It’s hard to find anything to joke or laugh about in the on-going Jimmy Savile saga. But irony has the peculiar characteristic of surfacing in the most unusual places. And so it is that it has suddenly turned up in what appears to be prima facie one of the most appalling cases of paedophilia to have ever taken place in the UK in recent memory.
George Entwistle, new director general of the BBC, was questioned by MPs recently
At this point it is worth repeating what has been said before: the Savile scandal is no small matter. Also, I’m not, in any way, excusing the behaviour adopted by those at the top of the BBC, including its director general. There has been too much hand-wringing involved when honesty and straightforwardness would have been much more welcomed.
However, for me the key word here is perspective. Jimmy Savile’s alleged actions were not just the product of status (his, as a celebrity), easy access to minors and adolescents, intimidation and voluntary ignorance on the part of those tasked with protecting young people. They were also the result of a bigger problem, one that, although demanding an urgent solution, will be forgotten once Savile becomes an embarrassing footnote in the history of the BBC and of those institutions where he allegedly carried out these sexual abuses.
The problem to which I’m referring is the sexualisation of children and adolescents, a phenomenon that has become a sad indictment of our contemporary society. And girls and young women in particular are the more affected. That is why I feel repulsed by the hypocrisy displayed by both The Daily Mail and The Sun. A cursory glance through the former’s website, Mail Online, will throw up countless photos of scantily-clad women accompanied by comments on every single inch of flesh they (unintentionally) expose in public. And sometimes not even in public. But who cares? As long as the sound of “Kerching!” keeps ringing around The Daily Mail’s offices, the nation’s self-appointed “last bastion of virtue” won’t mind a bit of double standards.
As for The Sun, its near-paedophilic fixation with pubescent girls is legendary. After all this is the newspaper, lest we forget, that decorates its (in)famous page 3 regularly with young women’s breasts. Sans bra, of course. The newspaper which, when singing sensation Charlotte Church turned sixteen years-old, saw fit to say “She’s a big girl now”. Big for what? I bet Jimmy Savile used the same line with some of his victims.
I said before that the key word here was perspective. I have already explained one reason. The other one is that whilst we’re busy feeling (rightly) outraged at Savile’s alleged vile actions, the government recently let slip that the worst of the UK’s recession was over. It didn’t get so much as a second look, let alone a well-articulated riposte from the opposition. But if we look closer we’ll notice that one of the indicators for the “good news” was the Olympics, a one-off boost. We are still waiting for the long-term strategy and Osborne’s Plan B. Neither has been forthcoming. Instead we get more coverage on Newsnight’s decision to scrap a report on allegations of abuse by Jimmy Savile a few weeks before tributes were to be aired following his death last year. In the real world, however, we had one of the largest demonstrations against the government’s cuts recently. More than 100,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow, Belfast and London bearing banners with captions that read: “marching for a future that works”. How many column inches were devoted to these protests compared to the ones churned out about the Savile scandal? I will let you do the maths yourself, reader.
The last reason why a sense of perspective is needed is that some media outlets, including the aforementioned The Daily Mail and The Sun, have gone overboard with their criticisms of the BBC and all the other institutions responsible for Savile’s alleged predatory behaviour. It’s true that he did hideous things apparently. That, however, doesn’t make George Entwistle, the new director general, a paedophile ring leader. Nor does this whole scandal call for the closure of the BBC (I know, I know, preposterous, but, believe you me, the hints have been there all along) or the NHS. If anything, the current hoo-hah is convenient for certain people to “bury” their bad news and divert attention from issues that affect us more in the mid- and long-term than a dead octogenarian’s alleged predatory behaviour. I hope that the people responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to take advantage of his celebrity status are held to account. But what I hope for, above all, is that we go back to focusing on the things that matter most: for example, what are we going to do as a society about the sexualisation of young people? Answers on a handwritten postcard, please.
Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 7th November at 11:59pm (GMT)