News Ian O'Doherty

Sunday 31 August 2014

Freddie Starr – guilty of being... odd

Ian O'Doherty

Published 08/05/2014 | 02:30

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Freddie Starr

It won't have come as much of a surprise to anybody who has been following this strange case, but the news that the

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cops won't be pressing charges against Freddie Starr will provide scant consolation for the comedian.

Starr was first arrested two years ago and he has now become the latest embarrassment to Operation Yewtree, which was set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations and has quickly become the modern Inquisition.

In fact, there are times when it seems that anybody who had ever set foot in a BBC studio in the 1970s is now fair game for investigation and public humiliation.

That Freddy Starr's name was going to come up in something like Yewtree was almost a given – a man who manages to appear more thoroughly unpleasant with every appearance he makes on TV, Starr is, in many ways, the personification of 1970s crassness. He is vulgar, casually racist, unapologetically homophobic, brutally misogynistic and profoundly unfunny. And he's also an innocent man, although a visibly broken one who is the latest in a line of superannuated celebrities to have their collars felt on what are now described as 'historic' sex charges.

Starr would be perfectly entitled to feel that he has been thrown to the wolves as a direct consequence of Operation Yewtree and the very public and farcical way in which it has been conducted. The most basic right any of us have is the presumption of innocence and our right to a good name, which is why the very public naming and shaming of men who committed no crime, such as Starr, Dave Lee Travis, Coronation Street's Bill Roache and his Corrie colleague Michael LeVell, flies in the face of basic justice.

But in the frenzied appetite for a good, old fashioned witch hunt, it is now deemed perfectly acceptable to ruin a man's life and traduce his reputation – all under the convenient excuse that if such an approach prompts one victim to come forward then it will have been worth it.

But it's not worth it, and it can never be worth it.

In fact, such an approach flies in the face of basic fair play. To splash someone's name and face across the front pages of the papers even before they have been found guilty is act of tyranny and it's not acceptable to say, as one leading British feminist recently did, that people like Bill Roache should simply shrug their shoulders, stick out a stiff upper lip and be grateful that the justice system, belatedly, cleared them of all charges.

Of course, the innocent men who have been so publicly trashed all have one thing in common – they're high-profile figures who either come across as decidedly odd or are simply unlikeable.

We now know far more about Bill Roache's sexual peccadilloes than either he or we would ever have wanted. Similarly, we know that Michael LeVell is a problem drinker with substance abuse issues and Dave Lee Travis is a strange sod.

Such is the febrile atmosphere surrounding this issue that anybody who feels disquiet at the manner in which these men have been treated is invariably accused of being soft on sexual predators.

I wrote about Bill Roache's acquittal at the time and one particularly vicious reader was quick to get in touch to say that she hoped nobody close to me was ever raped.

Of course, I could have argued back that I hoped that nobody close to her was ever falsely accused of rape but really, what's the point of arguing with someone like that?

In fact, you can't argue with these people because, frankly, they are too stupid to be worthy of the effort. Rather than employ reason or logic, they want to be the first out of the blocks in their haste to condemn and, crucially, to be seen to condemn, as if they have some sort of moral monopoly on outrage.

So, if we want to take this to its logical conclusion, here's an idea – simply photograph, finger print and take a DNA sample from every man everywhere and place them all on a giant database which people can pore over to see if any of the faces ring a bell.

In fact, why don't we just hold a vast, national ID parade?

That's ridiculous, of course.

But no more ridiculous than destroying innocent people and casually throwing them under the bus in the name of spurious 'justice'.

I'M CRYING AS I WRITE THIS

Really, what's the point? Frankly, I'm struggling to write this column because my faith in the institution of marriage has been battered.

I am referring, of course, to the news that the lovely Katie Price is getting a divorce. Fresh from her latest lucrative magazine spread where she informed the world that her marriage was the most perfect thing in the world, she took to Twitter yesterday that she would be divorcing hubby number three, Kieran Hayler.

And in true tabloid fashion, it turns out that he was having it off with her best mate, which will at least ensure that there are plenty of pictures of the three of them together – which should make a nice little earner for her when she sells her story. Again.

But it does raise one interesting issue – after all, we're constantly told by conservatives that allowing gay people to get hitched would fatally undermine the institution of marriage.

In fairness, Ms Price seems to be doing a perfectly good job of that on her own without needing any help from the gay lobby.

What's in a name

You know that whole global warming thing? Of course, it's not called global warming anymore, now it's climate change.

Sorry, it was climate change. Now, according to a new White House report, it's 'climate disruption.'

It's no wonder the environmentalists have such a hard time trying to sell their more fanciful ideas to a sceptical world – after all, they can't even agree on what to call the bloody thing.

Irish Independent

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