Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Whole Jimmy Savile Business

Another sad example of some Catholics being perverts without all perverts necessarily being Catholics, and not one which, in my view, really offers much scope to allow one to jump to the conclusion that these allegations form part of a gigantic anti-Catholic plot. Even although it's 2012 and all that, these allegations do not signal the imminent return of the Test Acts. 

What should also be resisted is the temptation to use this as a stick with which to beat the BBC because either you or your employers don't like the BBC. The BBC's conduct in the matter of Savile's behaviour might have been ignominious, but if Savile did ever abuse his position of trust, then it is he and he alone who bears the greatest guilt. In criticising the BBC as heavily as some commentors have done, they may be conveniently blaming the BBC for having failed to display sensibilities appropriate to 2012 in 1979, or 1974. While the requirement for moral behaviour is constant, the Catholic ones who are playing this most intellectually lazy type of blame game are doing precisely the same thing that critics of the Catholic Church do when they criticise it in 2012 on account of the behaviours of some of its clergy in, say, 1979, or 1974. A characteristic that I would assume that both the Catholic Church and the BBC share at this very moment is the rigour of their child protection policies. One must always be even-handed, lest either be chopped off.

The allegations against Savile will only ever remain that, his death having made impossible the chance of them ever becoming evidence. What is striking about them is the similarity of the behaviours alleged by persons whom one would presume had never had the chance to meet each other. It might be mud being slung at a dead man, but it's great deal of mud, it's coming from all directions and it's all of the same shade. 

David Lindsay has written very powerfully about the continued untenability of Esther Rantzen's position at ChildLine in light of her admission that Savile's behaviours were, if not known, then at least suspected, even if only on the basis of gossip. Her reaction to the emergence of these allegations, and also that of Paul Gambaccini, suggests to me that something of a load has been lifted from them - they can at last talk about something which clearly appears to have bothered them. It certainly seems to have been the case that Savile's publicity machine could have kept anything out of the newspapers, even resorting to the bloodlessly likely assertion that damage to his reputation would damage his capacity to raise funds for Stoke Mandeville Hospital, a threat so ruthless it has the ring of absolute truth. Compared to the late Sir Jimmy Savile KCMG, the holders of privacy superinjunctions might just be mere rank amateurs in the black arts of reputation management. However, it is and always has been the case that Rantzen, Gambaccini and others could have acted on these doubts and suspicions, perhaps preventing him from gaining access to his type, which seems to have been vulnerable teenage girls. It might be the case that they are suffering overwhelming feelings of guilt that they might have done something to stop this, but didn't. 

If that is the case, they shouldn't be hard on themselves, for they are judging themselves in 2012 by the standards of 2012 for their lack of action in 1979, or 1974. For all that I agree with David that her position at ChildLine is now untenable, Rantzen has displayed a very great deal of courage in her public statements, as she must have known that these admissions would damage her standing at the charity with which she is almost synonymous. Few people have done more than Esther Rantzen to transform 1979's attitudes towards child protection into those of 2012, and for that she will always deserve the credit she is due. I'm not on the board of ChildLine, so I have no power to determine whether she should stay or go. As a matter of principle, I think she should go as a matter of principle, but wilding her out of her job would, to use an analogy which manages to be both appropriate and inappropriate simultaneously, be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

That being the case, I would suggest that if either Rantzen or Gambaccini is either aware of or suspects any other instances of unacceptable behaviours towards children at the BBC they should let the police know, if they have not done so already; this being 2012, they probably already have. Jimmy Savile was one of that class of deceased persons sometimes rather loosely described as having been one in a million; and one Jimmy Savile is quite enough.

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