TRUE OPINION: Andrew Bolt sure likes to publicly defend criminally inclined perverts, paedophiles and rapists, writes Tom Tanuki.
Andrew Bolt is an advocate for many wealthy and powerful individuals. In acknowledging all the work that Bolt does in defending their interests, I wouldn’t presume to speak on behalf of those powerful people. I think the debt they owe to him has already been repaid, perhaps in the form of financial reimbursement or the assurance of ongoing employment. The elites don’t need little old me to speak for them – not when they have Bolt! But I do, however, want to shine a light on the impassioned community work Andrew has been doing with one particularly oppressed and maligned community of Australians. I am, of course, talking about the paedophile community. I am writing in recognition of Andrew Bolt’s tireless allyship work with paedophiles.
I used to think that we’d all agreed as a society to consign paedophiles to the bottom of the reputational pile. We’d decided to focus our energies instead on discussing what is to be done about paedophilia, I thought. Many discussions go on around this subject. One is about the merits of punitive measures for paedophiles versus rehabilitative or preventative responses. Another is on the importance of protecting convicted offenders’ identities versus keeping the community informed of the whereabouts of offenders. There’s others still, such as understanding where the sickness that is paedophilia comes from so we’re better prepared to identify it and deal with it. These are just some of the conversations I thought we should be having. Andrew Bolt has both shown me up and educated me! Through his work I’ve learned that we ought not to waste our time on anything as frivolous as treatment, punishment or community protection. Andrew directs his energies towards actively denying paedophilia altogether with the select beneficiaries of his work. It isn’t work I’ve seen done before, and it’s intriguing!
Last week, Andrew was on Sky News’ The Bolt Report defending a child-grooming St Kevin’s staffer who was convicted of “hitting on” a student. He pointed out that there was no sex between the adult and the child. Bolt wants us here to consider that there are degrees of paedophilic severity –that some paedophilia is therefore worse than others. Bolt’s provocation is this: let’s not prosecute full-blown paedophilia with the same vigorousness as when adults merely “hit on” children. Fascinating! When I say “hitting on”, I am quoting Bolt. His language, not mine. I am not as attuned to paedophile allyship as he. So I wouldn’t use the words “hitting on” in reference to an adult grooming a child in their care. That turn of phrase, to me, implies a roughly equal power dynamic. For example, it seems to hint at two adults flirting with each other. When Bolt uses it, he does so in full awareness of this nuance. His is the language of introducing shades of grey into paedophilia – reducing the impact of child abuse in lower-end cases, so that we may take it less seriously. Bolt is an ally to shallow-end, ‘minor’ paedophiles who only hit on kids.
But Bolt is perhaps best known as an ally of the deep-end major paedophile. I came across Bolt’s work in this regard via his sustained defence of convicted child rapist, the ex-Cardinal George Pell. Many victims asked us to hear the stories of the abuse they suffered at the hands of Pell. Some did so on behalf of other victims, who didn’t survive to recount their experiences. Pell didn’t just “hit on” these victims – he raped them. Andrew Bolt still told us they were wrong though, setting aside the ‘shades of grey’ defence he used for the abovementioned paedophile (which wouldn’t have worked here – Pell’s shade of paedophilia runs very deep). The two victims whose cases were selected for prosecution by the DPP – they were wrong. The police who investigated these complaints – also wrong. The DPP were wrong too. A judge and jury heard the trial and found Pell guilty, and all of them were wrong. Then it went to appeal, and the appeal court upheld the decision. They were wrong as well. Wrong, wrong, wrong! So many wrong people, and only one right Bolt.
Through it all, Bolt has maintained that the victims were the wrongest of them all. He came up with 12 compelling reasons as to why these ex-children could only have made up their childhood rapes. He was really just sharing Pell’s defence team’s arguments. All of those reasons were ultimately rejected by the court, but Andrew maintained that they were all right – because Andrew is not a court. Quite the opposite, in fact! He actually doesn’t appear to be held to any standards at all. Unlike you or I, or anyone with salaried employment or communal expectations placed upon us, Bolt’s allowed to say anything he wants and he’ll never lose his job. So he continues to deny the imprisoned Pell’s child abuse. There are many character insights about Bolt to be gleaned out of the whole affair, but I think that the most lasting impression it leaves with me is around the power of friendship and loyalty. Is there any better friend than the one who continues to deny your paedophilia once you are convicted for it? Is there anyone more loyal than the employer that continues paying your wage after you defend convicted paedophiles on company time? We can all learn a lot about friendship from Andrew! (If our friends are paedophiles.)
Now, I’m not a paedophile. I don’t know any paedophiles. I think that paedophilia is an abomination. I think that whether we use punitive, rehabilitative or preventative measures, or a blend of all of them, it must be dealt with. Children must be protected. That’s what I think. If we can deal with it in this way, all of society wins – including people who identify as paedophiles who are repentant and in search of a transformation or a cure. But the work that Bolt does represents the hint of a brighter future for that least-desirable category of paedophiles: the unrepentant ones. He does this by feeding community suspicions over the integrity of adults who report abuse from their childhood. He undermines the testimony of victims. He helps widen a potential pathway for paedophiles seeking to fix their reputations and lives after the discovery of their crimes. So again, I’m not a paedophile. But I imagine that if I were one, I’d be really grateful to Andrew Bolt for everything he does!
I wonder if Bolt will expand into working with broke paedophiles going forward? A minor gripe, I suppose, but the common thread with the ones he’s defended so far seems to be the positions of power and influence they occupy. It’s not productive for his allyship work to only defend the rich ones, is it? That would play right into hands of conspiracy theorists, who would argue that the real aim of the institutional power he and his employer wield is to surround and protect itself when attacked; to shield its accomplices, and to obscure any ongoing abuse of the weak and exploited, whether that be of the environment or of the underclasses. Such as the poor. Or kids.
Perish the thought! Bolt’s a great ally. I – along with even Ray Hadley who finally has had enough – look forward to seeing whose paedophilia he’ll excuse away next.