This weekend has not been a good one for the dangerous freaks and dissenters among us. I spent it mostly in the garden under a scrap of boiling London sky, contemplating all the things I'm suddenly not allowed to do anymore. That, and reading the papers, most of which have spent the post-Boris comedown wanking grotesquely over the Fritzl case.
In case you've spent the past month hiding in a box, this is the big Austrian incest story that made headlines across the world when it emerged that a grandfather in his seventies had imprisoned his daughter in a custom-built dungeon under his house and fathered seven children by her whilst the rest of the family lived upstairs in complete ignorance. Horrific, utterly, stunningly horrific. And not something you'd ever see on these civilised islands, of course.
When was the last time you read a home-grown incest story in the British press? You can't remember, can you? There's a reason for that. No, it's not that they don't happen. It's that both the law of the land and the journalists' code of practice (PCC, ed.2006) expressly forbid the reporting of child sex cases and especially of incest cases. Here's the PCC:
Article 7. Children in sex cases
1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child, i) the child must not be identified; ii) the adult may be identified iii) the word 'incest' must not be used where a child victim might be identified; iv) care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
All jolly sensible stuff; thank you, the PCC. This law is specifically in place to prevent, just for example, the terrible feeding frenzy with which the British tabloids and dailies and even the broadsheets have descended on the hapless, vulnerable Fritzl children, ensuring that wherever they go in later life, they will be 'those kids from the cellar'. In the UK, a story like this simply would not have broken, or not in any matter which would have retained the human interest of this staggering piece of news. If Fritzl was identified, any sexual activity or abuse would have been omitted from the reports; if 'incest' was retained, reporters would have had to leave out everything else: a non-story. But because it happened in middle Europe, it's open season for the press, and no doubt the bones of this tragic story will be picked clean before the summer is out. That, after all, is what the British press are here for.
But that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen here, too. Incest happens in this country, every day. The sexual abuse of young girls and boys happens in this country, all the time, which is why gloating over something that happened in 'Hitler's homeland' makes for such teeth-itching cultural hypocrisy. Everywhere, sad men are getting their grizzled rocks off on sexual power-trips over the young and fragile. It happens.
This, of course is also why internet paedophila is such a news fascination over here: as long as the story's not about actual sex with an actual child, we can break it gloriously, splashing snaps of picture-hoarding perverts across the tabloids, whilst actual pederasty - physical sexual interference with children rather than just sick appreciation thereof - remains practically unreported. But it happens. Violence against women and children happens. And whilst the law of this country protects young people from media scrutiny up to a point, we'd do well to remember the number of things we still don't adequately protect them from. Perhaps we're not quite as civilised as we think.
And that, frankly, is all I have to say on the matter. If anyone wants me, I'll be in the garden smoking a fat reefer the size of a baby's arm and watching zombie-porn. Come and join me, bring drinks.