I went to see the excellent film Spotlight the other night. The basic plot is pretty well-known – dedicated journalists track down the truth behind abuse by Catholic priests – but just in case you haven’t seen the film and are planning to ***Spoiler Alert***.
If you have seen All the President’s Men you might wonder what the point is of going to see that story over again. But the story of heroic journalists isn’t really the point of this film. While the journalists quickly uncovered the pattern of abuse and cover-up, they come across a different pattern too.
A number of times they ask:
“why didn’t you tell us about this before”
They get the same answer:
“we did tell you… and you didn’t do anything about it”.
It turns out that even one of the journalists involved in the scoop investigation had been shown some of the evidence before, but hadn’t acted on it. As one of the most chilling lines in the film puts it:
“It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a village to abuse one too”
Not only was there conspiracy and cover-up, but there was also a shared blindness to what was in front of people.
For me, that brings us back to a simple truth which I think is born out in investigations that Verita has carried out from Savile to Bradbury: whatever structures and policies you put in place, what really matters in the end is what the people who are operating in them actually choose to do.
It is a cliché to say that we should “always be vigilant”. What is more important is that we are open to evaluate evidence on its merits, to allow space for different interpretations to be aired and to allow for the possibility that things we have always assumed to be true, might not actually be.