(not satire – it’s UK libel laws)
The CPS has revealed that Cyril Smith would be charged with child abuse today - but the inevitable question on everyone’s lips is how on earth did he manage to get away with it for so long.
I can answer that.
Way back in 1979, Smith managed to close down any discussion of the allegations by threatening to sue the equivalent of today’s Twitter users and bloggers if any of them tried to reveal or discuss the subject of child abuse by rich and powerful people in children’s homes.
Obviously there were no tweeters or bloggers in the 1970s, but there were the equivalent – small independent magazines published by volunteers who sold them on independent distribution networks around pubs, clubs etc.
The people who wrote for these independent magazines were the bloggers of their day and the people who bought them and discussed the articles with their friends in the local pubs were the tweeters of their day.
One such magazine – Rochdale Alternative Press – published an article about Cyril Smith MP in 1979 which alleged he and other prominent people were involved in abuse of children in children’s homes around the country.
Here’s the front page of the magazine from May 1979:
What happened after the magazine published the article?
In a story remarkably similar to that we are seeing today, Cyril Smith, a very powerful and wealthy man at the time, quickly announced he was taking out an injunction against Rochdale Alternative Press and threatened to sue them – or anyone else who dared to repeat the allegations – for libel.
Although Smith didn’t actually take anyone to court, everyone was so terrified of being sued, there was a total gag on any media – a gag which successfully closed down all discussion about the scandal for nearly four decades.
And now amazingly – so many years later – we’re seeing exactly the same method being used to shut down all discussion about the subject of child abuse by the rich and the powerful too.
The similarities are uncanny.
My question is this.
Are the plebs really still so terrified by the threats of libel from the rich and powerful that we’re going to allow another four decades to pass before we can even discuss this subject again?
I hope not.
Because our nation’s children deserve better.
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