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They move among us: paedophiles and Popish plots

Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot

Today is the Saturday nearest to Guy Fawkes Night. In half an hour I will be off to a fireworks party to commemorate the foiling of a dangerous Catholic plot against the realm. My Catholic family never had the slightest compunction about burning the chief conspirator in effigy. The plot was real, feasible and evil. In the years that followed, many innocent Catholics were suspected and sometimes killed for plots that were imaginary. The cry of “Popish plot” retained its power to whip up the mob for generations afterwards.

The target changes. I do not usually link to articles behind the Times paywall, but this piece by Matthew Parris, “Our need to hate creates another victim”, is so timely and true that I shall break that rule.

On Tuesday an item appeared on page five of this newspaper. Our treatment was typical of most of the national press: only The Independent put it on the front page. Fleet Street does not appear to have judged that readers would see this as a big story.

Our headline was: “ ‘Paedophile’ killed by neighbours was wrongly accused — Disabled man had photographed flower vandals”.
Bijan Ebrahimi, who lived alone and had learning difficulties, loved tending to hanging baskets of flowers outside his Bristol flat. When youths vandalised them he photographed the incident, to complain. A neighbour decided he was a paedophile, the rumours spread, and an angry crowd gathered outside his home, chanting “paedo, paedo”.

Every reader will be familiar with the very great difficulty we face when the burden of our advice to an anxious friend is not that a problem is imaginary but that he or she has got it out of all proportion. You are not claiming his worry is groundless; you are not even trying to make light of it. You are really just trying to get the worry into some kind of perspective. How does one strike the balance between scaling an anxiety down to size and appearing to dismiss it?

I find myself in that difficulty now, when what I want to suggest is most emphatically not that the problem of paedophilia does not exist, but that as a society we have become unhealthily obsessed by it. A kind of madness is gripping our age: I felt that as I pictured the terrified Bijan Ebrahimi, the crowd chanting “paedo, paedo” outside his flat, and nobody daring to try to protect him. And this in my own country.

I suppose the obvious comparisons are with the 17th and other centuries’ waves of hysteria about witchcraft, and my fellow columnist David Aaronovitch once made those comparisons bravely and powerfully on this page. But (as David acknowledged) there’s a difference: the case is easier to make when the object of the public’s fears simply doesn’t exist and never did. Paedophilia does exist, and this generation’s better understanding of how widespread it can be and what harm it can do acknowledges truths that our grandparents’ generation overlooked or ignored. If we must go back centuries for our parallels in the English imagination, maybe French spies or Popish plots are better comparisons, for these were by no means always imagined. . . but those days seem so distant.

For a public panic that some who are alive today can remember, I’d suggest we cross the Atlantic and return to the 1950s. So poisoned has Senator Joe McCarthy’s reputation become that we tend to forget that the threat to the security of the West from the USSR was probably real. There really were Communist plots, there really was an extensive network of Soviet espionage, there really were unAmerican activities, and Moscow really did hope to foment revolutionary unrest in Western nations. It’s just that McCarthy whipped the American public into a state of disproportionate fear about it all and ruined many innocent lives.

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25 comments to They move among us: paedophiles and Popish plots

  • DJMoore

    Vigilantism (as opposed to simply being vigilant, in Peel’s sense that “the police are the people and the people are the police”) arises from a popular perception that the formal justice system is failing to deliver anything like true justice. The good are oppressed without mercy; the evil are ignored or even protected.

    People are no longer confident that real paedophiles will be caught and punished, and so they begin to take matters into their own hands; of course, they sometimes err egregiously.

    But then, if the situation in Jolly Old is anything like it is here in the US, the state errs egregiously as well, deliberately and far more often. Older teens are imprisoned for dating younger teens; parents lose their children over innocent bathing baby pictures; computer owners are prosecuted as child porn king pins for failing to notice that a virus has turned their laptop into a file server.

    You want to stop this kind of thing, stop prosecuting trivialities, but pursue even unto death those who truly harm children.

  • Richard Carey

    We can certainly be manipulated by having our attention directed towards an enemy, real or imagined, but I don’t think it’s true that we have a need to hate.

  • Patrick Crozier

    I’ve long wondered if McCarthy was anything like as bad as is claimed. The fact that Parris links him to the House Unamerican Activities Committee (which he had nothing to do with) makes me suspect he doesn’t know either.

  • Mr Ed

    Mr Ebrahimi was arrested by the police after his tormentors had made baseless accusations against him of taking photos unlawfully, a common criminal tactic, e.g. to counter-allege assault if defeated in a fight. The police were presumaly content that they had a reasonable suspicion that this disabled man had somehow committed an offence, and arrested him, before releasing him. No doubt Vishinky’s aphorism ‘arrest is the primary proof of guilt’ came into play, and he was then doomed. The police would not provide any hope of defence, and the base instincts of a small mob were aroused and satisfied.

    As for the comparisons referred to in the article, witchcraft is bunk, communist parties were conspiracies to murder.

    Catholicism was, in Guy Fawkes circles, a combination of both.

  • Dom

    The obvious comparison is with the McMartin day care center and the charges of pedophilia and satanism.

  • chuck

    Innocent lives? I knew several people who were black listed. To what extent they were innocent is debatable. They were perfectly decent as individuals, but they were Communists, idealistic followers of a genuinely evil movement. I’ve also known several Nazis from the same period, and I can say much the same about them, decent individuals, followers of an evil movement. To what extent we can distinguish the individual from the group they support is not an easy question, for what is mere eccentricity in an individual may become terrible when combined with the power of a group.

  • jdm

    They were perfectly decent as individuals, but they were Communists, idealistic followers of a genuinely evil movement. I’ve also known several Nazis from the same period, and I can say much the same about them, decent individuals, followers of an evil movement.

    I probably won’t live long enough to see the same said of Islam and Muslims. Sad that.

  • Lee Moore

    “we tend to forget that the threat to the security of the West from the USSR was probably real”

    Parris is a good writer, and appears to be a decent man. But his reluctance to come out and say anything at all that might upset his progressive friends, eg squeezing in that “probably” , can get rather irritating.

  • Regional

    Two points,
    The Sheriff and his posse from the ‘wild west’ is actually inherited from Medieval England, and
    The transformation of Germany under Hitler was astounding but if Britain had collected hidden information maybe war could have averted.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    It’s interesting that the state claims that making mistakes deligitimizes vigilantism, but ignores its own errors. So Ebrahimi is a victim, but Amirault can go whistle.

  • Jake Haye

    Leftist politics in action – the feelings of the collective mob over the rights of the individual.

    If the victim had been a successful businessman, leftists would be finding ways to excuse these thugs before his body was even cold.

  • CaptDMO

    “…So poisoned has Senator Joe McCarthy’s reputation become that we tend to forget that the threat to the security of the West from the USSR was probably real.”
    Really? Probably?

    SEE: “Blacklisted By History”-The untold story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his fight against America’s enemies. M. Stanton Evans, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-8105-9

    Imagine a now self-described as “progressive” (formerly “liberal”, ALWAYS under the Democrat “umbrella”) saying in a VERY STERN VOICE (for the cameras)
    “Have you no DECENCY sir?”. Or see: MSNBC in the US.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I was sent the following comment by email – NS:

    …reading your post on Matthew Parris’ piece in the Times prompted a few thoughts. The second section you quote makes some commonsense points, but in the third, I was struck by:

    “this generation’s better understanding of how widespread it [paedophilia] can be and what harm it can do acknowledges truths that our grandparents’ generation overlooked or ignored.”

    This is not simply false, of course, but I think Matthew Parris is himself overlooking or ignoring something important – something worth pointing out because I suspect he’s not alone, nor even a specially culpable offender. My grandfather died in the 1950s. Mr Parris is older than I, and though he may have had a longer-lived grandfather, I think neither can reasonably be held responsible for the 1960s and after. In England in the ’50s, the typical football match was attended by just two policemen, and they spent their time watching the game. In the ’60s and ’70s, both sex and violence became more vividly, less decorously, presented in the media, policemen became much more common (and necessary) in the vicinity of football matches, and reported crimes of violence went up.

    One could assume that the sort of crimes that are not swiftly reported (paedophilia being an obvious example) bucked this trend – I’ve seen BBC series set in Victorian England which treated it as statistically just like today but with a lot of hypocrisy. But as George Orwell remarked, “You have to be an intellectual to believe a thing like that”.

    The ’60s and ’70s did not create this problem; evil is eternal. But the rate of a crime can vary much from place to place, and from time to time. Had my grandfather been still alive in the ’60s, he’d have been one of the old fogies who protested the trend of the age – and were much mocked by the leading spirits of that time. I think someone of a younger generation – of Jimmy Saville’s age, profession and public views, say – would be more appropriate to name as “overlooking or ignoring” both causes and consequences that are one part of the reason society today has grown “unhealthily obsessed” with this crime. As for the other part – the attitudes that cause Mr Parris to point out that, “A kind of madness is gripping our age” – well, the kind of people who back in the ’60s and ’70s led us forward into the brave new world, ridiculing all doubters, and who today are most egging on the madness, look to me a lot like the same kind of people.

  • Paul Marks

    I was nodding away till I came to the last section.

    What “innocent lives” did Senator Joe McCarthy ruin?

    Has Mr Parris even read “Blacklisted By History” by M. Stanton Evans? Let alone refuted its evidence and arguments?

    Or is he. Mr Parris, just showing ignorance – as usual? And it is “as usual” – as Mr Parris is useless on so many other things, from the European Union to HS2.

    As for “disproportionate fear” – sadly the “fear” was disproportionate in the wrong way, underestimating the threat not overestimating it. The public came to believe that the threat came from a small number of Communist party members – not the (far larger) number of people with socialist (“social justice” and general class war) IDEAS.

    It is the control of most American schools and universities by such people (NOT a few people with “Communist Party” written on a piece of cardboard in their pockets) that has proved the ruin of the United States – and of the West in general.

  • Julie near Chicago

    This comment from regular commenter Julie near Chicago was held up in moderation and is being published some two and a half hours after it was written. When reading it, please bear in mind Julie’s subsequent comment of 3:12 am GMT – NS

    Indeed. In fact the “Red Menace” was as devastating in the area of propaganda and influence as it was in espionage–or probably more so, given the continuing effects of the latter.

    And there is the snowball effect–the more people ensnared by the lies, the more people come to be ensnared by them.

    In case anyone hasn’t seen the videos of Mr. Yuri Bezmenov, a Soviet defector who had been a propagandist for the KGB, they ought not to be missed.

    In 1983, Mr. Bezmenov gave a talk in Los Angeles entitled “Psychological Warfare: Subversion and Control of Western Society.” It runs just over an hour. The description explains who Mr. Bezmenov is and some of the content of the video. See


    There is also an interview he gave to G. Edward Griffin in 1984, called “Deception Was My Job.” It runs an hour and 21 minutes, at


    And here is a 5-minute clip on “Demoralization in America” taken from the interview.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh dear … I just read the full description of the Griffin interview. The best thing you can say about it is that it ain’t subtle.

    I apologize to all for not having checked the whole foul thing before posting the URL. I know G. Edward Griffin is a Conspiracy guy, but I had no idea he belongs to the blame-Communism-on-the-Jooos crowd.

  • Paul Marks

    Capt DMO – you got there before me (and gave the proper details), I should have said that.

    Hello Julie – I am just watching Putin’s boy Max Keiser (as the saying goes “I watch this ……. so that you do not have to”) and the KGB style lies continue.

    Obamacare is not an expansion of government – it is the “privatisation of health care” for the benefit of hedge funds an so on. People like Keiser are shameless – they will say anything (and without a blush).

    And the young lap it up. After all both the education system (the schools and the universities) and the media (all those Hollywood films and television shows with “big business” as the bad guys) have prepared their minds for this.

    Yes Mr Parris – there is no piece of cardboard in Max Keiser’s pocket saying “Communist Party” – the lack of the piece of cardboard (the “membership card”) is not relevant (something Mr Parris does not understand).

    And YES Max can sound free market – he can denounce credit bubble banking and credit expansion by Central Banks, and he fiscal insanity of governments……..

    Yes Max can sound wonderful when he wants to – but there is always the twist….

    People can have their unlimited Welfare States – if only the rich people were removed……….

    The old lie – the very old lie.

    “They will be able to hunt in the morning and fish in the afternoon and be critical after dinner, without ever being a hunter a fisherman or a critic – for society will organise production” (Karl Marx – “The German Ideology” 1845).

    Get rid of the rich “capitalists” and then everyone will be well off – they will have true “freedom”.

    And such people (conmen like Keiser) have learned to use “free market” language and even cite free market thinkers (usually dead ones – so they can not answer back).

    The man in Kent has a pet (Kevin C.) who is an expert in playing this con.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Alisa.

    Hollywood has been carrying water for the left since the 1930s.

    And American entertainment television (not just news) has been carrying water for the left since the early 1960s.

    Given this brainwashing (and the brainwashing of the schools and universities) the real question is not “why are most people at least partially conditioned?” but “why are so many people resistant to all this brainwashing?”.

    The structure of the mind of the “resister” – someone who can go through years of attempted brainwashing and NOT be brainwashed, is something that (as far as I know) is little explored.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Why not put little baby 3-year-olds in the bubble bath with mama grizzlies (sedated if necessary). This would have the salutary effect of teaching The People that the grizzlies are just people, only nicer.

    (I’m not sure it would work so well for teaching the grizzlies to cut the humans some slack.)

    Thanks for the link, Alisa. That is an excellent piece. Should be presented every hour on the hour to all humans everywhere. With an explication, for those with a mental age under 12.

  • You are welcome, Julie – although I do wish it would have been over something more cheerful. I always knew that most (although not all) Hollywood types had absorbed Progressivism with their Gerber, but this type of openly financed and promoted propaganda is either new, or newly in the open.

  • And now it’s my turn to say thank you for the Bezmenov talk – how on earth have I not seen it before? He does go too far with some of his conclusions and recommendations, but still a must-watch, the whole thing.

  • Julie near Chicago

    You’re welcome, Alisa. I’m glad you found it useful. Out of curiosity, which one did you watch–or both?

    . . .

    It’s time to straighten out the record regarding the Griffin interview above.

    There are at least two uploads of it on UT (you-all can decipher “UT” as referring to The Most Popular Vid Site, I hope), and I hadn’t seen it for a year or two; but I didn’t remember anything anti-Jewish about it. So I posted the URL above, and was horrified later on when I read the “see more” of the description. Hence my subsequent comment.

    I’ve now watched that same interview, uploaded by somebody else, at UT-dot-com/watch?v=FrcZv5W7Dws . There is nothing whatsoever in it about Jews. Mr. Bezmenov harbors no great love for Indira Gandhi… but there’s nothing about Jews in any sense. (Although the Yiddish word schmuck is spoken a few times. *g*)

    It’s a very good autobiographical presentation, with unfortunate lessons that still apply.

    Apropos of which, the excerpt below well describes my displeasure with the Rational Ignorance crowd, although Mr. Bezmenov is speaking of an entirely different example of the usefulness of keeping the idiots sedated. The transcription is not 100% perfect, but I think it’s up in 97-98% territory.

    Approximately 50:52 in:

    “If you carefully look, what [Maharishi] is teaching to Americans is that most of the problems, most of the burning issues of today can be solved simply by meditating. Don’t rock the boat, don’t get involved, just sit down, look at your navel, and meditate, and things — due to some strange logic, due to cosmic vibrations — will settle down by themselves. This is exactly what the and the KGB Marxist-Leninists want from America — to distract their opinion and mental attention….”

  • I watched the talk, not the interview – I hope to get to that one later today.

  • Mr Ed

    Meanwhile, in England and Wales stealthy moves from the Home Office to make life difficult for the ‘annoying’ so that civil injunctions may be placed on those people in the street who someone might find annoying. You have to ask whether the Home Secretary thought this up herself, or if she is a dupe of her officials.