been deafening. Liz Hodgkinson on Conservative Woman asks the pertinent question – "Why so little MSM outrage about this vile paedophile?

There are surely double standards at play here? If this had been a bishop, a Catholic priest, an evangelical pastor or a government minister, the Guardian, BBC and others would have had it as headline news. Is it because he was a hero of the liberal/progressive left that they keep quiet about him? Are they scared that complaining about child sexual abuse is somehow now 'right wing'? In the same way that they vilified the hit film Sound of Freedom because they did not want to be tainted with the slightest whiff of QAnon, are they reluctant to admit that paedophiles sometimes hide among the powerful academics and journalists?

Hodgkinson, a journalist herself, remembered Wilby using this tactic of casting doubts on people who made claims of sexual abuse in children's homes, and compared them to those making baseless conspiracy theories about Satanic abuse. Wilby even commended and endorsed a book by Richard Webster, an academic, who claimed that many abuse claims were false. The equivalent today would be to accuse the accusers and provide a smokescreen for the abusers, by attempting to smear all such accusations as Qanon conspiracy theorists.

There is another double standard here: Wilby was given an incredibly lenient sentence – a 10-month prison sentence suspended for two years with 40 hours of rehabilitation. Let's not forget this is for having material which showed real children being horrifically sexually abused.

As Alan Sprague of the National Crime Agency pointed out, "He was viewing this content while working as the editor of prominent national news outlets, a role in which he was entrusted to form the news agenda for the British public. A trust which he has greatly betrayed." Those who have greater power and responsibility surely deserve greater punishment, not less? It's a strange world where you can go to jail for misgendering someone, but purchasing and watching real child abuse only deserves a slap on the wrist!

Let's demonstrate these double standards in another way. Imagine that the Archbishop of Canterbury or a senior government minister had written a public letter in which they declared it "courageous" to challenge "the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive"; and talked happily about "several of my friends gay and straight male and female [who] had sex with adults from the ages of 9 to 14", before writing, "None feel they were abused." Imagine this letter then finished by stating that "whilst it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful."

Our media would have been at the head of the pack calling for the author's resignation – and doubtless the police would have been involved. But while the letter is real (published in the Guardian in 1997), the author is not the Archbishop of Canterbury but the gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell. And instead of being investigated by the police, he has been made the poster boy for the Metropolitan Police's new "LGBT Community Liaison Officers".

Tatchell of course denies that he supports child sex, but his statements in several articles and speeches, as well as the infamous Guardian letter, make his critics continue to doubt this claim. None more so than those he made in a more recent article published in the International Business Times in 2015 where among other things he declares that "a useful sex and relationship education mantra might be: 'It's my body. It's my right to decide.'" The same Peter Tatchell who thinks that adults cannot consent to 'conversion therapy' or prayer, thinks that children should be taught that it's their body and they can consent to sex.

Tatchell does not accept that child sexual abuse is right but he does seem to question whether all child sex is abuse. His views may not be the most horrific, but they do lead us down a dangerous path – one which ends in the pit of Hell.

Recently I had a conversation with a social worker who described such horrific sexual and physical abuse of children that I could not write it down without feeling ill. You don't have to believe every conspiracy theory to accept that such real and horrific abuse goes on – and is far more prevalent than most of us would like to think. As Christians we must speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves and bring justice to a world where so many of the vulnerable are treated unjustly. It doesn't help when the powerful keep silent because they are scared of what their contemporaries might say, or seek to justify the unjustifiable. The normalisation of paedophilia as a 'sexuality' is just around the corner. We must fight tooth and nail to prevent that corner being turned.