“Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile — or at least I don’t think so,” Mark Steyn wrote last week, in a profile of Rolf Harris, who at the end of last month was “found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on young girls in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties,” Mark writes:
Just about the only part of my career I truly regret was the time I spent at the BBC, who very kindly fired me back in the Nineties. Otherwise, I’d have a lot more time to regret. Notwithstanding two years of headlines re Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others, not everyone at the Beeb in my day was a paedophile — or at least I don’t think so. Nonetheless, it was something of a shock to hear that Rolf Harris has been found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on young girls in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. As I said when he was charged nine months ago, it almost certainly marks the demise of his small but enduring catalogue of novelty songs. “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and “Jake The Peg (With The Extra Leg)” delighted generations of children in both Britain and Australia, but it’s hard to see them getting much airplay now, or any other singer reviving them given the name of the author.
I knew none of that when I selected Rolf Harris’ biggest hit as Steyn’s Song of the Week to mark his 80th birthday in 2010. We reprint it here as an elegy for a number we’re unlikely to be hearing much of after yesterday’s verdict:
Naturally, England’s left are taking the news about as well as you’d expect. “Some university academics make the case for paedophiles at summer conferences,” Andrew Gilligan of the London Telegraph wrote on Saturday:
Last week, after the conviction of Rolf Harris, the report into Jimmy Savile and claims of an establishment cover-up to protect a sex-offending minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Cabinet, Britain went into a convulsion of anxiety about child abuse in the Eighties. But unnoticed amid the furore is a much more current threat: attempts, right now, in parts of the academic establishment to push the boundaries on the acceptability of child sex.
A key factor in what happened all those decades ago in the dressing rooms of the BBC, the wards of the NHS and, allegedly, the corridors of power was not just institutional failings or establishment “conspiracies”, but a climate of far greater intellectual tolerance of practices that horrify today.
With the Pill, the legalisation of homosexuality and shrinking taboos against premarital sex, the Seventies was an era of quite sudden sexual emancipation. Many liberals, of course, saw through PIE’s cynical rhetoric of “child lib”. But to others on the Left, sex by or with children was just another repressive boundary to be swept away – and some of the most important backing came from academia.
As one of Glenn Reynolds’ commenters quips, “the day is coming when the Catholic Church will be excoriated not for covering up pedophilia, but for opposing it.”
Meanwhile, at the newspaper of choice for those who practice the religion of socialism in England, “Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones feels vindicated. He alone once had the courage to call the inexplicably famous Rolf Harris a shitty painter to his face, and now Harris is a convicted child molester, so there. Or something,” Kathy Shaidle writes, noting that Jones wrote “a particularly sweeping statement of smug class-conscious snobbery, even by Guardian standards.”
Jones sneered, “Perhaps it all goes to show that the middlebrow is inherently corrupt.” As Kathy responds:
Jones didn’t even bother name checking the usual convicts—disgraced American daubist Thomas Kinkade; serial killer-cum-clown painter John Wayne Gacy; the freeze-dried personification of evil Amerikkka, Walt Disney—to bolster his theory. Why bother?
Pointing to frustrated artist Hitler’s taste for baroque spectacle and corny symbolism, leftists have equated lower- and middlebrow kitsch with fascism for generations, and “fascism” with “anything they don’t approve of” rather more recently. (When I still “worked” with flaky progressives, my complaints about their inefficiency were always met with a somber, “Mussolini made the trains run on time, you know…”)
If earnest, unironic kitsch is Nazi Germany, then its first cousin—gay, “edgy,” winking camp (which the left adores)—is Weimar. And we all know who won that scuffle. But leftists love nothing so much as a lost cause. Camp is the Spanish Civil War of aesthetics.
The Nazis may have won the scuffle, but Weimar really won the war, as its intellectuals fled Nazi Germany, resulting in Weimar culture and its worldview being spread far and wide, as Allan Bloom perceptively noted in 1987’s The Closing of the American Mind. I suspect a Weimar-era boulevardier of 1920s-era Berlin put into a time machine and fast-forwarded into today’s London, New York, Hollywood, or San Francisco would find much to approve of those cities’ culture and nightlife, and the values their media pumps out to the rest of the world.
Today’s middlebrow may well be “inherently corrupt,” but I wonder if anybody at the Guardian will explore how it got that way — and explain why, from their perspective, they consider that corruption to be a bad thing?
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