Whom the Gods would destroy ...

I have been following with mounting disbelief the chaotic saga of the BBC over child abuse and of Newsnight's gross mishandling of stories on the subject.

There are few if any subjects on which both failing to pursue a true allegation or airing a false one can do more damage than where child abuse may be taking place.

Society has a responsibility to protect all children from abuse, and anyone who knows of evidence that such abuse may be taking place has a responsibility not to ignore or try to silence that evidence.

Yet there have also been all too many cases where wrong accusations of child abuse have destroyed lives, leading to innocent people being hounded from their homes, marriages broken up even deaths through assault or arson. Frequently when innocent people are mistaken for child-abusers who might have a similar name or appearance, the children of those wrongly accused of such abuse may have their lives wrecked, becoming the victims of real harm where there was none before.

And therefore it is a truly appalling act of irresponsibility to air accusations of child abuse against an individual or a small group of individuals without taking the most painstaking steps to ensure that those accusations are accurate.

Generally the most appropriate course of action for someone who has evidence that child abuse may be taking place is to bring it to the police.

David Steel had a point when he said on "Any Questions" on Friday night that it would appear that in trying to avoid a repeat of the error on the Jimmy Saville allegations - when Newsnight failed to pursue a story which turned out to be accurate - they erred in the other direction by publicising an allegation which it has now been clearly established was untrue.

The timing of the Newsnight report was also spectacularly unfair and unacceptable, since the person falsely accused of child abuse, while not directly named by the BBC, was identified as a very senior member of a particular political party in a programme broadcast at a point when hundreds of thousands of postal voting ballots for an important set of elections would have been with the Royal Mail on their way to electors.

Many thousands of those postal votes will have been completed and returned during the period between the allegations being aired and it becoming clear that they were false and untrue. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that in very close races these false accusations could affect the election result.

When the Greek dramatist Euripedes wrote nearly two and a half thousand years ago that

  "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad"

he could almost have been thinking of the BBC's recent behaviour.

The resignation of the Director General, almost inevitable as this became following his car-crash interview with John Humphries, neither will nor should be enough to stop people demanding effective measures to prevent this sort of thing happening again.


Popular posts from this blog

Nick Herbert on his visit to flood hit areas of Cumbria

Quotes of the day 19th August 2020

Quote of the day 24th July 2020