Exaro- friend or foe?
My own opinion is this.
Exaro provide the lone voice of media dissent to the mainstream narrative so critical of the VIP abuse investigations and so selective, biased and inaccurate in its coverage. Therefore, I think its entirely reasonable for survivors and campaigners to look to Exaro for support.
Furthermore, the anti-Exaro lobby includes notorious abuse deniers and apologists, as well as convicted paedophiles and paedophile advocates. Whilst not conclusive evidence of a tainted agenda, this to me is sufficient justification to raise legitimate suspicions about the motivations of Exaro’s critics.
Nevertheless, I accept that there are other arguments to be put forward, I’m happy to listen to them and I think its important to keep an open mind.
Barrister Matthew Scott defines the debate as follows:
The line taken by Exaro and its many vociferous online supporters is that it has prompted investigations into paedophilia and murder where before there was only apathy, cover up and conspiracy.
Others think that it has generated a poisonous atmosphere of outrage and hysteria in which wild and immensely hurtful accusations can be made and believed on the flimsiest of evidence; and that by publicising detailed allegations of paedophile orgies and murder it has risked destroying the prospect of fair trials either for victims or defendants
I think Scott’s definition is unfair and unbalanced. His outline of the pro-Exaro cause is brief and succinct, whilst his outline of the anti-Exaro position is much longer and uses emotive language (poisonous, outrage, hysteria, wild, immensely hurtful, flimsiest, orgies etc) to load the debate in favour of his argument.
That’s not fair or even-handed, and loaded arguments don’t encourage constructive debate.
I’d offer an alternative definition, which gives equal space to each viewpoint and avoids emotive language, as follows:
The line taken by Exaro and its many online supporters is that it has prompted investigations into paedophilia and murder where before there was only apathy, cover up and conspiracy.
The line taken by the many online detractors of Exaro is that it has prompted unwarranted investigations into paedophilia and murder, putting fair trials for victims and defendants at risk.
Put like this, there should be nothing to prevent the two sides from debating Exaro’s merits in a rational, fair and open manner.
But that is not what is happening.
A raft of recent articles in the mainstream media by commentators such as the Telegraph’s Robert Mendick, the Mail’s Stephen Wright and the Times’ David Aaronovitch, have been virulently critical of Exaro and of abuse survivors and campaigners who are working with Exaro.
Tom Watson has faced almost universal condemnation in the mainstream media for pushing for proper investigation of allegations of VIP abuse. A succession of MPs have denounced Watson as a careerist troublemaker and he’s been subjected to an HASC interrogation.
While no one has yet apologised for the failure to prosecute abusers like Peter Hayman, Peter Morrison, Nicholas Fairbairn, Cyril Smith, and more recently Lord Janner, Tom Watson has been forced to make a public apology to the family of Leon Brittan for “causing distress”.
This to me seems patently unfair.
VIP abuse survivor ‘Nick’ has been harassed, had his anonymity threatened and been smeared as a “Walter Mitty” fantasist.
Esther Baker, a witness in an ongoing VIP abuse investigation, has been hounded on social media and internet blogs, and the media have printed unchecked and inaccurate stories implying that her allegations are the result of implanted “false memories“.
Meanwhile online bloggers such as Matthew Scott, Anna Raccoon – author of Jimmy Saville: Moral Panic, Moor Larkin – who blogs on Jimmy Savile’s innocence, Rabbitaway (“Justice for Jimmy Savile”) and Tom O’Carroll (convicted paedophile and paedophile advocate) have poured scorn on Exaro calling them “‘Exaro’ – or ‘Exaggero’ as it is known in the trade”, referring to “The Twilight Zone of Exaro“, and calling them a “private fiefdom” operating a “delicate balancing act, teetering on the edges of the moral cliff top.”
What is surprising is that a number of individuals identifying themselves as abuse survivors and campaigners, and some working in abuse support services, have joined the deniers and apologists of the anti-Exaro brigade, and are angrily attacking all those who disagree with their position.
On Social Media, alleged abuse survivors and campaigners have been vilified and subjected to cyber-bullying for placing their faith in Exaro. The attackers accuse Baker and her supporters of being Exaro “stooges” and “sock puppets”, and denounce them as liars, fantasists, attention-seekers and gold-diggers.
These attacks are often very personal and range from comments on the target’s physical appearance and family relationships to insistence that targets answer interrogation-style repeated questions and accusations of lying and fabricating evidence.
There is simply no excuse for this.
I think the sheer volume of inaccurate, accusatory and biased media coverage of the VIP investigations, taken together with the Home Office stance, the pressure being put on Operation Midland, and the bullying of witnesses and whistle-blowers, provides clear evidence that there is a concerted campaign underway to silence and discredit abuse survivors and campaigners.
Under these circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that vested interests are behind what looks very much like a political “dirty tricks” campaign, disseminating misinformation to foment dissent and suspicion in the general public and amongst survivors and campaigners.
It is tough enough for survivors of child sex abuse to overcome the trauma of their experiences. It takes immense courage to come forward with allegations, particularly in the face of a hostile reception from the authorities and from the mainstream media.
Bullying on social media makes it even tougher.
I think it’s high time we spoke out against the dirty tricks.
Anyone concerned with supporting truth and justice for child sex abuse survivors needs to open their eyes, get informed, take a stand and make sure they are doing everything they can to support those being targeted by smear tactics and bullies.
Targets of abuse on social media, just as elsewhere, can only do so much to protect themselves against state operated smear campaigns and a dominant narrative riddled with duplicity and deceit.
Victims of abuse make vulnerable targets for bullies. So too do many campaigners, drawn to campaigning because of their high levels of empathy, often developed from suffering their own pain.
These vulnerabilities make such people ripe for control, manipulation and punishment – according to BullyOnline.org “the favourite pursuits of the serial bully”.
Because targets are so vulnerable, it is incumbent on the rest of us to educate ourselves about bullying and make sure we condemn it whenever we see evidence that it is taking place. Bullies deny everything, they smear their targets as unreliable and unbalanced, they play people off against each other, they separate and isolate their targets through divison.
Bullies rely on naivety, inexperience and people feeling sorry for them and will ruthlessly exploit decent people’s urge to “help” and “forgive” them – such people unwittingly swell the bully’s army of supporters, enablers, apologists, appeasers, acolytes, protectors and deniers.
It’s time for any and all of those genuinely interested in campaigning on behalf of truth and justice for survivors of child sex abuse- regardless of whether they are for or against Exaro (the whole “debate” is a total red herring) – to agree that from this moment on, the name-calling and personal attacks must stop.
And that anyone who continues to descend to that level should be immediately identified, blocked and reported as a malicious troublemaker who does not have the interests of survivor justice at heart.