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Does being a ‘cultural icon’ entitle you to a ‘paedophile pass’?

Writing on the (belated) conviction of John McClean, the Terenure rugby coach, John McGuirk raised important questions around how and why McClean managed to avoid sanction or prosecution despite the basic facts of the matter being known to all and sundry for at least 30 years.

Why, McGuirk asks, did it take the actions of journalist Gemma O’Doherty to provide momentum to the case against McClean? Where was the state, the school authorities, the church

How, in other words was a well-known and incredibly dangerous paedophile allowed to operate in plain sight?

Interestingly, this is also an issue that is currently troubling the French elites following the news that the celebrated literary star Gabriel Matzneff is to be brought to court in September where he will be accused of “defending and justifying paedophilia.”

The case was filed by l’Ange Bleu, an international anti-paedophile organisation.

As Norimitsu Onishi at the New York Times has noted, all of this has come as something of a surprise to Mr Matzneff for one very obvious reason; he has been celebrating and promoting paedophilia and his own personal ‘practice’ of child abuse in his writings for several decades now:

“Matzneff had long described performing acts of pedophilia and hebephilia in his work; his diary Un Galop d’Enfer, published in 1985, stated that whilst in the Philippines he would regularly have sex with underage boys. He wrote that “Sometimes, I’ll have as many as four boys — from 8 to 14 years old — in my bed at the same time, and I’ll engage in the most exquisite lovemaking with them.”

As utterly revolting as this is, none of it did Mr Matzneff any harm. Indeed, he is the recipient of several major French literary awards and has even been the guest of former French President François Mitterrand.

He even received a rare stipend from the French state, but this has since been withdrawn following notice of his upcoming court appearance.

As Fleur Macdonald over at the Spectator, who has also picked up on the story has said, Gabriel Matzneff  to all intents and purposes “was a respectable man.”

His fall from social grace has only come about because one of his former child lovers, Vanessa Springora has written a tell-all memoir. McDonald says the tension and suspense in the book comes “from waiting for someone to step in: Springora’s father, a doctor, a family friend, a teacher or the police.”

Yet bizarrely no one did and Springora was left to continue the ‘relationship’ with Matzneff despite only being 13 years old at the time they were first introduced by her mother. Matzneff was 50 years old.

What is difficult to understand however is that Springora, as Fleur McDonald highlights, is “no puritan.” :

“She has no interest in condemning a relationship simply because of an expansive age gap. The word rape is too simple. Her contempt is cool and sardonic and the prose spare. It is his sordid repetitiveness she objects to, and his hypocrisy. She dismantles the myth of the eccentric genius.”

This is extremely disturbing.

What is also disturbing is that Matzneff, as noted above, is only facing prosecution due to the work of an anti-paedophile organisation and not the determined action of the French state to demand accountability for his actions.

But even here there are problems that cannot be overlooked. The organisation in question, l’Ange Bleu, or the Blue Angel, promotes fringe concepts around paedophile rehabilitation. Take this statement for example:

“A proposition of a unique preventative method. I propose another form of prevention: profile study and personalized evaluation of control while in presence of children. Organisation of dialogue groups where victims and pedophiles with all kinds of different profiles (always chosen following compatibility criterias on a group by group basis) can meet in a convivial, respectful atmosphere and an absence of judgement.”

I suspect that there are very many legitimate reasons why this proposition is ‘unique’ and why it is has not been taken up as routine clinical or rehabilitative treatment.

The normalisation of the sexualisation of children is continuing apace. This is having devastating consequences. But so to is the wider cultural acceptance of an extreme form of autonomy or personal choice.

This makes it more difficult to provide coherent reasons against practices that we know are inherently dangerous and even criminal.

As Matzneff replied when asked how he felt about being charged:

“Who are they to judge?” “These associations of the virtuous, how do they sleep, what do they do in bed and who do they sleep with, and their secret, repressed desires?”

This is the defensive posture of a man who believes his own choices should determine the legitimacy of his actions and not anything like an objective morality.


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