As news emerges of a man damaging controversial statues outside the headquarters of the BBC, which were designed by a paedophile and beastialist, here our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry (who spent 23 years at the corporation) looks at why the problematic past of influential figures needs to be exposed.
Previously he has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and made clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
I may not have used a hammer to do it, but I have always tried to expose the truth about individuals.
This thought has come to me reading about the man who climbed scaffolding at the front of the BBC’s HQ in London, and damaged the superb statues by the notorious sculptor Eric Gill of Prospero and Ariel at the front, in an apparent protest.
There have been calls for the stone figures to be removed in the past, because the sculptor recorded sexually abusing his daughters in his diaries.
It is the second time the 1930s work at Broadcasting House (BH) has been targeted.
A demonstrator also took a hammer to it last year and damage from that incident is still being repaired.
But recording the abuse he inflicted on his daughter in his diaries, is the least of it.
What Gill actually DID is far worse!
Apart from abusing his daughter when she was a child, he had an incestuous relationship, too, with at least one of his sisters, and sexually experimented with his dog.
I believe strongly that it’s important to know the truth about influential figures like him, so that people can then decide whether they deserve support or not.
Gill may have been a fantastic sculptor, but his background is completely unacceptable.
Let me be clear – I am NOT advocating the criminal damage of property, but if the aim was to highlight the appalling past behaviour of Gill, THAT was laudable, and it needs to be done with many other people too.
A case in point, with a strong Welsh link (who has been very much in the news recently), is the gifted children’s author Roald Dahl.
A huge row developed over plans to remove references by him to aspects of characters’ appearance and weight, with words like ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ to be taken out, because they were deemed not suitable for modern audiences.
There was, however, a fierce backlash against the idea and his books were to be printed in their original form.
But Dahl possessed even worse flaws, placing a large question mark over a public plaza in the heart of Cardiff Bay, being named Roald Dahl Plass.
He was a convinced anti-Semite, and although he was a brilliant writer, honouring him seems bizarre.
More than thirty years ago he had said to The Independent: “I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism”.
From the other direction, we also have the former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.
He was a hate-figure to those on the left, who thought he callously ignored the human suffering in Vietnam, by reducing ‘victories’ to a ‘body-count’.
McNamara recanted later, but remains a controversial figure to this day.
It has been revealed, for example, that in 1962, he supported a plan for mass spraying of rice fields with herbicides in the Phu Yen mountains to starve out the Viet Cong.
Less well known than these controversies, are far more praise-worthy parts of his character.
McNamara was, for instance, a life-long member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and did more than most to address racism in the armed forces.
He commissioned a study which found many examples of black soldiers facing bigotry in West Germany and Korea, as well as insisting that members of the armed forces must not be subjected to the “hate and prejudice, that parades under the pomposity of racial superiority”.
It might be better if you tell the whole truth about certain people.
I wouldn’t use a hammer to do it though!
The memories of Phil’s extraordinary decades long award-winning career in journalism (when he uncovered information about influential figures others would rather keep hidden) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A Good Story’. Order it now.
Another book, though, has not been published, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – why multi-million pound investors in a South Wales biotech company may not know the controversial background of one of those behind the firm, which has been exposed exclusively by The Eye.
Next week, ‘Aerial combat part two’, where Phil looks at how a new law designed to stop criminality is under fire because it may undermine a freedom to protest.