Article Title:Editorial: Jim Peron: Some questions and answers
Category:True Stories
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:29th March 2005 - 12:00 pm
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Story ID:676
Text:The accusations against gay man and contributor Jim Peron grind ever on, morphing into new forms every week it would seem. The original allegations by NZ First leader Winston Peters under parliamentary privilege have not been backed up by evidence that Peron has ever had sex with a minor, but a few hours ago Peters moved outside Parliamentary protection to repeat his claim that Peron is a pedophile. Our just-posted third feature story looking into the affair looks at how Peron's responses to the sustained dredging through his past life stands up. It should be noted that, apart from Peters' initial unsupported implications there have been no allegations by Peters or anyone else that Peron has done anything illegal. Every one of us has had periods of our past life when we harboured different views and principles to what we have today. We are intelligent, rational and emotional, responding to circumstances and environments, learning and evolving. We even mellow. Whatever other strengths and weaknesses he may have, Jim Peron is an articulate, thinking, competitive and voluble public debater and theorist. He's a libertarian in an age of increasing political correctness and political/religious conservatism. Twenty years ago he was a libertarian in an age (and place) of determined moral and intellectual freedom. The difference between Jim and most other people is that for most of his adult life he has published many of his thoughts and ideas. They're still on the record and providing a fertile compost of verbage for anyone with Google, determination and time to trawl through. And, almost inevitably, as many questions and interpretations are raised as actual facts or clearly identifiable nuggets of truth. But there are a few things that's reporting of this tangled issue has so far ascertained. Has Jim Peron ever been an active pedophile as originally alleged by Winston Peters? No evidence to support this has emerged and Jim vigorously denies it. But seeming to twenty years ago support some of the philosophies of an organisation that promotes the acceptability of sexual relationships between adults and children could be enough for the label to stick. Peters is counting on that anyway. Is he a pornographer as alleged by Peters? Only to the extent that in his small Auckland bookshop, which is devoted mostly to political and social literature, he has a small gay literature section and a handful of legal erotic videos for sale. Why would Peters originally bring this sort of thing up in the house without having his initial ‘facts' checked? We can't be sure, we have asked NZ First's media liaison person for some information on their original checking process and sources in this case but they have not responded to our questions. However, making unsubstantiated allegations in the house and promising to provide the evidence later when it suits him does fit a Peters pattern of use, or misuse, of parliamentary privilege. And he has used the time since to source more information and modify his allegations to suit. Bear in mind also that we are heading towards a general election, Peters hadn't been in the news much. Also, his introduction of this issue in the house also attempted to implicate ACT party leader Rodney Hide. NZ First and ACT are both comparatively low polling parties struggling to carve out a constituency in the small bit of far right political spectrum that Labour has not been able to appeal to. Where did NZ First get its information from? They won't tell us that either. But such accusations against Peron, usually whispered Wormtongue-like in internet forums and emails, have apparently been circulating and gaining some momentum for a couple of years. The whisperers are a diverse lot. Old political foes. Ideological adversaries. Individuals harbouring jealousies and grudges. Ex-friends and associates. People with long, but not always 100 percent reliable, memories. People who preferred to whisper in the background then find some else to do the dirty of work of going public with the allegations without having the decency or courage to confront Peron in person. The Herald on Sunday looked over the original ‘evidence' and decided not to get drawn into this personal imbroglio. Peters had no such qualms. Was Peron once ‘softer' on issues relating to consensual sex between adults and youngsters? Newer, harder to refute, evidence has emerged in the past few days to suggest that he was, twenty years ago in San Francisco, exploring the issue publicly and questioning the need for an age of consent - just as he questions the need for most government involvement in what individuals are allowed to do - and was doubtful of how much, if any, harm was caused to youngsters involved in consensual sex. However, during the mid-1980s campaign for Homosexual Law Reform in New Zealand there were public debates about the legal age of consent and issues regarding sexual freedom, age of sexual awareness and maturity here too. It is hard to imagine some of the viewpoints or ideas then expressed being published these days without triggering an avalanche of righteous indignation and endless column inches on moral rot, the loss of ‘family values' and the much-vaunted breakdown of society. Did Peron ever publish or write material eroticising the sexuality of minors, or support those who advocated sex between adults and children? This is still a grey area. He has stated that he did not, other than allowing his SF bookstore premises to be used by such people in line with his passionate beliefs in freedom of speech and association. Others believe they have clear he was more involved. The documentation and statements so far produced to back up these allegations appears to point to his involvement but he continues to explain and defend such material, sometimes succinctly and convincingly, sometimes less successfully. The jury is still out and the trawlers are still trawling. Has Peron advocated, debated or written such material or ideas in his latter years, especially whilst resident in New Zealand? It would seem not. Is there an end in sight to all this? Probably not soon, unless events overtake it. We doubt there is anything about this campaign of allegation and defence that will see the issue definitively sorted out in, say, a court of law. The people determined to find something, anything, to smear Peron's name - and by association Rodney Hide, are not backing off their private invective or public crusade. And what outcome would they want anyway? Peron deported? Hide's political destruction? Homosexuality once more firmly linked in the public mind to pedophilia? The thought police triumphant? Despite our own careful research and examination of each accusation as it emerges, we cannot tell for sure if Jim Peron is a saint or as evil as his detractors paint him. As for most of humankind the truth is probably somewhere between the two, but that may not satisfy the surprisingly few but determined searchers for the truth. It is doubtful that views held 20 years ago should damn him now, but if he is caught out being, or appearing, economical with the truth, that may prove to be his reputation's downfall, with possible flow-on consequences. Does have a stance on all of this? We believe that the people peddling the original allegations and innuendo should have had the courage and decency right from the start to spend some time and effort getting the facts right and as clear as possible. They should then have confronted Peron directly and/or passed the material to the police. We believe that any person should be considered innocent until proven guilty, and that people living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. - Jay Bennie content editor     Jay Bennie - 29th March 2005
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