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It all began well enough, rather deliciously in fact, as most comfortable middle class left-of-centre dinner parties do. There were starters of carpaccio sliced fennel in oil and lemon juice with Maldon sea salt; two types of home made hummus – one with toasted pine nuts, the other with sautéed lamb, plus a side jug of lemon and mint to drizzle over it… and a particularly tasty conspiracy theory to get the ball rolling.

‘I knew someone, who knew this Soho madam…’ says the slightly hunched woman with the eighties perm who struggles with eye contact to my right, ‘…and this madam told me that in the 1970s, she regularly supplied Tory prime minister Edward Heath with Moroccan boys, who would be smuggled into the country for him to have sex with, and then smuggled out again.’ The pitta bread arrives. ‘That’s what Morning Cloud was for.’

Edward Heath at the helm of his sex hideaway

1970s UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath at the helm of his sex hideaway

‘Ah well,’ I’m feeling a little mischievous, ‘Moroccan boys were terribly fashionable back then, you know, Joe Orton and all that.’

‘Oh no,’ she sternly corrects me, ‘these were boys. Six or seven year old boys. With the full knowledge of Special Branch.’

A bowl of home made baba ganoush arrives, sprinkled with luscious pomegranate seeds.

Yummy conspiracy food

Yummy conspiracy food

I can’t help thinking that’s an awful lot of trouble to go to for a bit of child sexual abuse (not the home made Levantine hors d’oeuvres, the child smuggling. Doh! Keep up!), when most child abusers settle for easy access opportunistic satisfaction.

And I should have left it that – as a thought – but hey, when did that ever stop me?

You see, my problem is this: Clearly all sorts of truly awful, horrific, stuff went on – goes on! – but like most things in life, people are kinda lazy, obvious, banal. Jimmy Savile wore elasticated tracksuits so he could whip it out, and put it back at a moment’s notice.

Jimmy Savile favoured the banal convenience of the tracksuit

Jimmy Savile favoured the banal convenience of the elasticated tracksuit

(Sorry am I putting you off your tzatziki?)

Creamy levantine hors d'ouevre

Creamy levantine hors d’ouevre

The hard work generally goes into the set-up. You know the kind of thing, raising millions for charity, becoming a trusted priest, training to be a gifted music teacher… That gives you the access, and the status you need; after that it’s about maximising opportunity. The least work for the most gain.

A lot of professions are like that. It takes years to become a doctor; but hours and hours on the golf course await you once you’ve got there.

So I can follow the establishment paedophile ring narrative as far as Alderman Cyril Smith exploiting his role to gain access to children’s homes and variations on that theme. And I guess he had the inside on other high ranking types with similar proclivities, enough to blackmail them on an ad hoc basis to get himself unarrested every time he got more brazen and careless than normal.

For those unfamiliar with UK current affairs, this is the delightful Alderman Cyril Smith, Liberal politician and serial child abuser.

For those unfamiliar with UK current affairs, this is the delightful Alderman Cyril Smith, Liberal politician and serial child abuser.

But a shady cabal of senior politicos, security chiefs, with nothing better to spend their time on but the systematic and collective abuse of children, in organised child abuse events, sex parties or what have you…? Hmm… I start to struggle a bit. Not because I have a blind faith in our political class, nor because I can’t imagine terrible, terrible things being done to children by powerful people. But because…

There’s a reason I don’t hold parties. They’re such a bloody time consuming faff. And yes, I confess, the vast majority of parties I’ve organised in my life have involved children… and jelly… and party bags… and politically correct pass-the-parcel where everybody has to win something. Bloody exhausting. These days however, the sorts of parties I hold don’t require anything more risqué than a Tesco Mediterranean Dip Medley (I can’t be arsed slaving over home made hummus) and bread sticks; the crudest thing you’ll find at my place is a crudité. But god, the invitations, the shopping, the planning, the mess…! The ones with the kids are the worst!!!

I know, I know, I’m being flippant in fabulously bad taste – but I’m making a completely serious point too. Some of the events described in recent news reports sound extraordinarily, exhaustingly labour intensive – on a par with mounting a theatre event, or a day’s independent film production. You’d need an administrator, or a damned fine 2nd AD.  So let’s think about this in practical production terms.  

Currently under investigation as the alleged location of historical sex abuse by a cabal of MPs, security and military chiefs.

Currently under investigation as the alleged location of historical sex abuse by a cabal of MPs, security and military chiefs.

Procuring all these children in a collective setting requires personnel – lots of personnel. You need drivers, catering – for the parties – cleaning staff (presumably at Dolphin Square there would have been more than a little mess), and in the case of the smuggled Moroccan children, how are they being transported? Private planes? In which case that involves air traffic control, airfield staff etc. If they’re coming in on commercial jets then you need a whole infrastructure of people on the inside to escort them.  You’ve got to pay/bribe these ancillary workers. That involves negotiating each fee individually (I doubt there’s an industry rate) and providing an income stream, which will require some kind of crude accounting system. All organised crime tends to involve bookkeepers or quartermasters of some sort.  

By the way, if you think I’m beyond the pale with this line of reasoning, then let me tell you this delightful anecdote. Early in my career I worked at a well known english repertory theatre where the directors’ PA told me that she had regularly cleaned a variety of bodily fluids off the walls of the office after the directorial predecessor’s late night ‘casting’ sessions. I use the word ‘variety’ advisedly.

Too gross? Well….perhaps, but that’s my point. Working in a collective environment it was impossible not to involve the staff, and the more people who are involved with something, the less likely you’ll keep it a secret. Presumably that’s why the police investigation has made a public appeal for precisely these kinds of witnesses. It’ll be interesting to see what that throws up. A systematic, large scale, industrial conspiracy requires a large scale, industrial infra structure. The police are clearly looking for that infra-structure too. They also say they are challenged by a mismatch of victim numbers to corroborate the industrial abuse scenario. Again, hopefully the various promises of indemnities will ensure a greater throughput of witnesses to confirm things either way.

So back at the dinner table, a gargantuan Le Creuset has arrived filled with steaming aromatic chicken and artichoke tagine, along with a bowl of al dente oven baked couscous. Something of a Moroccan theme developing here….

With further bad taste, I’ve playfully – but seriously – expounded my infra-structure theory (look, I didn’t start it!) only to be countered by a stern, impregnable look of loathing from the woman opposite, for whom eye contact is a weapon. Surely I must understand that the very invisibility of this infrastructure, the sheer scale of secrecy is evidence in itself of The Establishment at its conspiratorial best/worst!

Ah yes. The Establishment. That smoking neon sign hanging over the shadowy doorway in every conspiracy theorist’s paranoid imagination.

The Establishment...

The Establishment…

I’m never quite sure precisely what or who the establishment is – or even what The Establishment is! – but I know one thing about it for sure.

It’s a bit crap.

Those who hold power in our country – in the world in fact – appear to me more as somewhat nightmarish comedy fire fighters, clowns in the rattling fire engine of state, who botch their way from crisis to crisis – often self generated – trusting to luck with the economy, barely able to run the most basic of national infra-structures, squirting napalm in each others faces while the doors fall off and the poorest are squashed beneath the rubber wheels of government, their screams lost beneath all the hysterical honking of political horns. A glimpse at transport policy, health policy, defence policy, any policy you care to name, will surely reassure you that the only thing established in the establishment is… chaos.

...or the establishment?

…or the establishment?

Indeed, the same CTs (conspiracy theorists) who talk darkly of decades of highly polished, stiletto bladed conspiracy, will in the next breath bemoan the utter failure of policy or coherence emanating from the very same shadowy enemies who are somehow brilliantly machiavellian – and ostentatiously incompetent – at the same time.

Although, to be fair, I’ve heard it seriously argued that government is DELIBERATELY run in a chaotic fashion so as to distract us from the more sinister calculating agendas lurking under the surface. Oh yes, and apparently wars and terrorism are both fabricated for the same reason. Adam Curtis makes a tidy living producing sooth sayer TV documentaries about it. Well. You can’t prove a negative.

There’s a satirical part of me that wishes that the shadowy cabal theory of everything were true – because perhaps one day all the brilliant secret government conspirators will apply their talents to running the National Health Service, after which time no one will ever be ill again!

So back to Ted Heath’s yacht, and his smuggled Moroccan six year olds. I’m trying to satirise my way out of this in the face of my conspiratorial inquisitor, who is now looking at me as if I have a small Moroccan child stuffed down my trousers.

I joke: ‘It’s like that scene in Austin Powers about Dr Evil’s Henchmen. Mike Myers wonders – just like I always did as a kid – who are these henchmen? Where do they live? Do they have families? Should we care if they get killed? It’s a funny sketch because we know that the idea of building a secret base inside a hollowed out volcano is completely ridiculous. I mean, you couldn’t keep a great big thing like that secret, and that’s why there are no secret bases inside hollowed out volcanoes.’

Glary woman looks at me coldly: ‘How do you know there aren’t?’

This place definitely exists

This place definitely exists

I am forced to admit that of course I don’t. You can’t prove a negative – the WMD of choice for the conspiracy theorist.

‘And,’ she’s tasted blood, now, ‘It’s the collective thing that binds them in their secrecy; the fear of what will happen if they break ranks. I mean, what about Leon Brittan?’
What about him?
‘It’s a bit stange, isn’t it, him dying?’
He was seventy five and he’d had cancer for two years.
‘Just as the truth is coming to the surface??? It’s a bit convenient.’
Whatever Mr Brittan may or not have done, I am actually lost for words at this point.
‘Perhaps he killed himself,’ someone else pipes up, helpfully, as if that were a more plausible scenario.

I’m actually old enough to remember when left wing conspiracy theorists would earnestly argue that the rumours about Leon Brittan (which have been around for decades) were actually spread by MI6 for reasons that have long since eluded me and that despite looking a bit greasy, he was completely innocent of anything apart from being a Tory.

Conspiracy theories are like a game of consequences, random nuggets of paranoia that can be assembled in any order for your amusement.

At this point, I should make something clear. I have no problem with accepting the reality of conspiracies – they’re banal, messy, dirty and fundamentally obvious things – it’s conspiracy theories I feel the intense need to ridicule. For they are just that – theories. Conspiracy theories are, generally, a manifestation of collective paranoid psychoses; constructed dystopian narratives that stand apart from reality. Mostly they are pretty harmless – perhaps they are a social mutation of an ancient collective fear reflex – but the reason they annoy me so much, is that at their heart they are arrogant and egotistical – saying more about the theorists than the theorised – and they belittle everyone involved – the real victims, and the perpetrators too.

Hang on, what am I talking about there? Belittling perpetrators?? What on earth are you on about Jameson? Pass the harissa, this tagine needs a bit more spice.

Ok, so I have a relative who lives in the United States, to whom I can barely talk these days because it’s so hard to manoeuvre around what is, in effect, a psychotic reinvention of world realities. To be fair, there appears to be a substantial tranche of the US left for whom, I guess, their political isolation has led them to share a collective disbelief/distrust of everything, apart from their own ever more extraordinary scenarios. This disbelief appears to be mirrored in the American far-right as well. Perhaps there’s a sense of safety in sharing these mystical beliefs. But that’s odd, because the US hardly hides its propensity for political manipulation or the tendency for its foreign policy to wreak global havoc. I’m always amazed why the CTs feel the need to invent another layer of it.

Before I learned to laugh at this nonsense, I once found myself in a ridiculous discussion on the New York subway where my rellie tried to convince me that the reason the National Union of Mineworkers lost the 1984/5 miners’ strike is because Arthur Scargill was placed there by MI5/CIA in order to discredit the British labour movement and deliberately lose this important industrial dispute. It got so heated we ended up out in one of the boroughs, when we were only going to the Carnegie Deli to eat huge pastrami on rye sandwiches.

Now, as it happens, it has since been confirmed that there was indeed an MI5 informant at the heart of the NUM (it was suspected at the time) passing strategical info on to Special Branch. But Arthur Scargill a CIA agent? I know these pages are read by good people from all around the globe, who may be unfamiliar with the man, but trust me on this, Arthur Scargill the CIA infiltrator is a brilliantly amusing idea…. conjuring up a sort of Yorkshire Jack Bauer with extremely bad hair.

CIA Super Agent Arthur Scargill

CIA Super Agent Arthur Scargill

But. It’s also insulting. It actually says that miners are idiots; blind, naive fools suckered by an evil cabal of political agents provocateur. And perhaps it’s poor old Arthur’s final humiliation to be written off by the american left as a CIA stooge. And then think of the organisation… Did Thatcher know? The Iron Lady and Special Agent Scargill ‘pretending’ to be at war with each other whilst secretly sniggering at the the rest of us poor fools behind their backs?

More recently my relative has announced on Facebook that Anders Breivik was a false flag operation instigated by Mossad in order to punish Norway for its support of the Palestinians. This one did make me angry. There’s something about hijacking that awful bloody tragedy just to serve your own self-loathing-US-centric agenda that absolutely trashes the memory of all those young people. It is, in itself, a form of obscene political colonialism.

And of course she believes that 9/11 was a Mossad put-up job. I’m not going to rehearse those arguments here, but when, today, she also adamantly advertises that ISIS is a CIA/MI6/Mossad false flag organisation, I actually start to feel sorry for the terrorists. I imagine them in their camps, reading this stuff online and screaming at their screens: ‘Oi! Conspiracy theorist!! No!!! We’re trying to fight a holy war here you arrogant egocentric bastard!! We’re genuinely oppressed and extremely pissed off and we’re prepared to kill for it!! We don’t need Mossad’s help thank you very much.’

I love the Mossad thing – CTs who believe Mossad is behind EVERYTHING. They’ll happily list all the terrible things that Israel, the USA and the UK have done to the Middle East, but then they decide that the shat-upon-people of that region somehow don’t actually have the organisational ability to mount their own Jihad. Oh yes, by the way, did you know that Charlie Hebdo was a false flag operation by Mossad to frighten french Jews and get them to move to Israel? Yeah, well you do now.

Like I say. It insults everyone. Good guys, bad guys (you can allocate the labels as your politics determines, I’m easy).

Back to the dinner party and a mouthwatering desert of caramelised apple tart arrives.  I’m informed that I’m obviously not as left wing as my conspiracy chums – as if belief in unsubstantiated conspiracy is directly proportional to radical political thought. Which is both wrong, and philosophically paralysing, in the most arrogant of ways.

We’re on to coffee now, a sweet and delicious vietnamese blend, which takes us away from conspiracies, thank god, and Glary Woman is talking about her passion for Doctor Who.

Must be all those parallel universes.

But I suppose that’s why I find fantasy fiction so tedious. The real world does it for me. Vulnerable kids were, and are, abused all over the place, in the most ordinary of ways, and mostly in private dark, lonely locations. Powerful men will have paid for sex with under aged boys – as they have done for centuries. They ducked and dived. They pulled in favours. They used their status and their contacts, and people’s fear of putting their heads above the parapet, losing their jobs etc to get away with it…

…but if we discover that it was all a lot more random and seedy than the more lurid scenarios suggest, I hope we won’t feel “disappointed” that it was all so run of the mill.  Let’s make sure we don’t fall prey to needing the victims to be six year old Moroccan kids smuggled in by a vast establishment cabal. Let’s make sure we don’t find ourselves needing all the victims to be prepubescent children, as if the exploitation of a fifteen year old rent boy isn’t bad enough.

Let’s not make this about the dark recesses of our imagination and our hatred for authority, and forget to be shocked by the way exploitation and terrible pain is too often so bloody ordinary.

But, as I have said several times now (this Moroccan cuisine does rather repeat on you), I can’t prove a negative, and although I’m as rationally as sure as I can be that the most likely place we’ll find the now-middle-aged collective of Heath’s Moroccan 1970s sex victims is inside a hollowed out volcano – that is no reassurance at all.

For me, it is the conspiracy theories that are the distraction.

And that’s why I, for one, ‘Do Not Feed The Conspiracy Theorists’.

empty plate