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Why did Pete Townshend play the finale to the Olympics?

28 August 2012

4:02 PM

28 August 2012

4:02 PM

I returned from holiday to discover that the silly season has turned into something much more serious. The daily list of horrors from Syria, the Eurozone crisis and the terrifying state of the UK economy: they had all been there when I left (for Greece by the way, where people are genuinely scared about the future — stockpiling food and preparing for civil conflict in some cases). But the Olympic fiesta atmosphere seems to have been replaced by something darker following George Galloway’s moronic comments about the Assange case. There are plenty of men of the Left whose sexual politics don’t bear much scrutiny, but Galloway really is the prize poseur of radical chic.

The Assange case is a deeply troubling one for the Left. I have written approvingly of the work of Wikileaks and have worked with Assange in the past. He is a free-speech fundamentalist with a degree of personal courage, but he is not a progressive figure, or a socialist. He is, if anything, an anarchist — a wrecker. To make him a cause célèbre is plain daft. As the Guardian and his original UK legal team have discovered, he has the ability to seriously damage all those who come into contact with him. His professional relationship with the conspiracy theorist Israel Shamir is impossible to forgive, his political alliance with the government of Ecuador blows his credibility as a freedom fighter.

But the case has served to flush out some of the more repellent residual attitudes to rape in this country — George Galloway is not the only old fool to have expressed his view. Politician Tony Benn and comedian Terry Jones have both been made to look considerably less like national treasures thanks to their utterances about Assange and rape.

Laurie Penny’s article in last Saturday’s Independent was one of the best on the subject and a very sad piece of writing it is. It details her rape by a man whom she admired; a youngish man in her social circle considered to be a ‘nice guy’ and not the rapist monster of yore. She did not report the incident to the police because she blamed herself. Her experience is horribly common.

I hope the generally horrified reaction to Galloway-Assange demonstrates that attitudes towards rape have changed and that the consensus is shifting. If so, this is precisely because women such as Laurie Penny have been prepared to speak out about those apparently ‘nice guys’ (friends, boyfriends, husbands) who rape.

Women have taken centuries to find their voice and the battle is not over, especially in some parts of the world where George Galloway chooses to pose as a selective defender of freedom. But there are others who do not have the level of protection and agency of women in this country: children who are victims of abuse. Which brings me to the Olympic closing ceremony and the revolting spectacle of a man who admitted to accessing images of the sexual abuse of children participating in the musical finale. I loved the London 2012 Olympics from the madness of the multicultural opening ceremony right up until the moment Pete Townshend stepped onto the stage, at which point I realised that some people have forgiven him for what he did or perhaps never even understood the seriousness of the offence.

Operation Ore, which uncovered Townshend’s crime, should have been a wake-up call for the nation. The whole point is that he was not innocent — he accepted his own guilt by taking a caution. He went onto the sex offenders’ register. He is not a nice guy. And those who invited him to play at the Olympic stadium should be ashamed of themselves.


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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Your blog is nice.

  • Smell the glove

    How grand “I would let him(Townsend) mind my baby.”Was Daltry washing his hair that night

  • http://www.splustech.com/ Third Party Logistics

    it was awesome event ever

  • http://www.splustech.com/ Third Party Logistics

    it was awesome event ever

  • Kevin

    Old, white, powerful men know what rape is, much better, it seems, than rape victims (quote from Laurie Penny article)

    Penny lost me with this racist comment.

  • Kevin

    Old, white, powerful men know what rape is, much better, it seems, than rape victims (quote from Laurie Penny article)

    Penny lost me with this racist comment.

  • Trofim

    What I am interested to know, not having watched it all the way through is, when they sang My Generation, did Townsend and Daltrey sing the line “Hope I die before I get old”.

  • WetherspoonThree

    Thank you for ‘having the courage’ to draw attention to Pete Townsend’s inclusion in the Olympic celebrations. An inappropriate invitation for sure but only because The Who have done nothing over the past 30 odd years to justify their inclusion. Not really sure that Pete Townsend’s brush with the law is revelant in any way but he is an easy target for lazy journalists just back from their holidays with deadlines to meet. No, the fact is, The Who enjoyed a few years ‘in the sun’ as pop icons in the late 60’s and early 70’s otherwise nothing. The hugely over-rated pop opera ‘Tommy’ has been massively over-hyped in my view. In truth they had a couple of good singles and thats all. No significant albums and Pete Townsend is no philosopher. The spot should have been given to a contemporary British group.

  • WetherspoonThree

    Thank you for ‘having the courage’ to draw attention to Pete Townsend’s inclusion in the Olympic celebrations. An inappropriate invitation for sure but only because The Who have done nothing over the past 30 odd years to justify their inclusion. Not really sure that Pete Townsend’s brush with the law is revelant in any way but he is an easy target for lazy journalists just back from their holidays with deadlines to meet. No, the fact is, The Who enjoyed a few years ‘in the sun’ as pop icons in the late 60’s and early 70’s otherwise nothing. The hugely over-rated pop opera ‘Tommy’ has been massively over-hyped in my view. In truth they had a couple of good singles and thats all. No significant albums and Pete Townsend is no philosopher. The spot should have been given to a contemporary British group.

  • Noa

    Who…?

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.blott Matthew Blott

    I agree with this 100 per cent – I posted a link on Facebook about this at the time. I also questioned this when The Who got the headline act at Glastonbury a couple of years ago. As far as I can tell he’s guilty of much the same offences which made Gary Glitter the most reviled man in Britain (in fact, I’m not even sure if Glitter paid for his child porn as PeteTownshend did).

  • Eddie

    One only hopes this whole article is satire…
    I read Laurie Penny’s article in the Independent last Saturday (Laurie Penny is a 25 year old professional feminist, media munchkin and hack, for those who don’t know). I got the feeling reading it just how much she was enjoying the special status of being a poor wickle victim who was raped when younger.
    But the thing is, what she described was NOT rape! She was drunk and found herself having sex with someone she didn’t want to have sex with (like most men I know when younger too!). She couldn’t remember things clearly.
    And then, and this takes the biscuit, like a lot of drunken women who suddenly come over all guilt-stricken, she suggests her drink was tampered with (this is what most women apparently claim after theie drunken sluttery – because see, women simply can’t be drunken sluts; oh no, it must be all men’s fault – and their drink must have been spiked… YAWN).
    How much money are women like Penny making out of their victimhood pity party? Misery memoirs are very profitable after all. By her criteria, I have been raped. Shoudl I sell an article to some rag too? Oh no, I can’t can I – because I am a man so can never be a victim, unlike poor wickle victim women.
    Really – if women want equality (which feminists don’t of course – they want preferential and suprerior treatment to men, and the right to choose when they want to be treated equality and when they don’t…) then they MUST grow up and take responsibility for their actions. If you get drunk and have sex and are ashamed, then blame the true guilty party (yourself) and not the entire male race.
    Re Townsend. Really, our hysteria over children and sex is getting to silly American proportions. In the US, if a 2 year old child is naked playing ona beach, people get hysterical – and even bottle of French wine with naked cherubs on the label are turned away at customs! Not healthy, not sensible, not right – VERY sexist against men (who are assumed to be chiuld molestors until they prove they are not) – and worst of all, a distraction: most children who are abused are abused by family members, family friends and kids not much older than them, not bogeymen. Ditto for abductions.
    If we wanted to protect children we would be trying to stop step-families being created (abuse ia 5 times more likely in them).

    • Eddie

      By the way, that’s real evidence I am giving there:step families have 5 times the rate of child abuse in them, whether people like it or not. The best way to endanger a child is to have his mum’s having multiple boyfriends.
      Most child abuse takes place in the home – from family members and friends. most sexual abuse is done by men, often with the knowledge and sometimes help of women. Most violent and emotional child abuse is done by women – and most babies/kids who are killed are killed by women, not men. Just so we know…

  • David

    This was Townshend’s statement at the time:

    “I have, to the contrary, been shocked, angry and vocal (especially on my website) about the explosion of advertised paedophilic images on the Internet.”

    It went on: “I have been writing my childhood autobiography for the past seven years. I believe I was sexually abused between the age of five and six and a half when in the care of my maternal grandmother who was mentally ill at the time.

    “I cannot remember clearly what happened, but my creative work tends to throw up nasty shadows — particularly in ‘Tommy”

    “Some of the things I have seen on the Internet have informed my book which I hope will be published later this year, and which will make clear to the public that if I have any compulsions in this area, they are to face what is happening to young children in the world today and to try to deal openly with my anger and vengeance towards the mentally ill people who find paedophilic pornography attractive.

    “I predicted many years ago that what has become the Internet would be used to subvert, pervert and destroy the lives of decent people. I have felt for a long time that it is part of my duty, knowing what I know, to act as a vigilante to help support organisations like the Internet Watch Foundation, the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and Scotland Yard to build up a powerful and well-informed voice to speak loudly about the millions of dollars being made by American banks and credit card companies for the pornography industry.

    “That industry deliberately blurs what is legal and what is illegal, and different countries have different laws and moral values about this.

    “I do not. I do not want child pornography to be available on the Internet anywhere at any time.”

    It concluded: “On one occasion I used a credit card to enter a site advertising child porn. I did this purely to see what was there.

    “I spoke informally to a friend who was a lawyer and reported what I’d seen.

    “I have enclosed my website article about my friend Jenny who commit (sic) suicide because of sexual abuse she suffered as (a) child.

    “I hope you will be able to see that I am sincerely disturbed by the sexual abuse of children, and I am very active trying to help individuals who have suffered, and to prevent further abuse.”

    • Austin Barry

      As a plea in mitigation it’s fanciful, feeble and fugitive. Would you let him babysit your kids? Not in a million years.

      • David

        Yes, I would actually. There’s not the slightest hint that he’s ever abused children or come close to doing so. He accessed a child porn site once and after an extensive search the police found no illegal images on his computer. If they had have done, he would have been prosecuted.

        He can hardly be characterized as a devious paedophile on the basis of that one incident.

  • Simon

    Yes but Pete Townshend is a major donor to the Labour Party, as with Assange some on the left have a remarkable ability to airbrush out inconvenient facts….

    • Just Bob

      Interesting that he makes reference to Operation Ore – the details of which are under lock and key for a good few decades yet. Allegedly a number of prominent politicians were involved so as usual nothing to see here, case closed.

      My view is that when the facts of that case are revealed a 100 years hence it will be shown to have been a bigger scandal than the involvement of Lord Boothby and Tom Driberg (Labour MP) with the Kray twins.

  • In2minds

    So Assange is not a socialist, y’know I thought there was something odd about him. Thanks for telling me its put me right off the fella.

  • OldSlaughter

    People accused of what Townsend did normally have thousands of pics stored or in the cache. Townsend didn’t. His excuse seemed to fit. His subsequent book did detail abuse. I for one am content to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    He took a caution because what he did was illegal, but seemingly not a threat. If what I heard is correct, he went to one site and did something quiet specific and did not exhibit the standard behaviour of a nonse.

  • Asmodeus

    Galloway is such a fool that he is a member of parliament and still around despite the wish of his political enemies that he should disappear.Galloway’s Muslim political base like the Latin American support for Ecuador’s offer of asylum for Assange show up the global divisions.Demographically the West is a dwindling but still powerful culture.However our days may be numbered a fact not lost on other cultures.We may not be around to preach to them on rape, women’s rights,human rights and the environment for much longer.

  • Ron Todd

    It is not the crime as much as it is who does it. Famous on the telly trendy leftie pop singer or lefty anti American fee speech campaigner can get away with a lot more than the rest of us ever could.

    • Austin Barry

      Townsend, a man who is, apparently, engaged by images of children being abused should at least have the decency to maintain a low or non-existent profile. But he is a rock legend: a category that seemingly transcends paedophilia. No doubt Gary Glitter and Jonathan King will be featured at the closing of the paralympics, rampant in their prepubescent priapism. What strange alchemy allows this to happen?

      • Eddie

        Jonathan King is well on the way to being rehabilitated and once again accepted; after all, his ‘offence’ was to have sex with teenage boys (ie young men) who were 16. Also, some serious doubt about very many allegations made – as in many cases (the police go trawling and hint that £30k+ compo is there for the taking). I have always found King to be extremly irritating – however, he is not a paedophile.
        Gary Glitter is another case entirely. Always was a weirdo – look at the old footage! Saw his band on a university tour in 87. Thank crikey I was too pissed to be disturbed by it really…

    • Barry

      That was my reaction as well.

      Townshend is “cool”, so was Michael Jackson. Gary Glitter less so, but the BBC was still happy to repeat his 1977 Top of the Pops performance in May.

      Jackson was not, of course, convicted of anything but his weird behaviour attracted far less criticism than, say, a Catholic priest would have done in the same circumstances.

      • Eddie

        Barry – why should the BBC NOT broadcast the performance of any artist who was later convicted os a serious crime?
        This puritancial po-faced Bowdlerist-style censorship is a relatively recent thing, imported from the achingly politically correct USA. Or maybe all that is changed is what we censor and what we do or do not allow to be read/seen/heard.
        So what is a certain musician was a child molestor, rapist, murderer – plenty have been: Joe Meek, Phil Spector, many MANY others. And as for writers and novelists…
        The work and the man exist independently – the same false argument and reason to ban is given by Jews who want Wagner’s music banned because he was an anti-semite and Hitler liked him!
        One can like a man’s work without liking the man or approving of what he has done in his personal life.

  • coventrian

    Whereas if Townshend had killed hundreds of Palestinian children by dropping bombs on them, then Bright would have had a cosy chat with him – just as he did with Tzipi Livni.

    http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/56224/interview-tzipi-livni

    Livni had to be given Diplomatic Immunity to prevent her arrest and trial for war crimes. Crimes that Bright somehow forgot to mention.

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