The Ethics of Debunking


According to an article published 22 March in the online newspaper Exaro News (1) the BBC is planning a Panorama program that aims to “debunk claims of a Westminster pedophile network”. 

In response to criticism the program’s producer has said that it will retain “a very open mind”
The use of the words debunk and open mind suggest to me that the program will be looking at issues related to the statutory inquiry into child sexual abuse from the point of view held by magazines such as the Skeptical inquirer and organisations such as Skeptics in the Pub.

These organisations apply a method of:-
1) Saying that they abhor child sexual abuse
2) Dividing what they see as real child sexual abuse from the non real. If there is no forensic evidence then it is non-real. Memory does not count as forensic evidence even if it is the memory of more than one person.
3) Comparing reports of child sexual abuse that are based on human memory to moral panics and witch-hunts
4) Introducing straw-man topics such as satanic panic and alien abductions into dialogue about child sexual abuse
5) Suggesting that people can be falsely accused as the result of moral panics
6) Moving the focus of attention away from the injustice of child sexual abuse to the injustice of false allegations.

One of the people who popularised the word debunk was the stage magician James Randi. An article in the Telegraph (2 ) described him as the king of the debunkers.
James Randi also sits of the advisory board of the US false memory group. ( 3)


(1) Watts, Hencke  and Fielding. “BBC at war over Panorama on claims of VIP pedophile network” Exaro News. 22 March, 2015

(2) “James Randi: Debunking the king of the debunkers” The Telegraph. Dec 9, 2014

(3) the advisory board of the US false memory group.

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