light and shade projections on an old yew tree, Newlands Corner, Surrey, England. © Fred Hageneder
light and shade projections on an old yew tree, Newlands Corner, Surrey, England. © Fred Hageneder

‘Operation Yewtree’

Feb 2013

After the death of famous British television presenter X whose unholy name shall not be mentioned here, in October 2011, hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse and rape became public. As it became clear that an unprecedented paedophile network was uncovered, with 450 alleged victims of X alone and a further 149 victims of other figures in the British entertainment industry of the 1960s and 70s, the Metropolitan Police (MET) needed a name for this major investigation.

On 9 October 2012, the MET announced that the inquiry into the allegations would be called Operation Yewtree.

The BBC reports that ‘Yewtree’ was chosen from a list of names which are intended to be neutral and unrelated to the particular case: ‘The names come from an approved list that has been decided in advance. They can be anything from exotic birds to towns on the south coast.… The aim is to choose names that are completely neutral so they will hopefully be totally unrelated to the case. This system dates back to the 1980s.’

So why then not another Operation Crevice, Barkertown, Caprock or Operation Seagram?! How exactly could the only evergreen native tree species to Britain (except the very rare juniper) be neutral to this country? Britain has some 80% of Europe’s oldest yew trees, and it is the only country without legal protection for them. Tree campaigners have been fighting for years to increase public awareness and sympathy for this unique tree.

Well, OP Yewtree might increase awareness, but certainly not sympathy. What can one expect when a tree species by force of big media consulted efforts is to be associated with child abuse? Three months after the naming, internet blogs talk about the toxicity of yew and that it is a ‘complex, intertwined and twisted plant’. Twisted like perverts?

Do we want to filter ‘child abuse’ everytime we google ‘yew’?! And with the yew being a popular churchyard tree, did nobody in the MET consider that the naming of this OP could damage the Church too?

But it is not too late – if anybody cares. Another political accident in naming occured a year previous in the USA with the operation to kill Osama bin Laden being named OP Geronimo, after the renowned 19th-century Apache leader. After this became known to the public worldwide in May 2011, several native American Indian tribes began to urge President Obama to retro-actively rename the military code name.
It will now enter the history books as Operation Neptune Spear.

Wikipedia: Operation Yewtree
BBC News: How do police operations get their names?, 25 March 2008

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