Each time #Paedobritain trends on Twitter anyone who has seen Chris Morris's 2001 Brass Eye special, 'Paedogeddon' must be struck by the resonance.
The Brass Eye special was at the time condemned by politicians and the media. Tabloids devoted as much space attacking Morris as they might have done if he was accused of paedophilia. Since then Morris has come to be regarded as one of the finest satirists in the UK.
Brass Eye used a news format, with a Paxmanesque anchor, to mock the tendency of the media to sensationalise issues. In Paedogeddon, Morris critiqued an apparent tendency of news outlets to spread moral panic about child abuse. Given what we know now about the extent of child abuse in Britain, it would appear that Morris was, for once, off target.
Paedobritain has been trending not because there is moral panic but because many people are angry that large-scale child abuse has happened - sometimes involving prominent people - and there are still questions not being answered.
There are many blogs around containing old newspaper reports about paedophile rings. Rather than being full of sensationalist reports from across all newspapers, most of these blogs contain the same handful of extremely troubling articles. One of the most cited is Nick Davies' 1998 Guardian piece 'The sheer scale of child sexual abuse in Britain'. In that article Nick draws together information about individual paedophiles and cases to illustrate troubling links between them.
The article also describes how powerful paedophiles, such as Peter Righton, were able to infiltrate key positions within the child protection and education systems. When arrested in 1992 for importing child pornography, Righton was found to be in correspondence with paedophiles across the UK and Europe. The police also found diaries in which he listed and graded boys.
Righton received a small fine for the pornography but members of his network were not brought to justice. This sort of timid response to paedophilia is the reason Paedobritain has been trending. Uncomfortable links between Jimmy Savile and people in positions of power is another reason. Not to mention regular Operation Yewtree arrests of celebrities.
Following a question in parliament by MP Tom Watson in October, we are waiting to hear if Righton's documents will lead to further arrests. Many of those in the Paedophile Information Exchange, of which Righton was a member, are still alive.
For those who believe in an establishment cover-up of paedophile rings, a key area of suspicion is the non-publication of the Jillings Report. This was produced in 1994 in response to numerous allegations by children in care in Wales. A decision was made to not publish it and to destroy all copies. Fortunately some survived and there is ongoing pressure for the report to be made public.
Last November MP Ann Clwyd urged the House of Commons to ensure that the full report is published. She told the house: "I saw it at the time. It was subsequently pulped by the then Clwyd County Council because they were afraid of the attitude of the insurers. I would say please get the Jillings Report published because it shows rape, bestiality, violent assaults and torture, and the effects on those young boys at that time cannot be underestimated."
John Jillings, the lead author, has since denied that the report includes descriptions of bestiality. However, he did say: "What we found was horrific and on a significant scale. If the events in children's homes in North Wales were to be translated into a film, Oliver Twist would seem relatively benign."
If Oliver Twist had been banned from publication in 1838 we would look back at the authorities of that era with disdain. In the future people will look back at those who have blocked the publication of the Jillings Report with even greater contempt, as it was not a work of fiction but accounts of real lives. If it turns out that abusers in North Wales were allowed to go on to rape and molest children elsewhere and were part of a national paedophile network, those who destroyed the report may ultimately be viewed as collaborators.Suggest a correction