#bbc #newsnight Further to my earlier tweet, because some degree of verbosity is required for this topic:
The news isn't Schofield or Watson or Newsnight or people talking on the internet; the news is why children have had their complaints of abuse ignored, and are still having them ignored. The news is if, how, why and by whom investigations into these alleged crimes have been circumscribed. The news is what kind of power circulates in society in order to protect certain people no matter their crime.
This is nothing but distraction.
I felt like what happened yesterday with Schofield and C4 News was something of a tipping point, or at least it represented a very important moment where the power to question was put in the hands of regular people instead of just the powerful. Well it seems it was a very important moment, but for all the wrong reasons. It's been jumped upon by those it suits, so that they can regain control of the terms of debate, and start putting the media and the internet and the free flow of information on trial, instead of the people who will continue to exert their tight control on that information.
"Silly people, down there flapping around gossiping on the internet; we important people know best, your moral judgements are flawed, stop talking about this, let us handle it in our own way, don't listen to the media...trust the power."
When the news about Savile took off, everyone asked how it could have been allowed to happen. People were angry that a culture of secrecy, hidden power and the ability to abuse that power existed to such an extent that so many voices were quietened, or erased completely. That power wasn't just Savile's. It's quite an abstract concept and therefore very difficult to pin down just what exactly is meant by 'power' in this context. We tend to look to specific people who may have been in direct control of actively suppressing his and other abuses - and those people do no doubt exist - but that power is more pervasive, and exists as less concrete things: it's in the narratives our media tell about what our morals are as a society; it's in the loose and often informal networks of relationships between people who have the power to shape everything from policy to laws, from the type of programmes we watch to the stars we venerate. It's in the relations we have with each other, and the ideas that circulate and are reinforced by the conversations we have, and the ways in which we react publicly and privately to displays of official power. It's something that is so diffuse and intangible that we often jump from one tangible and easily identifiable thing to the next, trying to stick a flag in exactly what the cause of the problem is. Trying to question what myriad aspects come together to create a society that could let something like that happen and go unpunished is, undeniably, incredibly difficult. And understandably so.
And it's exactly for this reason that we need to cast a critical eye on what is happening right now. We look back, with the benefit of outraged and righteous hindsight, at how power - the complex kind - colluded to silence the victims of Savile, and helped create the culture that allowed it, and we ask how, why?; and we're rightly frustrated. But are we really too close to what is happening now that we can't see the same is in danger of happening again? And that we are each of us complicit in it as we let the terms of the debate be controlled by those it suits, and allow the focus be put on the media, on people like Schofield, Tom Watson, the BBC, and seemingly the whole of the internet (the parts not endorsed by 'the establishment'). What Schofield did when he handed the list to Cameron was give a voice to everyone who feels frustrated by the lack of accountability the government and others enjoy. What he did wasn't 'irresponsible' - it was exactly what we want our politicians to face. We want to be able to question them precisely on things, rather than having to put up with the sanctioned questions that get asked by our media outlets (sanctioned not in the sense that the government explicitly tells them what they can ask; but sanctioned in the sense that there is an unwritten code that is woven through public life, a code that is constituted by the various processes of that complex power I talked about earlier). It is precisely this lack of access to any kind of accountability that breeds the rampant discussions that happen online, with their inevitable missteps and false allegations along the way - because when those in power shut down the lines of communication and close ranks, our need to get to the truth doesn't go away, we simply now have lots of tools at our disposal to try to get to it for ourselves. And we will use them, something that is hardly surprising.
As we watch the tone of the news programmes and the things our politicians are talking about shift today and in the coming days, we simply must remember Savile, we must recognise what is happening. The lines of communication are being further shut down. The story is being taken into the controlling hands of the very people we want to be holding accountable. And we are letting it happen, by shifting our focus as well, to discussions of whether Schofield was 'out of order' thrusting the list into Cameron's hands, whether people are right to float names around online, whether we should even be allowed to talk about it at all. Because that is what this current turn in events comes down to; the question of whether we should be allowed to ask what happened, or whether we should sit back and wait for those in power to tell us what is important and what isn't.
And all of that is even before we get to the point of all the abuse victims' voices that are, once again, being silenced and erased, which suits some people, I have no doubt, very, very much.