It’s curious that the story about the National Council for Civil Liberties and its links with the Paedophile Information Exchange is big news now, since it’s been common knowledge for many years, and written about in the Catholic press on a number of occasions.
I researched the story back in 2006 or 2007, along with another journalist, and this was already then well-trampled territory, but the papers weren’t interested, despite my friend’s huge amount of work. He even went to Hull, I seem to remember. And back.
I only got as far as Cockfosters, which was then the improbable home of the Gay and Lesbian Newspaper Archives, which was where the various pamphlets produced by PIE were kept.
The articles were pretty much the standard turgid Marxist drivel, familiar to anyone who studied a humanities degree in the 1980s or 1990s. Unreadable, circular arguments, jargon and doublespeak, badly-written sentences designed to obscure the arguments; the main difference between this and any other cultural studies essay being that the end logic was ‘and that’s why I should be allowed to fiddle with kids’.
It now seems bizarre that elements of the New Left could possibly show sympathy to this movement, although there is the argument that from a civil liberties point of view NCCL were right. (The great Fergus McContrary makes this case in an interesting counterpoint in Spiked. Well worth a read.)
What were they thinking? Tom O’Carroll, the former chairman of PIE, has a theory, saying that the organisation was tolerated by the NCCL because it was among the ‘radical and liberal forces’ of the time. In others words, they were natural allies with a common enemy.
James C Bennett once wrote in the New Criterion magazine, on the subject of the radical Left that:
‘A population without a common language, common assumptions, or indeed any means of generating a genuine polity is easier to manipulate and turn into the common clay from which a new transnational order can be moulded.
‘As few outside of the minority recruited in the universities find such a future attractive, postmodernism has cultivated (or imported) as allies groups that hold or can be taught to hold grievances against the mainstream societies. They include racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities who do not accept one or more shared premise or cultural characteristic of the common culture. Concepts of racial and ethnic authenticity and grievance narratives are used to bind these groups as allies against the majority culture, no matter how divergent the actual practices of the minorities are from the preferences of the postmodernists.’
The only requirement is that these allied groups are to some extent victims of the common culture, with its bourgeois hypocrisy and power structures. That was the logic of PIE’s arguments in their pamphlets; and once you can convince a certain part of the Left that you are a victim of the white, male, hetero power structure than they are prepared to make quite a lot of moral leaps, and ignore the more obvious potential, real victims.
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?’
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.