Clarke, slander, and gross epistemological errors
Sir Arthur C. Clarke has passed away, but this mostly won’t be about that.
Yes, I read his books when I was in high school, and very occasionally thereafter. I liked them for the long view that they took, seeing sometimes to the end of time. I didn’t like the coldness, and sometimes brutality, of them, but that was part and parcel of the long view that he took.
I learned in a university science fiction course that he was probably a “confirmed bachelor” (homosexual, but not public about it).
Today, I told a friend and fellow SF fan about Clarke’s passing, and he made a face, saying that Clarke lived in Sri Lanka for one reason — “the age of consent”. He further claimed that he had seen
a video interview in which Clarke admitted being a pedophile. I was good: I didn’t say “horseshit” to his face. I refused to concede the point, politely, because I actually know what underlies that urban legend.
Arthur C. Clarke was to be knighted in 1998. On 1 February 1998, the Sunday Mirror of London printed a contemptible story titled “Child Sex Shame of Arthur C. Clarke” containing supposed direct quotes:
Clarke’s interest in boys stretches back over the 40 years he has lived in Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean island. He meets poverty- stricken lads who are easily persuaded by men to become partners for 1,000 rupees, just pounds 10.
Clarke has written more than 80 books about space travel and science fiction, and has been hailed as the 20th Century’s prophet and is consulted by world leaders.
But at his luxury beach house in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, he said: “I’m trying to think of the youngest boy I have ever had because of course you can’t tell here. It is very difficult here.” Clarke said boys are ready to have homosexual sex as long as they have virtually reached puberty.
But asked what was the youngest boy he ever had a liaison with, Clarke said: “Most of them had reached the age of puberty.”
He insisted: “I mean I have never had the slightest interest in children – boys or girls. They should be treated in the same way but once they have reached the age of puberty then it is OK.
“I think most of the damage is done by the fuss made by hysterical parents. If the kids enjoy it and don’t mind it doesn’t do any harm…there is a hysteria about the whole thing in the West. I don’t think anyone should have a relationship unless it is entirely free and open and the boy will know what he is doing.”
Asked if he had had sexual relationships with them he said simply: “Yes”.
He added: “I know once many many years ago when I first came here I did and the going rate was about two rupees. Money has never been part of a relationship. But of course when you are fond of them you give them money or a watch or something, whatever.”
The article itself gave some very good reason to doubt its own veracity:
In Sri Lanka homosexuality is against the law and punishable with a prison sentence of up to 10 years’ jail AND a flogging.
I mean, seriously, why would anyone go on the record under such a circumstance. Sir Arthur was many things, but never a fool.
Anyhow, there was a brouhaha that, in the end, came to exactly nothing.
But they were full of shit.
Sri Lankan police and Interpol both investigated the charges. Both agencies repeatedly requested copies of the tapes. The Sunday Mirror claimed they sent them once, but that Interpol “apparently” did not receive them (the dog ate their evidence, “apparently”), and never did give the evidence to, well, anybody at all.
There was no evidence on which to proceed.
The Sunday Mirror was the only paper to make the claims. No charges were ever brought, no evidence — apart from that tabloid’s supposed transcript — ever has surfaced. Other interviewers dealt with the matter directly, and Sir Arthur treated the charges with the (humorous) contempt they deserved.
Oh, and the Telegraph obituary says that the Sunday Mirror later printed an apology, though I can’t find that online (of course).
Naturally, this cannot prevent people who want to believe it from believing it. There are people who remain convinced that the moon landings were fake. But all the evidence says otherwise.
(I was going to go on about the lazy thinking, even evasion, necessary to maintain such a belief, but I’m tired and this is depressing. Enough, I say. The onus of proof is on those making the positive claim, so if anyone wants to serve up, say, a YouTube video of an interview or something, let them. Otherwise, my initial judgement remains: the charges are completely unsubstantiated horseshit.)