Further prejudicial idiocy, as discussed on the excellent blog ’10 minutes hate’ (happy birthday Julia!) about the already-serving-a life-sentence killer John Venables, from Britain’s Brightest Tabloid ™ The Scum today.

I don’t know if recalling someone to prison as part of their sentence actually counts as post-judicial, but bear with me. I sat reading their headline on the paper opposite me all the way to work on the Tube, and I couldn’t fathom it.

ON A SCALE

OF 1 TO 5,

VENABLES CHILD PORN

RATED 4

SICKENING IMAGES CLAIM

Apart from appearing to be a direct attempt to bring back my oaty breakfast with its bilious tone and suggestive imagery, I hit a snarl after the number 5, and could not work out what it might possibly mean. Venables Child Porn Rated 4? What the fuck? Do they mean they asked him about child porn and he rated it 4? Or is it Venables making porn with children? Porn of Venables AS a child? (Swift sidebar to Rule 34) Rated 4? By whom? On what scale? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO MY BRAIN AT 08.34 ON MONDAY MORNING, FUCK ME UP FOR THE WEEK?

HAVING – sorry, having had chance to peruse the wild allegations behind the sensationalist headline, it emerges that the issue was one of a missing apostrophe. The story explains that there may have been claims of suggestions of a possibility that former child killer Venables might have had images of child porn on a laptop in his house, rated ‘4’ on the scale drawn up to arbitrate such matters.

Imagine, a mere 17 years later, that someone who helped torture someone to death aged 10, was in prison for eight years, and has gone around with all that since, might be a bit fucked up in the head. I can’t imagine how fucked up that would be, and I have a fairly vivid imagination.

I write ‘former child killer’… Venables (or whatever he is now called) is formerly a child, and a killer, and a child killer, and all the moral-bamboozling semantic ambiguity one might muster from just starting to think about those facts. The implications of the labels we slap on people for convenience have been widely discussed. Speaking eloquently as usual, wordy writer Will Self on BBC’s Question Time had another attempt at trying to go beyond good and evil last week.

The Scum‘s website relating to the same article which has so exercised me all morning has the slightly less syntactically stupid but still ambiguous headline HOARD OF HORROR, which is at least clear in its deranged terms of reference (specific details of which the paper headline assumes an intimate familiarity with). It is the language of true crime books, of reports of horrible activity rendered with a lingering and nauseating attention to the detail of every eyelid burned open with a cigar. ‘Hoard of Horror’, this fairy tale invocation, a trove of wickedness… that’s something that I can’t – well, let’s be clear, I do not LIKE to imagine, because it makes me feel queasy, and not at all good about what it implies about humanity in general.

However, as a phrase it is designed to appeal to a certain type of person, the kind of person who CAN imagine it, does imagine it, perhaps likes to imagine it, sees the pitchforks being wielded, relishes the destruction, pain, unpleasantness and likes to get geed up for the gallows party.

Perhaps we need to confront our dark hearts more… but. Pushing pictures of an abused child in my face and telling me it is disgusting will not make that kind of action go away, and my response would be the same as if you had offered me a cigarette. “Child abuse?” “Thanks, I don’t.”

Are we trying to make people ‘better’, as Julia suggests on 10mh, or can we not be bothered? “Back to the trees, everyone, this running water and books thing was a shit idea.”

If we have not proceeded any further, morally speaking, than the 14th century, and the ritual disembowelment, quartering and displaying of Jon Venables’ charred remains on Westminster Bridge is what it will take to shut up the witchfinder pursuivants howling at the door, perhaps we should just give in and let them have their bonfire. Here is a discarded tabloid newspaper for kindling. I will be stood at the back pressing a pomander to my nose and weeping.

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