The rehabilitation of Chris Langham is well under way. On Sunday, The Observer ran a searching but evenhanded interview with the disgraced comic actor and his wife, Christine, and Langham will shortly appear on Pamela Stephenson’s More4 show, Shrink Rap, to be comprehensively grilled by his former Not the Nine O’Clock News colleague, now turned psychotherapist.
This is not the behaviour we expect from a man who has loomed large in the public eye but then been convicted of downloading child pornography. If there is a profile for the celebrity paedophile, it’s exemplified on the one hand by Gary Glitter, pursued by the redtop vigilante squad from one Cambodian brothel to the next and on the other by Jonathan King, bumptiously continuing to maintain his innocence to all-comers.
But Langham says he has a right to be considered as different: he has never denied that what he did was wrong, he has said that he himself was abused, and that he only wanted to bear witness to the degradation of child pornography in order to research a character for Help, the TV series he co-wrote with Paul Whitehouse.
In court, experts testified that he was neither a paedophile and nor did he pose a risk to children.
So why is it that the Langham rehab arouses such uneasiness in me? In part, it’s because of the inconsistencies in his explanations. Langham said that writing about paedophiles brought his own memories of abuse to the surface. But even if you believe in the phenomenon of “recovered memory”, why on earth would such an unpleasant revelation send you looking for more unpleasantness? Yet I also have a grudging sympathy for him. I used to see him about a bit in the 1980s and he always seemed a decent cove. I was as shocked as everyone else by his arrest. Beyond this, there’s a savage and overweening need in our society to shovel as much opprobrium as possible on to the heads of those convicted of child abuse, and the reason for that, I suspect, is because so many men like Langham himself are avid consumers of “adult” porn.
Langham came to the attention of Operation Ore because he’d used his credit card to access porn sites. If you’re reading this on public transport, and you tossed your paper away, it’s very likely it would hit a man who’s done the same thing. Pornographic websites account for approximately 12 per cent of all sites globally, and there are 372 million pornographic web pages. Most male consumers of porn convince themselves they’re doing nothing wrong, and even if they are that it’s a victimless crime, but the line between a drug-addicted 17-year-old being manipulated in front of a webcam and 16-year-old being raped seems to me so thin as to be specious.
I think it’s this male denial about the festering charnel house of “adult” porn that makes them go in a pack for the likes of Langham: with his long, lugubrious and no longer funny face, he makes the perfect scapegoat.