Saturday 25 March 2017

Why there are no winners in
 the squalid saga of Rolf Harris

We shouldn't remove the works of disgraced artists to show our disgust at their actions.

Rolf Harris, centre, outside court
Rolf Harris, centre, outside court
Rolf Harris on stage outside Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee Concert
Rolf Harris and his wife and daughter arrive at court

I didn't feel one bit sorry for Rolf Harris until I read an article by Simon Hattenstone reflecting on his interviews with three attention-seeking sexual predators who sold themselves as protectors of children: Harris, Max Clifford and Jimmy Savile. Both Clifford and Savile, he said "never appeared to question their essential goodness as men and altruists", but Harris hated himself. Hattenstone had been touched by his apparent humility when he castigated himself for his selfishness and uselessness as a husband and father, but "in retrospect, I think even here he was indulging himself - only this time, it was his guilt rather than his libido."

When I got to that bit, my last atom of sympathy evaporated.

I wouldn't be giving any more mental house-room to this squalid case had I not been fascinated by the public reaction. Some of it was even funny. Russell Brand - who these days sees himself as a sage rather than as a comedian famous for his voracious appetite for consenting adult lovelies - now has a YouTube channel on which he pronounces on the issues of the day. He was upset about Harris, he explained. The unmasking of such a popular entertainer from his childhood "contributes to the idea that nothing that we stand on is firm ground. There's a horror; an uncanniness to it." The case was "graffiti over our consciousness, our grasp of what is real."

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