False accusers

Typically false accusers go unnamed and are protected by law, unless they are prosecuted. The following, however, are publicly named (these are all the United Kingdom). From them one can begin to extract and explain reasons for the making of serious false accusations. Noticeably, mental instability is highly correlated, particularly Borderline Personality Disorder: three of them also committed suicide.


1. Sophie Pointon
2. Hazel Adams
3. Charlotte Coursier
4. Keeley Horrocks
5. Jemma Beale
6. Halina Khan
7. Eleanor DeFreitas
8. Hannah Stubbs
9. Rhiannon Brooker
10. Jane Fishwick
11. Nichole Richess
12. Lottie Harris

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False accusation cases 111: Deborah Lowe

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[from The Daily Mail] “Teacher, 54, who called herself ‘the slut’ and had sex with teenage pupil in ‘every lad’s fantasy’ cries as she is CLEARED by jury – because affair started after he left school

  • Deborah Lowe, 54, of Poynton, Cheshire was accused of sex with teenage pupil
  • Mother-of-two wiped away tears as she was told she could leave the dock
  • Jury found Lowe not guilty of five counts of sexual activity with a child

A former air hostess turned high school teacher broke down in tears after a jury cleared her of having sex with a teenage pupil. The court heard how Deborah Lowe, 54, and the boy had ‘rough’ sex sessions where he pulled her hair and she bit and scratched his back until it bled. And the teenager told jurors it was ‘every lad’s fantasy’ to have sex with a teacher but admitted later feeling ‘creeped out’ because of the age gap. Mother-of-two Lowe from Poynton, Cheshire was told she could leave the dock and was free to go by the judge, following a seven-day trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester. The divorcee admitted that she had not had sex for nine years and told the court that she was flattered by the attention she had received. However Lowe said she was now ‘deeply ashamed’ and had been suffering from ‘a mid-life crisis’ when they began a relationship. The jury, who were out for two hours and seven minutes deliberating, found Lowe not guilty of five counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust. She had stood, hands clasped in front of her, swaying slightly and breathing deeply as the jury foreman returned the verdicts.

Lowe said at the time she had become interested in meditation and yoga, visited Bali, sold her flat in suburban Cheshire and given up her job as head of pastoral care at a high school to go travelling in India to ‘explore her faith’. But she maintained the relationship with the boy, 35 years her junior, only became sexual after he had left school and he was aged 17. The prosecution had alleged that sex began when the boy was 16 – and although old enough to legally consent, Lowe broke the law by having sex with him when being a person in a position of trust – his teacher. Earlier, the court heard that in a jokey WhatsApp message to a friend Lowe told her she was not having sex with the boy and described herself as a ‘mother’ figure. But she added: ‘…if not in the too distant future he wants to discuss the merits of an older woman I will be there for him’ followed by emojis of a bottle of baby oil and a pair of handcuffs. The teenager had told the jury after ‘flirting’ at school they swapped phone numbers and first engaged in phone sex before sexual encounters in her home, car and caravan.

A former air hostess who has worked in education for 14 years, Lowe told the jury sex first took place after he contacted her around December 2016 – three months after he left school, and she took him to her flat in the Stockport area of Greater Manchester. They kissed and had sex and later on also had sex at his home while his mother, who Lowe knew, was out of the house. The relationship continued into 2017 with more secret liaisons in the caravan where she lived. She sent him a card signing off with, ‘the slut’ a name they used during the ‘rough’ sex sessions. Police were called in last summer after his mother found the card Lowe sent to him. Lowe, who has a daughter, aged 28 and a son, 20, said later she felt, ‘mortified and embarrassed’ over her ‘foolish infatuation’ and denied being ‘sexually obsessed’ with the youngster.

Neil Usher, defending Lowe, described the complainant as an ‘attention-seeking fantasist‘ who had claimed sex began when he was aged 15 so he could sell his story to tabloid newspapers. A single allegation of having sex with a child, when the complainant was aged 15, was withdrawn by the prosecution during the trial and the judge instructed the jury to return a not guilty verdict on that charge, after the boy gave evidence which suggested he was 16, not 15, when he first had sexual contact with Ms Lowe.

The defendant, of Elm Beds Caravan Park, Poynton, Cheshire, had denied five counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust said to have taken place between September 14, 2015 and June 30, 2016. Cleared, she left court hurriedly, and her solicitor told waiting reporters she did not wish to speak to the press, but read a statement on her behalf. It said:

“The last nine months have been extremely difficult for me and my family. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their love and care. I’m grateful for the support from former colleagues, friends and past pupils who sent messages of support. Although incredibly stressful and upsetting at times I’m extremely pleased I have had the opportunity to clear my name and I’m delighted the jury acquitted me of all counts. I’m very grateful to my legal team, Jared McNally and Neil Usher, who from the start identified the flaws in the case against me and robustly challenged the prosecution case. I now wish to put this case behind me as best I can and spend some time with my family and friends.”

Domestic Violence: Jordan Worth

Story about a woman, Jordan Worth, inflicting severe domestic violence on a male victim. Fortunately, his ordeal is over and the perpetrator has been punished with a 7 year jail sentence. My stalker and harasser Charlotte Coursier did some of these things to me, including assaulting me. My stalker was a BPD psychopath, who committed suicide when her boyfriend dumped her in June 2013. But I was then slandered, abused, witch hunted and lynched by lying feminist vigilante savages.


[from The Daily Mail] “Controlling girlfriend, 22, who starved and stabbed her lover, banned him from her bed and took over his Facebook account is jailed for more than seven years.

  • Jordan Worth, 22, inflicted a catalogue of injuries on her boyfriend
  • She stabbed him, scalded him with boiling water and isolated him from friends
  • Worth, of Stewartby, Bedfordshire, is jailed for seven-and-a-half years
  • She pleaded guilty to controlling or coercive behaviour, wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm

A controlling girlfriend who made her partner’s life a misery by inflicting a catalogue of injuries on him in violent attacks has been jailed for seven and a half years. Petite Jordan Worth, 22, stabbed him with a knife, scalded him with boiling water, banned him from their bed and decided what clothes he should wear. Worth, who lived with her boyfriend in the village of Stewartby, Bedfordshire, also isolated him from his friends and took over his Facebook account. Aspiring teacher Worth had a degree from the University of Hertfordshire, had come from a loving and supportive family, and had raised money for children in Africa. But Luton Crown Court heard she cruelly controlled every aspect of her partner’s life. The court heard Worth and her partner had met at college in 2012 when they were both 16. Prosecutor Maryam Syed said a relationship began and later they moved in together but from an early stage she was exercising control over him deciding what he could wear. But the prosecutor said worse was to come as she became violent towards the man, who the court heard suffered from hydrocephalus which is caused by a buildup of fluid inside the skull which made him vulnerable. She used blunt objects to strike him, wounded him with a knife and didn’t help him get to hospital for treatment. For nine months he couldn’t sleep in the same bed as her, the court was told.
Worth pleaded guilty to controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship, wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm with intent between April 2016 to June last year.

Neighbours of the couple often heard them arguing said Miss Syed and the sounds of things being thrown in the house. She said the victim was heard by his neighbours shouting at Worth: ‘Get off me, you are hurting me’. He was seen on occasions with black eyes and to be limping and with his arm in sling. Once Worth was seen at a window by a neighbour ‘armed’ with a screwdriver or hammer, the court was told. Another neighbour heard the victim shouting: ‘Get off me. Get off my head. Don’t keep doing that to my head.’ She saw burn marks on his arms which he explained away as self-inflicted. The court heard it was in June of last year that neighbours called police to the couple’s home in the village in the early hours after hearing shouting. The ambulance crew noted injuries to his hand, burns to arms and legs which were being self treated with cling film. There was cling film round his ankles, and a hand wound that was bleeding. He was taken to Bedford Hospital’s acute clinical unit and then to Addenbrookes Hospital.

The prosecutor said he had second and third degree burns which will leave permanent scarring. The court was told Worth had thrown boiling hot water over her partner. On June 6 he was examined at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage and found to have burns on his legs as well as stab wounds about his body and limbs. Days later Worth was arrested. The court heard the couple are no longer together and Worth, who is in a new relationship, has been living at an address in Ingoldisthorpe, Norfolk. Jailing her for seven and a half years judge Nic Madge told Worth that as well as the violence she had carried out on her partner she had refused him adequate bedding and food. He said she would ‘belittle’ her partner and discouraged him from contacting friends and his family. He said: ‘She accepts that she has in the past, on a number of occasions, used blunt objects and implements to strike him and that he suffered injuries as a result of her doing so. ‘She accepts using boiling or hot water to cause injury to him. She accepts that she has in the past used a knife to cause injury to her partner.’ Worth was also made the subject of a restraining order which prevents her from contacting her ex for an indefinite period.”

Nineteen Eighty Four, Part III, Ch. 2 & 3

Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell, Part III, Chapters 2 and 3.


 

Part III, Chapter 2

He was lying on something that felt like a camp bed, except that it was higher off the ground and that he was fixed down in some way so that he could not move. Light that seemed stronger than usual was falling on his face. O’Brien was standing at his side, looking down at him intently. At the other side of him stood a man in a white coat, holding a hypodermic syringe.

Even after his eyes were open he took in his surroundings only gradually. He had the impression of swimming up into this room from some quite different world, a sort of underwater world far beneath it. How long he had been down there he did not know. Since the moment when they arrested him he had not seen darkness or daylight. Besides, his memories were not continuous. There had been times when consciousness, even the sort of consciousness that one has in sleep, had stopped dead and started again after a blank interval. But whether the intervals were of days or weeks or only seconds, there was no way of knowing.

With that first blow on the elbow the nightmare had started. Later he was to realize that all that then happened was merely a preliminary, a routine interrogation to which nearly all prisoners were subjected. There was a long range of crimes — espionage, sabotage, and the like — to which everyone had to confess as a matter of course. The confession was a formality, though the torture was real. How many times he had been beaten, how long the beatings had continued, he could not remember. Always there were five or six men in black uniforms at him simultaneously. Sometimes it was fists, sometimes it was truncheons, sometimes it was steel rods, sometimes it was boots. There were times when he rolled about the floor, as shameless as an animal, writhing his body this way and that in an endless, hopeless effort to dodge the kicks, and simply inviting more and yet more kicks, in his ribs, in his belly, on his elbows, on his shins, in his groin, in his testicles, on the bone at the base of his spine. There were times when it went on and on until the cruel, wicked, unforgivable thing seemed to him not that the guards continued to beat him but that he could not force hirnself into losing consciousness. There were times when his nerve so forsook him that he began shouting for mercy even before the beating began, when the mere sight of a fist drawn back for a blow was enough to make him pour forth a confession of real and imaginary crimes. There were other times when he started out with the resolve of confessing nothing, when every word had to be forced out of him between gasps of pain, and there were times when he feebly tried to compromise, when he said to himself: ‘I will confess, but not yet. I must hold out till the pain becomes unbearable. Three more kicks, two more kicks, and then I will tell them what they want.’ Sometimes he was beaten till he could hardly stand, then flung like a sack of potatoes on to the stone floor of a cell, left to recuperate for a few hours, and then taken out and beaten again. There were also longer periods of recovery. He remembered them dimly, because they were spent chiefly in sleep or stupor. He remembered a cell with a plank bed, a sort of shelf sticking out from the wall, and a tin wash-basin, and meals of hot soup and bread and sometimes coffee. He remembered a surly barber arriving to scrape his chin and crop his hair, and businesslike, unsympathetic men in white coats feeling his pulse, tapping his reflexes, turning up his eyelids, running harsh fingers over him in search for broken bones, and shooting needles into his arm to make him sleep.

The beatings grew less frequent, and became mainly a threat, a horror to which he could be sent back at any moment when his answers were unsatisfactory. His questioners now were not ruffians in black uniforms but Party intellectuals, little rotund men with quick movements and flashing spectacles, who worked on him in relays over periods which lasted — he thought, he could not be sure — ten or twelve hours at a stretch. These other questioners saw to it that he was in constant slight pain, but it was not chiefly pain that they relied on. They slapped his face, wrung his ears. pulled his hair, made him stand on one leg, refused him leave to urinate, shone glaring lights in his face until his eyes ran with water; but the aim of this was simply to humiliate him and destroy his power of arguing and reasoning. Their real weapon was the merciless questioning that went on and on, hour after hour, tripping him up, laying traps for him, twisting everything that he said, convicting him at every step of lies and self-contradiction until he began weeping as much from shame as from nervous fatigue Sometimes he would weep half a dozen times in a single session. Most of the time they screamed abuse at him and threatened at every hesitation to deliver him over to the guards again; but sometimes they would suddenly change their tune, call him comrade, appeal to him in the name of Ingsoc and Big Brother, and ask him sorrowfully whether even now he had not enough loyalty to the Party left to make him wish to undo the evil he had done. When his nerves were in rags after hours of questioning, even this appeal could reduce him to snivelling tears. In the end the nagging voices broke him down more completely than the boots and fists of the guards. He became simply a mouth that uttered, a hand that signed, whatever was demanded of him. His sole concern was to find out what they wanted him to confess, and then confess it quickly, before the bullying started anew. He confessed to the assassination of eminent Party members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets, embezzlement of public funds, sale of military secrets, sabotage of every kind. He confessed that he had been a spy in the pay of the Eastasian government as far back as 1968. He confessed that he was a religious believer, an admirer of capitalism, and a sexual pervert. He confessed that he had murdered his wife, although he knew, and his questioners must have known, that his wife was still alive. He confessed that for years he had been in personal touch with Goldstein and had been a member of an underground organization which had included almost every human being he had ever known. It was easier to confess everything and implicate everybody. Besides, in a sense it was all true. It was true that he had been the enemy of the Party, and in the eyes of the Party there was no distinction between the thought and the deed.

There were also memories of another kind. They stood out in his mind disconnectedly, like pictures with blackness all round them.

He was in a cell which might have been either dark or light, because he could see nothing except a pair of eyes. Near at hand some kind of instrument was ticking slowly and regularly. The eyes grew larger and more luminous. Suddenly he floated out of his seat, dived into the eyes, and was swallowed up.

He was strapped into a chair surrounded by dials, under dazzling lights. A man in a white coat was reading the dials. There was a tramp of heavy boots outside. The door clanged open. The waxed-faced officer marched in, followed by two guards.

‘Room 101,’ said the officer.

The man in the white coat did not turn round. He did not look at Winston either; he was looking only at the dials.

He was rolling down a mighty corridor, a kilometre wide, full of glorious, golden light, roaring with laughter and shouting out confessions at the top of his voice. He was confessing everything, even the things he had succeeded in holding back under the torture. He was relating the entire history of his life to an audience who knew it already. With him were the guards, the other questioners, the men in white coats, O’Brien, Julia, Mr Charrington, all rolling down the corridor together and shouting with laughter. Some dreadful thing which had lain embedded in the future had somehow been skipped over and had not happened. Everything was all right, there was no more pain, the last detail of his life was laid bare, understood, forgiven.

He was starting up from the plank bed in the half-certainty that he had heard O’Brien’s voice. All through his interrogation, although he had never seen him, he had had the feeling that O’Brien was at his elbow, just out of sight. It was O’Brien who was directing everything. It was he who set the guards on to Winston and who prevented them from killing him. It was he who decided when Winston should scream with pain, when he should have a respite, when he should be fed, when he should sleep, when the drugs should be pumped into his arm. It was he who asked the questions and suggested the answers. He was the tormentor, he was the protector, he was the inquisitor, he was the friend. And once — Winston could not remember whether it was in drugged sleep, or in normal sleep, or even in a moment of wakefulness — a voice murmured in his ear: ‘Don’t worry, Winston; you are in my keeping. For seven years I have watched over you. Now the turning-point has come. I shall save you, I shall make you perfect.’ He was not sure whether it was O’Brien’s voice; but it was the same voice that had said to him, ‘We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,’ in that other dream, seven years ago.

He did not remember any ending to his interrogation. There was a period of blackness and then the cell, or room, in which he now was had gradually materialized round him. He was almost flat on his back, and unable to move. His body was held down at every essential point. Even the back of his head was gripped in some manner. O’Brien was looking down at him gravely and rather sadly. His face, seen from below, looked coarse and worn, with pouches under the eyes and tired lines from nose to chin. He was older than Winston had thought him; he was perhaps forty-eight or fifty. Under his hand there was a dial with a lever on top and figures running round the face.

‘I told you,’ said O’Brien, ‘that if we met again it would be here.’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

Without any warning except a slight movement of O’Brien’s hand, a wave of pain flooded his body. It was a frightening pain, because he could not see what was happening, and he had the feeling that some mortal injury was being done to him. He did not know whether the thing was really happening, or whether the effect was electrically produced; but his body was being wrenched out of shape, the joints were being slowly torn apart. Although the pain had brought the sweat out on his forehead, the worst of all was the fear that his backbone was about to snap. He set his teeth and breathed hard through his nose, trying to keep silent as long as possible.

‘You are afraid,’ said O’Brien, watching his face, ‘that in another moment something is going to break. Your especial fear is that it will be your backbone. You have a vivid mental picture of the vertebrae snapping apart and the spinal fluid dripping out of them. That is what you are thinking, is it not, Winston?’

Winston did not answer. O’Brien drew back the lever on the dial. The wave of pain receded almost as quickly as it had come.

‘That was forty,’ said O’Brien. ‘You can see that the numbers on this dial run up to a hundred. Will you please remember, throughout our conversation, that I have it in my power to inflict pain on you at any moment and to whatever degree I choose? If you tell me any lies, or attempt to prevaricate in any way, or even fall below your usual level of intelligence, you will cry out with pain, instantly. Do you understand that?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

O’Brien’s manner became less severe. He resettled his spectacles thoughtfully, and took a pace or two up and down. When he spoke his voice was gentle and patient. He had the air of a doctor, a teacher, even a priest, anxious to explain and persuade rather than to punish.

‘I am taking trouble with you, Winston,’ he said, ‘because you are worth trouble. You know perfectly well what is the matter with you. You have known it for years, though you have fought against the knowledge. You are mentally deranged. You suffer from a defective memory. You are unable to remember real events and you persuade yourself that you remember other events which never happened. Fortunately it is curable. You have never cured yourself of it, because you did not choose to. There was a small effort of the will that you were not ready to make. Even now, I am well aware, you are clinging to your disease under the impression that it is a virtue. Now we will take an example. At this moment, which power is Oceania at war with?’

‘When I was arrested, Oceania was at war with Eastasia.

‘With Eastasia. Good. And Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, has it not?’

Winston drew in his breath. He opened his mouth to speak and then did not speak. He could not take his eyes away from the dial.

‘The truth, please, Winston. Your truth. Tell me what you think you remember.’

‘I remember that until only a week before I was arrested, we were not at war with Eastasia at all. We were in alliance with them. The war was against Eurasia. That had lasted for four years. Before that — ‘

O’Brien stopped him with a movement of the hand.

‘Another example,’ he said. ‘Some years ago you had a very serious delusion indeed. You believed that three men, three one-time Party members named Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford men who were executed for treachery and sabotage after making the fullest possible confession — were not guilty of the crimes they were charged with. You believed that you had seen unmistakable documentary evidence proving that their confessions were false. There was a certain photograph about which you had a hallucination. You believed that you had actually held it in your hands. It was a photograph something like this.’

An oblong slip of newspaper had appeared between O’Brien’s fingers. For perhaps five seconds it was within the angle of Winston’s vision. It was a photograph, and there was no question of its identity. It was the photograph. It was another copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford at the party function in New York, which he had chanced upon eleven years ago and promptly destroyed. For only an instant it was before his eyes, then it was out of sight again. But he had seen it, unquestionably he had seen it! He made a desperate, agonizing effort to wrench the top half of his body free. It was impossible to move so much as a centimetre in any direction. For the moment he had even forgotten the dial. All he wanted was to hold the photograph in his fingers again, or at least to see it.

‘It exists!’ he cried.

‘No,’ said O’Brien.

He stepped across the room. There was a memory hole in the opposite wall. O’Brien lifted the grating. Unseen, the frail slip of paper was whirling away on the current of warm air; it was vanishing in a flash of flame. O’Brien turned away from the wall.

‘Ashes,’ he said. ‘Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed.’

‘But it did exist! It does exist! It exists in memory. I remember it. You remember it.’

‘I do not remember it,’ said O’Brien.

Winston’s heart sank. That was doublethink. He had a feeling of deadly helplessness. If he could have been certain that O’Brien was lying, it would not have seemed to matter. But it was perfectly possible that O’Brien had really forgotten the photograph. And if so, then already he would have forgotten his denial of remembering it, and forgotten the act of forgetting. How could one be sure that it was simple trickery? Perhaps that lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen: that was the thought that defeated him.

O’Brien was looking down at him speculatively. More than ever he had the air of a teacher taking pains with a wayward but promising child.

‘There is a Party slogan dealing with the control of the past,’ he said. ‘Repeat it, if you please.’

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” repeated Winston obediently.

“Who controls the present controls the past,” said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ‘Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?’

Again the feeling of helplessness descended upon Winston. His eyes flitted towards the dial. He not only did not know whether ‘yes’ or ‘no’ was the answer that would save him from pain; he did not even know which answer he believed to be the true one.

O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’

‘No.’

‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

‘In records. It is written down.’

‘In records. And- ?’

‘In the mind. In human memories.

‘In memory. Very well, then. We, the Party, control all records, and we control all memories. Then we control the past, do we not?’

‘But how can you stop people remembering things?’ cried Winston again momentarily forgetting the dial. ‘It is involuntary. It is outside oneself. How can you control memory? You have not controlled mine!’

O’Brien’s manner grew stern again. He laid his hand on the dial.

‘On the contrary,’ he said, ‘you have not controlled it. That is what has brought you here. You are here because you have failed in humility, in self-discipline. You would not make the act of submission which is the price of sanity. You preferred to be a lunatic, a minority of one. Only the disciplined mind can see reality, Winston. You believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right. You also believe that the nature of reality is self-evident. When you delude yourself into thinking that you see something, you assume that everyone else sees the same thing as you. But I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.’

He paused for a few moments, as though to allow what he had been saying to sink in.

‘Do you remember,’ he went on, ‘ writing in your diary, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four”?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?

‘Four.’

‘And if the party says that it is not four but five — then how many?’

‘Four.’

The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four.’

The needle went up to sixty.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!’

The needle must have risen again, but he did not look at it. The heavy, stern face and the four fingers filled his vision. The fingers stood up before his eyes like pillars, enormous, blurry, and seeming to vibrate, but unmistakably four.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four! Stop it, stop it! How can you go on? Four! Four!’

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Five! Five! Five!’

‘No, Winston, that is no use. You are lying. You still think there are four. How many fingers, please?’

‘Four! five! Four! Anything you like. Only stop it, stop the pain!

Abruptly he was sitting up with O’Brien’s arm round his shoulders. He had perhaps lost consciousness for a few seconds. The bonds that had held his body down were loosened. He felt very cold, he was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth were chattering, the tears were rolling down his cheeks. For a moment he clung to O’Brien like a baby, curiously comforted by the heavy arm round his shoulders. He had the feeling that O’Brien was his protector, that the pain was something that came from outside, from some other source, and that it was O’Brien who would save him from it.

‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.

‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.

Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

He laid Winston down on the bed. The grip of his limbs tightened again, but the pain had ebbed away and the trembling had stopped, leaving him merely weak and cold. O’Brien motioned with his head to the man in the white coat, who had stood immobile throughout the proceedings. The man in the white coat bent down and looked closely into Winston’s eyes, felt his pulse, laid an ear against his chest, tapped here and there, then he nodded to O’Brien.

‘Again,’ said O’Brien.

The pain flowed into Winston’s body. The needle must be at seventy, seventy-five. He had shut his eyes this time. He knew that the fingers were still there, and still four. All that mattered was somehow to stay alive until the spasm was over. He had ceased to notice whether he was crying out or not. The pain lessened again. He opened his eyes. O’Brien had drawn back the lever.

‘How many fingers, Winston?’

‘Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see five.’

‘Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?’

‘Really to see them.’

‘Again,’ said O’Brien.

Perhaps the needle was eighty — ninety. Winston could not intermittently remember why the pain was happening. Behind his screwed-up eyelids a forest of fingers seemed to be moving in a sort of dance, weaving in and out, disappearing behind one another and reappearing again. He was trying to count them, he could not remember why. He knew only that it was impossible to count them, and that this was somehow due to the mysterious identity between five and four. The pain died down again. When he opened his eyes it was to find that he was still seeing the same thing. Innumerable fingers, like moving trees, were still streaming past in either direction, crossing and recrossing. He
shut his eyes again.

‘How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six — in all honesty I don’t know.’

‘Better,’ said O’Brien.

A needle slid into Winston’s arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful, healing warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already half-forgotten. He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O’Brien. At sight of the heavy, lined face, so ugly and so intelligent, his heart seemed to turn over. If he could have moved he would have stretched out a hand and laid it on O’Brien arm. He had never loved him so deeply as at this moment, and not merely because he had stopped the pain. The old feeling, that it bottom it did not matter whether O’Brien was a friend or an enemy, had come back. O’Brien was a person who could be talked to. Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. O’Brien had tortured him to the edge of lunacy, and in a little while, it was certain, he would send him to his death. It made no difference. In some sense that went deeper than friendship, they were intimates: somewhere or other, although the actual words might never be spoken, there was a place where they could meet and talk. O’Brien was looking down at him with an expression which suggested that the same thought might be in his own mind. When he spoke it was in an easy, conversational tone.

‘Do you know where you are, Winston?’ he said.

‘I don’t know. I can guess. In the Ministry of Love.’

‘Do you know how long you have been here?’

‘I don’t know. Days, weeks, months — I think it is months.’

‘And why do you imagine that we bring people to this place?’

‘To make them confess.’

‘No, that is not the reason. Try again.’

‘To punish them.’

‘No!’ exclaimed O’Brien. His voice had changed extraordinarily, and his face had suddenly become both stern and animated. ‘No! Not merely to extract your confession, not to punish you. Shall I tell you why we have brought you here? To cure you! To make you sane! Will you understand, Winston, that no one whom we bring to this place ever leaves our hands uncured? We are not interested in those stupid crimes that you have committed. The Party is not interested in the overt act: the thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies, we change them. Do you understand what I mean by that?’

He was bending over Winston. His face looked enormous because of its nearness, and hideously ugly because it was seen from below. Moreover it was filled with a sort of exaltation, a lunatic intensity. Again Winston’s heart shrank. If it had been possible he would have cowered deeper into the bed. He felt certain that O’Brien was about to twist the dial out of sheer wantonness. At this moment, however, O’Brien turned away. He took a pace or two up and down. Then he continued less vehemently:

‘The first thing for you to understand is that in this place there are no martyrdoms. You have read of the religious persecutions of the past. In the Middle Ages there was the Inquisition. It was a failure. It set out to eradicate heresy, and ended by perpetuating it. For every heretic it burned at the stake, thousands of others rose up. Why was that? Because the Inquisition killed its enemies in the open, and killed them while they were still unrepentant: in fact, it killed them because they were unrepentant. Men were dying because they would not abandon their true beliefs. Naturally all the glory belonged to the victim and all the shame to the Inquisitor who burned him. Later, in the twentieth century, there were the totalitarians, as they were called. There were the German Nazis and the Russian Communists. The Russians persecuted heresy more cruelly than the Inquisition had done. And they imagined that they had learned from the mistakes of the past; they knew, at any rate, that one must not make martyrs. Before they exposed their victims to public trial, they deliberately set themselves to destroy their dignity. They wore them down by torture and solitude until they were despicable, cringing wretches, confessing whatever was put into their mouths, covering themselves with abuse, accusing and sheltering behind one another, whimpering for mercy. And yet after only a few years the same thing had happened over again. The dead men had become martyrs and their degradation was forgotten. Once again, why was it? In the first place, because the confessions that they had made were obviously extorted and untrue. We do not make mistakes of that kind. All the confessions that are uttered here are true. We make them true. And above all we do not allow the dead to rise up against us. You must stop imagining that posterity will vindicate you, Winston. Posterity will never hear of you. You will be lifted clean out from the stream of history. We shall turn you into gas and pour you into the stratosphere. Nothing will remain of you, not a name in a register, not a memory in a living brain. You will be annihilated in the past as well as in the future. You will never have existed.’

Then why bother to torture me? thought Winston, with a momentary bitterness. O’Brien checked his step as though Winston had uttered the thought aloud. His large ugly face came nearer, with the eyes a little narrowed.

‘You are thinking,’ he said, ‘that since we intend to destroy you utterly, so that nothing that you say or do can make the smallest difference — in that case, why do we go to the trouble of interrogating you first? That is what you were thinking, was it not?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

O’Brien smiled slightly. ‘You are a flaw in the pattern, Winston. You are a stain that must be wiped out. Did I not tell you just now that we are different from the persecutors of the past? We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us: so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The command of the old despotisms was “Thou shalt not”. The command of the totalitarians was “Thou shalt”. Our command is “Thou art”. No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean. Even those three miserable traitors in whose innocence you once believed — Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford — in the end we broke them down. I took part in their interrogation myself. I saw them gradually worn down, whimpering, grovelling, weeping — and in the end it was not with pain or fear, only with penitence. By the time we had finished with them they were only the shells of men. There was nothing left in them except sorrow for what they had done, and love of Big Brother. It was touching to see how they loved him. They begged to be shot quickly, so that they could die while their minds were still clean.’

His voice had grown almost dreamy. The exaltation, the lunatic enthusiasm, was still in his face. He is not pretending, thought Winston, he is not a hypocrite, he believes every word he says. What most oppressed him was the consciousness of his own intellectual inferiority. He watched the heavy yet graceful form strolling to and fro, in and out of the range of his vision. O’Brien was a being in all ways larger than himself. There was no idea that he had ever had, or could have, that O’Brien had not long ago known, examined, and rejected. His mind contained Winston’s mind. But in that case how could it be true that O’Brien was mad? It must be he, Winston, who was mad. O’Brien halted and looked down at him. His voice had grown stern again.

‘Do not imagine that you will save yourself, Winston, however completely you surrender to us. No one who has once gone astray is ever spared. And even if we chose to let you live out the natural term of your life, still you would never escape from us. What happens to you here is for ever. Understand that in advance. We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back. Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.’

He paused and signed to the man in the white coat. Winston was aware of some heavy piece of apparatus being pushed into place behind his head. O’Brien had sat down beside the bed, so that his face was almost on a level with Winston’s.

‘Three thousand,’ he said, speaking over Winston’s head to the man in the white coat.

Two soft pads, which felt slightly moist, clamped themselves against Winston’s temples. He quailed. There was pain coming, a new kind of pain. O’Brien laid a hand reassuringly, almost kindly, on his.

‘This time it will not hurt,’ he said. ‘Keep your eyes fixed on mine.’

At this moment there was a devastating explosion, or what seemed like an explosion, though it was not certain whether there was any noise. There was undoubtedly a blinding flash of light. Winston was not hurt, only prostrated. Although he had already been lying on his back when the thing happened, he had a curious feeling that he had been knocked into that position. A terrific painless blow had flattened him out. Also something had happened inside his head. As his eyes regained their focus he remembered who he was, and where he was, and recognized the face that was gazing into his own; but somewhere or other there was a large patch of emptiness, as though a piece had been taken out of his brain.

‘It will not last,’ said O’Brien. ‘Look me in the eyes. What country is Oceania at war with?’

Winston thought. He knew what was meant by Oceania and that he himself was a citizen of Oceania. He also remembered Eurasia and Eastasia; but who was at war with whom he did not know. In fact he had not been aware that there was any war.

‘I don’t remember.’

‘Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Do you remember that now?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Since the beginning of your life, since the beginning of the Party, since the beginning of history, the war has continued without a break, always the same war. Do you remember that?’

‘Yes.’

‘ Eleven years ago you created a legend about three men who had been condemned to death for treachery. You pretended that you had seen a piece of paper which proved them innocent. No such piece of paper ever existed. You invented it, and later you grew to believe in it. You remember now the very moment at which you first invented it. Do you remember that?’

‘Yes.’

‘Just now I held up the fingers of my hand to you. You saw five fingers. Do you remember that?’

‘Yes.’

O’Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed.

‘There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?’

‘Yes.’

And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity. Then everything was normal again, and the old fear, the hatred, and the bewilderment came crowding back again. But there had been a moment — he did not know how long, thirty seconds, perhaps — of luminous certainty, when each new suggestion of O’Brien’s had filled up a patch of emptiness and become absolute truth, and when two and two could have been three as easily as five, if that were what was needed. It had faded but before O’Brien had dropped his hand; but though he could not recapture it, he could remember it, as one remembers a vivid experience at some period of one’s life when one was in effect a different person.

‘You see now,’ said O’Brien, ‘that it is at any rate possible.’

‘Yes,’ said Winston.

O’Brien stood up with a satisfied air. Over to his left Winston saw the man in the white coat break an ampoule and draw back the plunger of a syringe. O’Brien turned to Winston with a smile. In almost the old manner he resettled his spectacles on his nose.

‘Do you remember writing in your diary,’ he said, ‘that it did not matter whether I was a friend or an enemy, since I was at least a person who understood you and could be talked to? You were right. I enjoy talking to you. Your mind appeals to me. It resembles my own mind except that you happen to be insane. Before we bring the session to an end you can ask me a few questions, if you choose.’

‘Any question I like?’

‘Anything.’ He saw that Winston’s eyes were upon the dial. ‘It is switched off. What is your first question?’

‘What have you done with Julia?’ said Winston.

O’Brien smiled again. ‘She betrayed you, Winston. Immediately-unreservedly. I have seldom seen anyone come over to us so promptly. You would hardly recognize her if you saw her. All her rebelliousness, her deceit, her folly, her dirty-mindedness — everything has been burned out of her. It was a perfect conversion, a textbook case.’

‘You tortured her?’

O’Brien left this unanswered. ‘Next question,’ he said.

‘Does Big Brother exist?’

‘Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party.’

‘Does he exist in the same way as I exist?

‘You do not exist,’ said O’Brien.

Once again the sense of helplessness assailed him. He knew, or he could imagine, the arguments which proved his own nonexistence; but they were nonsense, they were only a play on words. Did not the statement, ‘You do not exist’, contain a logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so? His mind shrivelled as he thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments with which O’Brien would demolish him.

‘I think I exist,’ he said wearily. ‘I am conscious of my own identity. I was born and I shall die. I have arms and legs. I occupy a particular point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously. In that sense, does Big Brother exist?’

‘It is of no importance. He exists.’

‘Will Big Brother ever die?’

‘Of course not. How could he die? Next question.’

‘Does the Brotherhood exist?’

‘That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.’

Winston lay silent. His breast rose and fell a little faster. He still had not asked the question that had come into his mind the first. He had got to ask it, and yet it was as though his tongue would not utter it. There was a trace of amusement in O’Brien’s face. Even his spectacles seemed to wear an ironical gleam. He knows, thought Winston suddenly, he knows what I am going to ask! At the thought the words burst out of him:

‘What is in Room 101?’

The expression on O’Brien’s face did not change. He answered drily:

‘You know what is in Room 101, Winston. Everyone knows what is in Room 101.’

He raised a finger to the man in the white coat. Evidently the session was at an end. A needle jerked into Winston’s arm. He sank almost instantly into deep sleep.

Part III, Chapter 3

‘There are three stages in your reintegration,’ said O’Brien. ‘There is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance. It is time for you to enter upon the second stage.’

As always, Winston was lying flat on his back. But of late his bonds were looser. They still held him to the bed, but he could move his knees a little and could turn his head from side to side and raise his arms from the elbow. The dial, also, had grown to be less of a terror. He could evade its pangs if he was quick-witted enough: it was chiefly when he showed stupidity that O’Brien pulled the lever. Sometimes they got through a whole session without use of the dial. He could not remember how many sessions there had been. The whole process seemed to stretch out over a long, indefinite time — weeks, possibly — and the intervals between the sessions might sometimes have been days, sometimes only an hour or two.

‘As you lie there,’ said O’Brien, ‘you have often wondered you have even asked me — why the Ministry of Love should expend so much time and trouble on you. And when you were free you were puzzled by what was essentially the same question. You could grasp the mechanics of the Society you lived in, but not its underlying motives. Do you remember writing in your diary, “I understand how: I do not understand why”? It was when you thought about “why” that you doubted your own sanity. You have read the book, Goldstein’s book, or parts of it, at least. Did it tell you anything that you did not know already?’

‘You have read it?’ said Winston.

‘I wrote it. That is to say, I collaborated in writing it. No book is produced individually, as you know.’

‘Is it true, what it says?’

‘A description, yes. The programme it sets forth is nonsense. The secret accumulation of knowledge — a gradual spread of enlightenment — ultimately a proletarian rebellion — the overthrow of the Party. You foresaw yourself that that was what it would say. It is all nonsense. The proletarians will never revolt, not in a thousand years or a million. They cannot. I do not have to tell you the reason: you know it already. If you have ever cherished any dreams of violent insurrection, you must abandon them. There is no way in which the Party can be overthrown. The rule of the Party is for ever. Make that the starting-point of your thoughts.’

He came closer to the bed. ‘For ever!’ he repeated. ‘And now let us get back to the question of “how” and “why”. You understand well enough how the Party maintains itself in power. Now tell me why we cling to power. What is our motive? Why should we want power? Go on, speak,’ he added as Winston remained silent.

Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. A feeling of weariness had overwhelmed him. The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O’Brien’s face. He knew in advance what O’Brien would say. That the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better. That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O’Brien said this he would believe it. You could see it in his face. O’Brien knew everything. A thousand times better than Winston he knew what the world was really like, in what degradation the mass of human beings lived and by what lies and barbarities the Party kept them there. He had understood it all, weighed it all, and it made no difference: all was justified by the ultimate purpose. What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?

‘You are ruling over us for our own good,’ he said feebly. ‘You believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves, and therefore-‘

He started and almost cried out. A pang of pain had shot through his body. O’Brien had pushed the lever of the dial up to thirty-five.

‘That was stupid, Winston, stupid!’ he said. ‘You should know better than to say a thing like that.’

He pulled the lever back and continued:

‘Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others ; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were- cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?’

Winston was struck, as he had been struck before, by the tiredness of O’Brien’s face. It was strong and fleshy and brutal, it was full of intelligence and a sort of controlled passion before which he felt himself helpless; but it was tired. There were pouches under the eyes, the skin sagged from the cheekbones. O’Brien leaned over him, deliberately bringing the worn face nearer.

‘You are thinking,’ he said, ‘that my face is old and tired. You are thinking that I talk of power, and yet I am not even able to prevent the decay of my own body. Can you not understand, Winston, that the individual is only a cell? The weariness of the cell is the vigour of the organism. Do you die when you cut your fingernails?’

He turned away from the bed and began strolling up and down again, one hand in his pocket.

‘We are the priests of power,’ he said. ‘God is power. But at present power is only a word so far as you are concerned. It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. You know the Party slogan: “Freedom is Slavery”. Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone — free — the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal. The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter — external reality, as you would call it — is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.’

For a moment Winston ignored the dial. He made a violent effort to raise himself into a sitting position, and merely succeeded in wrenching his body painfully.

‘But how can you control matter?’ he burst out. ‘You don’t even control the climate or the law of gravity. And there are disease, pain, death-‘

O’Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. ‘We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation — anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature.’

‘But you do not! You are not even masters of this planet. What about Eurasia and Eastasia? You have not conquered them yet.’

‘Unimportant. We shall conquer them when it suits us. And if we did not, what difference would it make? We can shut them out of existence. Oceania is the world.’

‘But the world itself is only a speck of dust. And man is tiny helpless! How long has he been in existence? For millions of years the earth was uninhabited.’

‘Nonsense. The earth is as old as we are, no older. How could it be older? Nothing exists except through human consciousness.’

‘But the rocks are full of the bones of extinct animals — mammoths and mastodons and enormous reptiles which lived here long before man was ever heard of.’

‘Have you ever seen those bones, Winston? Of course not. Nineteenth-century biologists invented them. Before man there was nothing. After man, if he could come to an end, there would be nothing. Outside man there is nothing.’

‘But the whole universe is outside us. Look at the stars! Some of them are a million light-years away. They are out of our reach for ever.’

‘What are the stars?’ said O’Brien indifferently. ‘They are bits of fire a few kilometres away. We could reach them if we wanted to. Or we could blot them out. The earth is the centre of the universe. The sun and the stars go round it.’

Winston made another convulsive movement. This time he did not say anything. O’Brien continued as though answering a spoken objection:

‘For certain purposes, of course, that is not true. When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?’

Winston shrank back upon the bed. Whatever he said, the swift answer crushed him like a bludgeon. And yet he knew, he knew, that he was in the right. The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind — surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it, which he had forgotten. A faint smile twitched the corners of O’Brien’s mouth as he looked down at him.

‘I told you, Winston,’ he said, ‘that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like. But that is a different thing: in fact, the opposite thing. All this is a digression,’ he added in a different tone. ‘The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.’ He paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: ‘How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?’

Winston thought. ‘By making him suffer,’ he said.

‘Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement.
Everything else we shall destroy everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.’

He paused as though he expected Winston to speak. Winston had tried to shrink back into the surface of the bed again. He could not say anything. His heart seemed to be frozen. O’Brien went on:

‘And remember that it is for ever. The face will always be there to be stamped upon. The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. Everything that you have undergone since you have been in our hands — all that will continue, and worse. The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease. It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon and yet they will always survive. This drama that I have played out
with you during seven years will be played out over and over again generation after generation, always in subtler forms. Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible — and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling to our feet of his own accord. That is the world that we are preparing, Winston. A world of victory after victory, triumph after triumph after triumph: an endless pressing, pressing, pressing upon the nerve of power. You are beginning, I can see, to realize what that world will be like. But in the end you will do more than understand it. You will accept it, welcome it, become part of it.’

Winston had recovered himself sufficiently to speak. ‘You can’t!’ he said weakly.

‘What do you mean by that remark, Winston?’

‘You could not create such a world as you have just described. It is a dream. It is impossible.’

‘Why?’

‘It is impossible to found a civilization on fear and hatred and cruelty. It would never endure.’

‘Why not?’

‘It would have no vitality. It would disintegrate. It would commit suicide.’

‘Nonsense. You are under the impression that hatred is more exhausting than love. Why should it be? And if it were, what difference would that make? Suppose that we choose to wear ourselves out faster. Suppose that we quicken the tempo of human life till men are senile at thirty. Still what difference would it make? Can you not understand that the death of the individual is not death? The party is immortal.’

As usual, the voice had battered Winston into helplessness. Moreover he was in dread that if he persisted in his disagreement O’Brien would twist the dial again. And yet he could not keep silent. Feebly, without arguments, with nothing to support him except his inarticulate horror of what O’Brien had said, he returned to the attack.

‘I don’t know — I don’t care. Somehow you will fail. Something will defeat you. Life will defeat you.’

‘We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we create human nature. Men are infinitely malleable. Or perhaps you have returned to your old idea that the proletarians or the slaves will arise and overthrow us. Put it out of your mind. They are helpless, like the animals. Humanity is the Party. The others are outside — irrelevant.’

‘I don’t care. In the end they will beat you. Sooner or later they will see you for what you are, and then they will tear you to pieces.’

‘Do you see any evidence that that is happening? Or any reason why it should?’

‘No. I believe it. I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe — I don’t know, some spirit, some principle — that you will never overcome.’

‘Do you believe in God, Winston?’

‘No.’

‘Then what is it, this principle that will defeat us?’

‘I don’t know. The spirit of Man.’

‘And do you consider yourself a man?.’

‘Yes.’

‘If you are a man, Winston, you are the last man. Your kind is extinct; we are the inheritors. Do you understand that you are alone? You are outside history, you are non-existent.’ His manner changed and he said more harshly: ‘And you consider yourself morally superior to us, with our lies and our cruelty?’

‘Yes, I consider myself superior.’

O’Brien did not speak. Two other voices were speaking. After a moment Winston recognized one of them as his own. It was a sound-track of the conversation he had had with O’Brien, on the night when he had enrolled himself in the Brotherhood. He heard himself promising to lie, to steal, to forge, to murder, to encourage drug-taking and prostitution, to disseminate venereal diseases, to throw vitriol in a child’s face. O’Brien made a small impatient gesture, as though to say that the demonstration was hardly worth making. Then he turned a switch and the voices stopped.

‘Get up from that bed,’ he said.

The bonds had loosened themselves. Winston lowered himself to the floor and stood up unsteadily.

‘You are the last man,’ said O’Brien. ‘You are the guardian of the human spirit. You shall see yourself as you are. Take off your clothes.’

Winston undid the bit of string that held his overalls together. The zip fastener had long since been wrenched out of them. He could not remember whether at any time since his arrest he had taken off all his clothes at one time. Beneath the overalls his body was looped with filthy yellowish rags, just recognizable as the remnants of underclothes. As he slid them to the ground he saw that there was a three-sided mirror at the far end of the room. He approached it, then stopped short. An involuntary cry had broken out of him.

‘Go on,’ said O’Brien. ‘Stand between the wings of the mirror. You shall see the side view as well.’

He had stopped because he was frightened. A bowed, grey-coloured, skeleton-like thing was coming towards him. Its actual appearance was frightening, and not merely the fact that he knew it to be himself. He moved closer to the glass. The creature’s face seemed to be protruded, because of its bent carriage. A forlorn, jailbird’s face with a nobby forehead running back into a bald scalp, a crooked nose, and battered-looking cheekbones above which his eyes were fierce and watchful. The cheeks were seamed, the mouth had a drawn-in look. Certainly it was his own face, but it seemed to him that it had changed more than he had changed inside. The emotions it registered would be different from the ones he felt. He had gone partially bald. For the first moment he had thought that he had gone grey as well, but it was only the scalp that was grey. Except for his hands and a circle of his face, his body was grey all over with ancient, ingrained dirt. Here and there under the dirt there were the red scars of wounds, and near the ankle the varicose ulcer was an inflamed mass with flakes of skin peeling off it. But the truly frightening thing was the emaciation of his body. The barrel of the ribs was as narrow as that of a skeleton: the legs had shrunk so that the knees were thicker than the thighs. He saw now what O’Brien had meant about seeing the side view. The curvature of the spine was astonishing. The thin shoulders were hunched forward so as to make a cavity of the chest, the scraggy neck seemed to be bending double under the weight of the skull. At a guess he would have said that it was the body of a man of sixty, suffering from some malignant disease.

‘You have thought sometimes,’ said O’Brien, ‘that my face — the face of a member of the Inner Party — looks old and worn. What do you think of your own face?’

He seized Winston’s shoulder and spun him round so that he was facing him.

‘Look at the condition you are in!’ he said. ‘Look at this filthy grime all over your body. Look at the dirt between your toes. Look at that disgusting running sore on your leg. Do you know that you stink like a goat? Probably you have ceased to notice it. Look at your emaciation. Do you see? I can make my thumb and forefinger meet round your bicep. I could snap your neck like a carrot. Do you know that you have lost twenty-five kilograms since you have been in our hands? Even your hair is coming out in handfuls. Look!’ He plucked at Winston’s head and brought away a tuft of hair. ‘Open your mouth. Nine, ten, eleven teeth left. How many had you when you came to us? And the few you have left are dropping out of your head. Look here!’

He seized one of Winston’s remaining front teeth between his powerful thumb and forefinger. A twinge of pain shot through Winston’s jaw. O’Brien had wrenched the loose tooth out by the roots. He tossed it across the cell.

‘You are rotting away,’ he said; ‘you are falling to pieces. What are you? A bag of filth. Now turn around and look into that mirror again. Do you see that thing facing you? That is the last man. If you are human, that is humanity. Now put your clothes on again.’

Winston began to dress himself with slow stiff movements. Until now he had not seemed to notice how thin and weak he was. Only one thought stirred in his mind: that he must have been in this place longer than he had imagined. Then suddenly as he fixed the miserable rags round himself a feeling of pity for his ruined body overcame him. Before he knew what he was doing he had collapsed on to a small stool that stood beside the bed and burst into tears. He was aware of his ugliness, his gracelessness, a bundle of bones in filthy underclothes sitting weeping in the harsh white light: but he could not stop himself. O’Brien laid a hand on his shoulder, almost kindly.

‘It will not last for ever,’ he said. ‘You can escape from it whenever you choose. Everything depends on yourself.’

‘You did it!’ sobbed Winston. ‘You reduced me to this state.’

‘No, Winston, you reduced yourself to it. This is what you accepted when you set yourself up against the Party. It was all contained in that first act. Nothing has happened that you did not foresee.’

He paused, and then went on:

‘We have beaten you, Winston. We have broken you up. You have seen what your body is like. Your mind is in the same state. I do not think there can be much pride left in you. You have been kicked and flogged and insulted, you have screamed with pain, you have rolled on the floor in your own blood and vomit. You have whimpered for mercy, you have betrayed everybody and everything. Can you think of a single degradation that has not happened to you?’

Winston had stopped weeping, though the tears were still oozing out of his eyes. He looked up at O’Brien.

‘I have not betrayed Julia,’ he said.

O’Brien looked down at him thoughtfully. ‘No,’ he said; ‘no; that is perfectly true. You have not betrayed Julia.’

The peculiar reverence for O’Brien, which nothing seemed able to destroy, flooded Winston’s heart again. How intelligent, he thought, how intelligent! Never did O’Brien fail to understand what was said to him. Anyone else on earth would have answered promptly that he had betrayed Julia. For what was there that they had not screwed out of him under the torture? He had told them everything he knew about her, her habits, her character, her past life; he had confessed in the most trivial detail everything that had happened at their meetings, all that he had said to her and she to him, their black-market meals, their adulteries, their vague plottings against the Party — everything. And yet, in the sense in which he intended the word, he had not betrayed her. He had not stopped loving her; his feelings towards her had remained the same. O’Brien had seen what he meant without the need for explanation.

‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘how soon will they shoot me?’

‘It might be a long time,’ said O’Brien. ‘You are a difficult case. But don’t give up hope. Everyone is cured sooner or later. In the end we shall shoot you.’

“The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed”, Bertrand Russell

[This essay was published by Bertrand Russell in 1937 in The Nation, 144. It was republished in Russell’s Unpopular Essays (1950). An online transcript of it is also here.]


The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed
by Bertrand Russell, 1937

ONE of the persistent delusions of mankind is that some sections of the human race are morally better or worse than others. This belief has many different forms, none of which has any rational basis. It is natural to think well of ourselves, and thence, if our mental processes are simple, of our sex, our class, our nation, and our age. But among writers, especially moralists, a less direct expression of self-esteem is common. They tend to think ill of their neighbors and acquaintances, and therefore to think well of the Sections of mankind to “which they themselves do not belong, Lao-tse admired the “pure men of old,” who lived before the advent of Confucian sophistication. Tacitus and Madame de Stael admired the Germans because they had no emperor. Locke thought well of the “intelligent American” because he was not led astray by Cartesian sophistries.

A rather curious form of this admiration for groups to which the admirer does not belong is the belief in the superior virtue of the oppressed: subject nations, the poor, women, and children. The eighteenth century, while conquering America from the Indians, reducing the peasantry to the condition of pauper laborers, and introducing the cruelties of early industrialism, loved to sentimentalize about the “noble savage” and the “simple annals of the poor.” Virtue, it was said, was not to be found in courts: but court ladies could almost secure it by masquerading as shepherdesses. And as for the male sex:

Happy the man whose wish and care
A lew paternal acres bound.

Nevertheless, for himself Pope preferred London and his villa at Twickenham.

At the French Revolution the superior virtue of the poor became a party question, and has remained so ever since. To reactionaries they became the “rabble” or the “mob.” The rich discovered, with surprise, that some people were so poor as not to own even “a few paternal acres.” Liberals, however, still continued to idealize the rural poor, while intellectual Socialists and Communists did the same for the urban proletariat – a fashion to which, since it only became important in the twentieth century, I shall return later.

Nationalism introduced, in the nineteenth century, a substitute for the noble savage the patriot of an oppressed nation. The Greeks until they had achieved liberation from the Turks, the Hungarians until the Ausgleich of 1867, the Italians until 1870, and the Poles until after the 1914-18 war were regarded romantically as gifted poetic races, too idealistic to succeed in this wicked world. The Irish were regarded by the English as possessed of a special charm and mystical insight until 1921, when it was found that the expense of continuing to oppress them would be prohibitive. One by one these various nations rose to independence, and were found to be just like everybody else; but the experience of those already liberated did nothing to destroy the illusion as regards those who were still struggling. English old ladies still sentimentalize about the “wisdom of the East” and American intellectuals about the “earth consciousness” of the Negro.

Women, being the objects of the strongest emotions, have been viewed even more irrationally than the poor or the subject nations. I am thinking not of what poets have to say but of the sober opinions of men who imagine themselves rational. The church had two opposite attitudes: on the one hand, woman was the Temptress, who led monks and others into sin; on the other hand, she was capable of saintliness to an almost greater degree than man. Theologically, the two types were represented by Eve and the Virgin. In the nineteenth century the temptress fell into the background; there were, of course, “bad” women, but Victorian worthies, unlike St. Augustine and his successors, would not admit that such sinners could tempt them, and did not like to acknowledge their existence. A kind of combination of the Madonna and the lady of chivalry was created as the ideal of the ordinary married woman. She was delicate and dainty, she had a bloom which would be rubbed off by contact with the rough world, she had ideals which might be dimmed by contact with wickedness; like the Celts and the Slavs and the noble savage, but to an even greater degree, she enjoyed a spiritual nature, which made her the superior of man but unfitted her for business or politics or the control of her own fortune. This point of view is still not entirely extinct. Not long ago, in reply to a speech I had made in favor of equal pay for equal work, an English schoolmaster sent me a pamphlet published by a schoolmasters’ association, setting forth the opposite opinion, which it supports with curious arguments. It says of woman: “We gladly place her first as a spiritual force; we acknowledge and reverence her as the ‘angelic part of humanity’; we give her superiority in all the graces and refinements we are capable of as human beings; we wish her to retain all her winsome womanly ways.” “This appeal” that women should be content with lower rates of pay “goes forth from us to them,” so we are assured, “in no selfish spirit, but out of respect and devotion to our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. . . . Our purpose is a sacred one, a real spiritual crusade.

Fifty or sixty years ago such language would have roused no comment except on the part of a handful of feminists; now, since women have acquired the vote, it has come to seem an anachronism. The belief in their “spiritual” superiority was part and parcel of the determination to keep them inferior economically and politically. When men were worsted in this battle, they had to respect women, and therefore gave up offering them “reverence” as a consolation for inferiority.

A somewhat similar development has taken place in the adult view of children. Children, like women, were theologically wicked, especially among evangelicals. They were limbs of Satan, they were unregenerate; as Dr. Watts so admirably put it:

One stroke of His almighty rod
Can send young sinners quick to Hell.

It was necessary that they should be “saved.” At Wesley’s school “a general conversion was once effected, . . one poor boy only excepted, who unfortunately resisted the influence of the Holy Spirit, for which he was severely flogged. . . .” But during the nineteenth century, when parental authority, like that of kings and priests and husbands, felt itself threatened, subtler methods of quelling insubordination came into vogue. Children were “innocent”; like good women they had a “bloom”; they must be protected from knowledge of evil lest their bloom should be lost. Moreover, they had a special kind of wisdom. Wordsworth made this view popular among English-speaking people. He first made it fashionable to credit children with

High instincts before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised.

No one in the eighteenth century would have said to his little daughter, unless she were dead:

Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year
And worships’t at the temple’s inner shrine.

But in the nineteenth century this view became quite common; and respectable members of the Episcopal church or even of the Catholic church shamelessly ignored Original Sin to dally with the fashionable heresy that

. . . trailing clouds of glory do we cone

From God who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.

This led to the usual development. It began to seem hardly right to spank a creature that was lying in Abraham’s bosom, or to use the rod rather than a high instincts “to make it “tremble like a guilty thing surprised/’ And so parents and schoolmasters found that the pleasures they had derived from inflicting chastisement were being curtailed and a theory of education grew up which made it necessary to consider the child’s welfare, and not only the adult’s convenience and sense of power. The only consolation the adults could allow themselves was the invention of a new child psychology. Children, after being limbs of Satan in traditional theology and mystically illuminated angels in the minds of educational reformers, have reverted to being little devils not theological demons inspired by the Evil One, but scientific Freudian abominations inspired by the Unconscious. They are, it must be said, far more wicked than they were in the diatribes of the monks; they display, in modern textbooks, an ingenuity and persistence in sinful imaginings to which in the past there was nothing comparable except St. Anthony. Is all this the objective truth at last? Or is it merely an adult imaginative compensation for being no longer allowed to wallop the little pests? Let the Freudians answer, each for the others.

As appears from the various instances that we have considered, the stage in which superior virtue Is attributed to the oppressed is transient and unstable. It begins only when the oppressors come to have a bad conscience, and this only happens when their power is no longer secure. The idealizing of the victim is useful for a time: if virtue is the greatest of goods, and if subjection makes people virtuous, it is kind to refuse them power, since it would destroy their virtue. If it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, it is a noble act on his part to keep his wealth and so imperil his eternal bliss for the benefit of his poorer brethren. It was a fine self-sacrifice on the part of men to relieve women of the dirty work of politics. And so on. But sooner or later the oppressed class will argue that its superior virtue is a reason in favor of its having power, and the oppressors will find their own weapons turned against them. When at last power has been equalized, it becomes apparent to everybody that all the talk about superior virtue was nonsense, and that it was quite unnecessary as a basis for the claim to equality.

In regard to the Italians, the Hungarians, women, and children, we have ran through the whole cycle. But we are still in the middle of it in the case which is of the most importance at the present time namely, that of the proletariat. Admiration of the proletariat is very modern. The eighteenth century, when it praised “the poor,” thought always of the rural poor. Jefferson’s democracy stopped short at the urban mob; he wished America to remain a country of agriculturists. Admiration of the proletariat, like that of dams, power stations, and airplanes, is part of the ideology of the machine age. Considered in human terms, it has as little in its favor as belief in Celtic magic, the Slav soul, women’s intuition, and children’s innocence. If it were indeed the case that bad nourishment, little education, lack of air and sunshine, unhealthy housing conditions, and overwork produce better people than are produced by good nourishment, open air, adequate education and housing, and a reasonable amount of leisure, the whole case for economic reconstruction would collapse, and we could rejoice that such a large percentage of the population enjoys the conditions that make for virtue. But obvious as this argument is, many Socialist and Communist intellectuals consider it de rigueur to pretend to find the proletariat more amiable than other people, while professing a desire to abolish the conditions which, according to them, alone produce good human beings. Children were idealized by Wordsworth and un-idealized by Freud. Marx was the Wordsworth of the proletariat; its Freud is still to come.

False accusation cases 110: Otto Putland

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[from BBC] “Otto Putland trial: Commonwealth swimmer cleared of rape. A Commonwealth Games swimmer has been cleared of raping a woman after a night out in Cardiff. Otto Putland, 24, who represented Wales at the 2014 Games in Glasgow, had denied forcing himself on the woman after she had sex with his friend, Olympic swimmer Ieuan Lloyd. A jury at Cardiff Crown Court took just two hours to unanimously clear him of rape. Mr Putland, of Dinedor, near Hereford, told the court the sex was consensual. The court previously heard the woman went to Mr Lloyd’s house in July 2015, after spending most of the evening with him at a nightclub, and they had sex. The woman claimed Mr Putland arrived at the house later and forced himself on her despite her saying “no”. But Mr Putland insisted the sex was consensual and told the jury the woman had been “flirtatious and happy” when talking to him beforehand. Giving evidence, Mr Putland said: “She was fine until shortly afterwards and she said something along the lines of ‘I feel like I have been passed around’ or something like that. “I said we hadn’t passed her around.” Mr Putland represented Wales at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where he competed in freestyle, backstroke and medley swimming events.

[earlier, BBC] “Otto Putland trial: Swimmer claims rape accuser is lying. A Commonwealth Games swimmer accused of raping a woman after she had sex with his friend has told a jury they had consensual sex. Otto Putland, 24, who represented Wales at the 2014 games in Glasgow, denies raping the woman after a night out in Cardiff in July 2015. Cardiff Crown Court heard claims he forced himself on her after she had sex with Olympic swimmer Ieuan Lloyd. Mr Putland, of Dinedor, near Hereford, said the woman was lying. The court has previously heard the woman went to Mr Lloyd’s house on the night of the alleged attack after spending most of the evening with him at a nightclub. They had sex and the woman then claimed Mr Putland arrived at the house and forced himself on her despite her saying “no”. Giving evidence, Mr Putland said the woman had consented to having sex with him but she did become upset afterwards.” He said he arrived at the house and went upstairs where Mr Lloyd introduced him to the woman and he sat down on the bed talking to her. Mr Putland said the woman was “happy chatting to me” so he moved up to her side of the bed and started kissing her. She kissed him back and described her as being “very friendly and happy and flirtatious”, he told jurors. He said they started having sex but he “gave up” after about a minute as he was not sexually stimulated enough to continue. He told the jury: “(The woman) was fine until shortly afterwards and she said something along the lines of ‘I feel like I have been passed around’ or something like that. I said we hadn’t passed her around.” Mr Putland said the woman was lying when the prosecution said she had turned away from him, said “no” and tried to block him from having sex with her. Asked if it was Mr Putland’s intention to have “fulfilling sexual intercourse” or to prove to Mr Lloyd he could have sex with the woman, he said it was the former and denied he felt he was in Mr Lloyd’s shadow. The trial continues.”

False accusation cases 109: Christopher Jefferies

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This is an older story than most of the others listed here, but which I’d forgotten to include. It is a very well-known and notorious case of a false accusation and a revolting public mobbing/ “trial by media” from 2010.


[from The Independent] “Christopher Jefferies was vilified for a murder he didn’t commit – now he’s a privacy crusader. Jefferies was arrested in 2010 for the murder of Joanna Yeates, and saw his character traduced by the tabloid press. Powerful people now seek his opinions, he has an agent, and his story is to be made into a film.

Christopher Jefferies doesn’t look the way you might think. In 2010, when he was arrested for the murder of Joanna Yeates, and saw his character traduced by an insinuating barrage of libel in a tabloid press that was yet to see its ferocity curbed, there was an unspoken supposition that lay beneath it all: well, he looks the type. Had a 40-year-old family man with neat hair and a suitable expression of concern been suspected of the crime, the speculation might have been somewhat restrained. But Mr Jefferies, a retired English teacher who lived alone, combined the prissiness of a polo neck with eccentrically unkempt white hair and a shabby old coat. Under the deranged scrutiny of the media, he had the misfortune to arrange his face in such a way that he appeared to be smirking. This, in the eyes of his tormentors, was enough. A different man arrived in Cambridge to give a lecture to an audience of students at Anglia Ruskin University earlier this week. These days, Mr Jefferies does not smirk; he appears poised and self-assured, buoyed by the productive bubble of anger that survives even now. He wears winklepickers and a blazer and black shirt that fit him well, and his hair is short and dark. He appears to have lost a bit of weight. By the perverse calculus that deemed his previous appearance indicative of the capacity to kill, his look today would only hint at possible white-collar crime: insurance fraud, perhaps, or tax evasion.

“At times I’ve hardly been able to go anywhere without people stopping me and commenting,” he says with a shrug when I sit down with him afterwards. “I need to be slightly careful how I seem in public, because the chances are someone will recognise me.” Indeed, more than four years after his surreal experience was taken up as one of those dismaying parables of our age, the world is still not finished with Chris Jefferies. Important people want his opinion on the tortuous aftermath of the Leveson Inquiry, and the question of a suspect’s right to anonymity; in a few months, ITV will screen a two-part drama about his experience by Peter Morgan, peerless chronicler of the most remarkable lives of the era; and then there are lectures such as this one. He even has an agent. “It is not,” he says drily, “the retirement I intended. In different ways, my time has been taken up with the things that followed from it ever since it happened.”

The funny thing is: despite all the trauma of his experience, these days, Mr Jefferies rather seems to be enjoying himself. For one thing, he is steeped in his subject, with an intimidating range of reference and a crusader’s conviction that the press’s worst excesses must be reined in. For another, he is a bit of an orator, making me think, paradoxically enough, of a high court judge. I’m told that his lecture will be an hour, but in the event he speaks fluently, reading from dozens of handwritten A4 sheets, for nearly 90 minutes. He is entirely composed, but there are a few moments – as when he bites with particular force on a description of the tabloids’ material as “private, scandalous, and defamatory” – when his sense of injustice and astonishment is electrifying.

People remain shocked and fascinated by his experience, and the auditorium is packed. Taking questions at the end, Mr Jefferies ranges enthusiastically around the floor like the teacher he was. If his manner has a certain peevish formality, he nonetheless makes the students laugh. His only self-conscious gesture is the occasional flattening of the few flyaway hairs that remain. After a resounding round of applause and the fervent thanks of the criminology department, Mr Jefferies weighs up his strange new life in a meeting room. That, I suggest, was quite fun. Perhaps the way his life has changed is a silver lining as well as a cross to bear. “It certainly is interesting,” he agrees. “But people occasionally say, well, are you glad it happened? And the answer to that is no, of course I’m not. I certainly wouldn’t want to go through that again. But on the other hand, if some good does emerge from it all, then yes, I shall be extremely pleased.”

His fluency – he speaks in paragraphs, albeit rather stiff ones – and commitment make me wonder if he has ever thought of a more formal sort of political engagement, perhaps as one of those idiosyncratic independent MPs who act as Westminster’s occasional conscience. After all, he has concrete goals, already well-documented, that might more easily be brought about in office: the independent statutory regulation of the press; the introduction of a right to anonymity until the moment a suspect is charged. So how about it? “I don’t think so,” he says. “The problem is that there would be so much that goes on in Parliament and constituency business that I would not really be interested in.” It’s rather a shame, I remark: his anger is obviously still a source of energy. He smiles faintly. “Well, I’m not unhappy if that is what has come over.”

That self-propulsion is what has made him a sort of folk hero, really: the sense that people have of his having fought back against powerful forces that might have left many of us paralysed. “One or two people did say to me at the time that they thought that, if it had happened to them, they might have just crawled away and tried to forget it.” His peculiar good fortune, of course, was to be subjected to such obviously outrageous treatment that his vindication was as big a news story as his vilification had been. “There are many, many, many cases where that isn’t the case,” he says. “So the police have a responsibility as a public body to highlight somebody’s exoneration where there’s been adverse coverage and the person has been shown to be entirely innocent.” This doesn’t come naturally, even in a case as blatant as that of Mr Jefferies. Astonishingly, his bail wasn’t lifted until six weeks after Vincent Tabak, the neighbour who subsequently confessed to killing Joanna Yeates, had been charged.

Mr Jefferies is quietly proud of his determination. He uses the Peter Morgan drama – he has read and approved the script, and talked to Mr Morgan at length – to make a point about what it took to fight back. “There are things in the film which happen in a way that very closely resembles reality,” he says, “and then there are things which happened but in a different way, and there are things that didn’t happen at all. “But there’s one particularly striking difference to me. In the film, I have to be persuaded by various people to take action. Whereas, in fact, my very first words to the solicitor when he was driving me away from the police station were: somebody has got to be sued for this. That was absolutely my determination from the start.” I wonder if he learned anything new about himself from it all. He reflects for a moment. “I suppose,” he says matter-of-factly, “that I did discover a certain resilience.”

So what about now? Does he have any sense that anyone has learned anything from what happened to him? I’m sure the tendency of some parts of the press to rush in with premature – and possibly illegal – reporting on suspects has faded a bit. He agrees, but only up to a point. “One would be aghast if that wasn’t the case,” he says. He is not convinced that any such change is permanent, and he believes the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), the body replacing the PCC, to be inadequate. Backsliding, he says, “is precisely what has happened in the past, and that is likely to happen in the future if all that is on offer is Ipso.” So there is much that he remains determined to fight for. But at some point – if not yet – the questions that animate him will be settled. What will he do then? It sounds like his agent may ultimately have a bit less to do. “What I want,” he says, “is to do what I intended when I retired, which is why I started to read for a degree in French: I want to spend more of my time there.” Maybe this isn’t terribly surprising. His experience has taught him some distaste for the British way of doing things. “There is something about the puritan element in Britain’s past which is responsible for our sort of secret prurience. That’s the role of the popular press, who reflect on the one hand a moral censoriousness, and on the other this salacious, sensational prying.”

You can see why France might be appealing. There are many things to recommend it, of course, to the cultivated retiree, and I presume that they are at the root of his dream: food, culture, weather, landscape. But he mentions something else, too. “In France,” he says with a smile, “they have some very strict laws on privacy.” When he finally gets there, perhaps he will let his hair grow again.”