Sunday 4 November 2012

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music


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 
The irony stems from seeing some of the media outlets leading the cavalry charge against the BBC and all the other institutions responsible for allowing the former Top of the Tops presenter to allegedly abuse young people on their premises. Paul Dacre’s The Daily Mail and Dominic Mohan’s The Sun (the latter, an ex-columnist of the showbiz section Bizarre) smelled blood from the moment the story about Jimmy Savile’s alleged sexual abuses broke out. And like bloodthirsty hounds, they haven’t let go of their prey. In The Sun’s case, this crisis at the Beeb is perfect timing, as it diverts public attention from the Leveson enquiry and more specifically from the way News International conducts its business. News International, just in case people don’t know, publishes The Sun.

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.

© 2012

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 7th November at 11:59pm (GMT)


  1. I really, really liked the music. And as for the scandal, I am learning about it now. I am so out of touch with news on tv or the newspapers.

  2. it turns my stomach honestly...and sadly happens far more than is out there....even worse in some third world countries where they are used as least there it is out in the open and not hidden and looked over....we had ours here at penn state, and all the people turning their heads, allowing it to happen...that kinda stuff just pisses me off to no end...

  3. Spot on in regards to your commentary here. When do we hold media accountable for their role and influence (on so many levels) in regards to providing fuel for pedophilia? A quick glance at the Victoria Secret catalog where all their models are way too young to be posing for a lingerie catalog, whose bodies look more prepubescent than an adult woman's body. This list goes on and on.
    Brilliant post!

  4. England has Saville; the US has Sandusky and those who covered up his behavior. I suppose that the powerful have abused those seen as weak (women and children) for millennia. That doesn't make it right. Now we have media that exacerbate the problem by sexualizing children at younger and younger ages. The revolting TV show "Toddlers and Tiaras" show children as young as 2 being paraded in some grotesque parody of a beauty pageant. It will only end when we (the public)begins to respect women as human beings and not as sex objects. I used to be more optimistic about that but I'm not any more as the problem seems to have getten worse.

  5. Great music (as always), horrible story, wonderful post that nails the primary problem--the sexualization of youth.

  6. Many thanks for your comments. I have changed the photo accompanying this post following suggestions by a fellow blogger and reader. It's true what she said: if I were one of Savile's victims, would I like to carry on seeing his mug on every newspaper's front page? No, so, there's no place for his face on my blog either.

    Paula and Beth, you nailed it, too. The whole Victoria Secret and other programmes are conducive to the early sexualisation of children in such subtle ways that we, parents, have very little power to counteract it.

    There was a story in the UK a few years ago about a clothes company designing G-strings for pre-pubescent girls (my daughter's age). I thought it was a hoax first, but no, it was real. The idea, luckily, never got off the ground.

    I wish you all a great week. Please, US, keep Obama for four more years! :-)

    Greetings from London.

  7. Thanks for the good wishes about Obama. I've voted already for four more years. Now I'm praying!

  8. Well said - of every aspect. This lack of perspective seems to run through the whole of society just now. Instance how the news programmes fasten on to one sensational item and plug it, sometimes for days - weeks even - to the exclusion of other items that are surely worth an airing.

  9. a sad reality in every country of the world..really like that you tackle such topics in such a good and sensitive way

  10. You really broke that down well Cubano. I agree with all of your points. We have had a similar scandal in the U.S> with a beloved college football coach. I think the media glare does put attention on an issue that has been too long been ignored but I don't think the media is good at analyzing its own actions and how they could have inadvertently promoted such abuse.

  11. None of us as parents wants to be over-protective or fill the kids' brains with suspicions and fears about the big, bad world. However, with reports of these despicable and animalistic behavior becoming more and more common, how are parents supposed to strike a balance?

    Your take on exploitation of young women in the current media brought to my mind something else I (and other like-minded people of Indian descent) bemoan all the time: why doesn't Bollywood make more meaningful movies that bring on change? Producers say they're making movies that audiences are asking for. In turn movie-goers say they watch those movies only because that's the only fare available.

    Thanks for speaking up about an uncomfortable (on more counts than one) topic, Cuban!

  12. The BBC protected him! The University of Pennsylvania protected Sandusky; the Catholic Church protected countless priests. For all our talk about caring for children we do not put them first.



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