According to Feedly… Rolf Harris

POSTED: June 15, 2015

According to Feedly this morning the BBC online news is reporting that the Mail on Sunday is reporting that a Friend of Rolf Harris is claiming that he received a latter from Rolf Harris that shocked him.

Rolf Harris, for those otherwise engaged, is a former national treasurer who, at the age of 84, has been sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for what appears to be a lifetime of opportunistic sexual assault on young fans, paralleled by the long-term abuse of a close friend of his daughter.

Having said that, the methods of news-as-prurient-entertainment are a wonder to behold. The Guardian later reported that BBC online news is reporting that the Mail on Sunday is reporting that a Friend of Rolf Harris is claiming that he received a latter from Rolf Harris that shocked him.

The Mail Online starts its story about his vile letter with the image below, a purely descriptive image that serves only to remind us of the man who used to be on the telly whenever we switched it on.

The Guardian claims that

Convicted paedophile Rolf Harris has written a vile song from his prison cell, in which he displays no remorse for his victims whose lives he wrecked, says the Mail Online

The victims’ lawyer, Liz Dux, said she had spoken to one of them and was told her feelings were of “total revulsion”.

The various news outlets in the chain report that the cause of the revulsion is the fact that the letter contains the lyrics to a song that the elderly entertainer plans to record “the moment he is out of jail”.

He wants it to have “a country-rock sound with a heavy back-beat”, although he confesses that he has not yet written the tune, and will have to work on this before he is released.

In fact, the Mail Online headlines the story thus:

In shock letter from cell, shamed star reveals ‘country rock’ lyrics that damn his sex victims as greedy ‘wenches’ – then brags about cushy prison life

The Mail also employs two graphologists to tell us that Rolf’s handwriting show a man who is “angry and ashamed”

Handwriting expert Ruth Myers said Harris’s letter reveals a man who ‘cannot be truthful’.

‘It shows a man who is creative but difficult and defensive,’ she said. ‘Outwardly he is pleasant but in reality he cannot be truthful and is in denial.

‘He will make excuses and justify his actions rather than face up to reality. He will pretend his deceit does not exist – to him his conscience is clear.’

I think there are many things wrong with this, unless you want to regard it as good old-fashioned British entertainment, which you are quite entitled to.

The main issue is that most or all of this is only “in the public interest” in the most tangential way imaginable.

“I am calling for this letter to be shown to the parole board and for it to be taken into account when deciding when to release him,” Dux, from law firm Slater & Gordon, told BBC Radio 4.

“The whole point of parole is for people to show some sort of remorse and understanding of their actions when they return into society and here is someone who is clearly behaving as he was before, with complete disdain and an attitude that he can behave how he wants.”

All this will be in the public interest if and when Harris is considered for parole but for the moment it is not.

Harris has been in jail for less than a year. Why is this important, assuming that any of this is? Because remorse is a process, not something that happens in a single rational flash. According to the letter, which The Mail prints in full he says that “at last after eight months the inner rage has come to the fore”.

In other words, he says that his feelings have begun to shift.

Inner rage might, or might not, be a necessary step on the road to remorse and Harris might (or might not) feel very differently about those lyrics (which appear to describe the women he feels are seeking to make money off him by making up lies as “slimy woodworm”) in another eight months.

The “whole point of parole” is for people to have arrived at “some sort of remorse” by the time they apply for it and we can expect them to find this difficult if it is indeed possible. If they had had an “understanding of their actions” at the time they were doing them then they probably wouldn’t have done them in the first place. Since they did do them, then they will have to make fundamental changes in how they think about themselves, other people, and the world we live in, before they can arrive at anything like remorse and a comprehension of how they have affected other people.

In an adult society we could reasonably do without any knowledge of letters Rolf Harris sent to a person he viewed as a friend. We could put it to one side as nothing to do with us, or we could wait to see how it all plays out; and to see what happens if and when he applies for parole.

In the world of the digital lynch mob, though: why bother? Why not have an opinion about it right now, and every other time they prod us into having one?