Sir Jimmy Savile’s crime

October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm (BBC, celebrity, child abuse, children, crime, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, media, men, sexism, thuggery)

Jimmy Savile was clearly a disgusting and degenerate excuse for a human being. Claims from the BBC (notably former DG Mark Thompson) to the effect that no-one there had the slightest idea about Savile’s child abuse, are, quite literally, incredible. Almost as unlikely are the denials from Thompson and Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, that last year’s Newsnight  exposé of Saville was pulled because it would have made a sick joke of the three tribute programmes honouring Savile that the BBC had ready to air over Christmas.

Yes, you only had to look at the grotesque figure of Savile and listen to his droning, witless voice, to guess that he was a total creep and sleeze-ball. But Savile’s crimes (now surely proven beyond reasonable doubt or cries of “he’s not here to defend himself”) would appear to be just the tip of the iceberg. Every day seems to bring new revelations that make it clear that Savile’s paedophilia was just one manifestation (albeit an extreme one) of a culture of gross sexism and tolerance of sexual abuse that existed  in the BBC Light Entertainment department from the late 1960’s (ie the creation on Radio 1) up until at least the mid-1990’s and the end of the  ‘Smashie and Nicey‘ era. And there are those who are suggesting it may not have completely ended then, either.

Janet Street-Porter, for instance describes in today’s Mail (see previous link) how Jim Moir, Head of  (BBC) Light Entertainment in the 1980’s once addressed a committee meeing at which Street-Porter was the only woman present, by announcing “Well chaps, I’m going to put my dick on the table.” It was, of course, merely a figure of speech. But a telling one. Other female broadcasters (notably Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig) who were at the Corporation in the in the 1970’s and 80’s have now come forward with accounts of sexual harassment, while a Sunday Times reporter, Camilla Long, claims she was groped by Dave Lee (“Hairy Cornflake”) Travis after interviewing him in June of this year. The recurring theme of all these stories is that such behaviour was considered normal and acceptable and anyone who complained would be regarded as strange (or worse, a lesbian).

But, of course, there is a qualitative difference between the sexual harassment of adult women (reprehensible as that is) and the crime of paedophilia, isn’t there? Maybe so. Or maybe they’re just different points on a continuum. Either way, there is every reason to assume that paedophilia at the BBC and, indeed, throughout the world of pop music and light entertainment in the 1970’s and 80’s, went well beyond the loathsome working class oik Saville. After all, even that doyen of twee, middle-class naughty-but-nice smugness, John Peel, boasted in newspaper interviews and his Sounds magazine column, of his penchant for under-aged girls. I would submit that the picture below, in its way, is almost as disturbing as what we’re hearing about Savile.*

*Naturally, this has upset Peel’s adoring fans, who rally to his defence here.

NB: it is clearly the case that a lot of the current attacks on the BBC in the wake of the Savile revelations, are coming from sources like the Murdoch press (the Sunday Times, especially) and the Mail, that have their own commercial and ideological reasons for wanting to knock the Beeb. But that doesn’t mean that what they’ve published is untrue, or should be down-played. I’ve made extensive use of material from both these sources in what I’ve written above – JM


  1. Matt said,

    Peel went to Shrewsbury public school, alma mater of Paul Foot. and Richard Ingrams. Enough said.

  2. Pinkie said,

    (Just to be picky, I don’t think a liking for post-pubuscent children is paedophilia, but, no matter, we are still talking about child abuse.)

    The claims from the BBC seem to revolve around the lack of documentary evidence. That means nothing much other that nobody documented any complaints, (if there were any, of course, but it seems there were).

    What seems to be mystifying is why Savile had free access to children at a home for distressed children,a children’s home in Jersey, a children’s hospital and accommodation in a hospital where he did ‘charadee work’.

    Savile claimed to be a great friend of various people, Charles Windsor, Blair, Thatcher etc et al, the great and the good, oh yea. What seems to tie that together is moral cowardice, nobody was prepared to out him as a freak, because he was ‘popular’ and raised money for charities. (Of course these people weren’t friends of his, he had none.)

  3. Pinkie said,

    One of the oddest things I have heard is that those who did not speak out may be accused (legally) of colluding with the putative events. Well, if you saw abuse but didn’t speak out, yes, you colluded. But this will counter any proper investigation – who is going to speak out now, when to do so lays them open to prosecution.

    That is what makes people like Savile so sordid, once you brush aside their abuses you become complicit in them. Savile knew that, he was a manipulative thug.

  4. Robin Carmody said,

    What the likes of Savile did, ultimately, was to exploit the nature of monopoly capitalism. There was massive public demand for populist broadcasting, but under what Elisabeth Murdoch (yeah, yeah, I know) recently called “the old world order” the only organisation allowed to provide it on a vast scale didn’t really want to do it, and didn’t understand how and why it mattered – and, more specifically, why moral responsibility to the mass audience mattered. And yet, at the same time, the BBC was a world-class broadcaster in many important fields that are almost completely neglected today. This is Britain’s tragedy.

    John Birt may well have destroyed many of those older strengths in the rush for global competitiveness and efficiency, but I cannot condemn him hands down, because he brought proper accountability and responsibility to the pop side of the BBC, which had never really existed before. Savile et al could do what they did because the pop side of the BBC was previously regarded as so morally low, so much a gunpoint obligation, that proper rules of behaviour *couldn’t* be applied to it – pop was considered low-grade entertainment for low-grade people, who could easily be treated as second-class citizens and deserved all they got. This is the other side to the (on their own level wholly justified) criticisms Sky, Channel 5 and the latterday ITV have always got from the Left. What Savile et al did was, in some ways, the price we had to pay for Play for Today or The Ascent of Man, just as the absence of such series today is the price we pay for 1Xtra.

    Liz Kershaw being groped on air and then being told that only lesbians would object, and Janice Long being forced out because she was a single mother, would have happened about the same time as the inspirational, with-me-until-my-last-breath ‘Moondial’. That was the BBC’s dichotomy, even within my experience; incredibly advanced and revelatory in some fields beyond what could be imagined now, but incredibly corrupt and retrograde in other fields, because psychologically it wasn’t really one organisation. It was the same factor – Birtism – that got rid of the extraordinary strengths *and* the horrible, unspeakable weaknesses. That’s the unfortunate truth, the elephant in Britain’s room.

  5. Robin Carmody said,

    (To change the mood a bit, I do like the title of this post. I wonder how many people would get that pun today …)

  6. Robin Carmody said,

    a propos what I said above, I can understand what Mark Thompson says to the extent that nobody in *his* part of the BBC at the time (News and Current Affairs) would probably have known about it, because the BBC pre-Birt was not so much one organisation as a set of warring factions, each of which had mutual contempt for what the other did. That lack of internal coherence was, beneficially, part of the reason people like Trevor Griffiths and other radical-Left writers could do what they did before Thatcherism hit, but it also created a “not us, guv” mentality. In the part of the BBC where Thompson worked in the 1980s, the attitude would have been “who cares? They’re just making Sun readers – the lowest of the low – happy, they can do what they want” – far removed from the high-functioning Reithianism a lot of people love to remember.

    So I’m not defending the BBC for letting Savile do what he did in any way, just saying that in Thompson’s side of it at the time, it would have been regarded as not their business, and morally beneath them, to care about what people in Light Entertainment were doing.

  7. Robin Carmody said,

    (and also Savile’s main crimes revealed thus far would have happened before Thompson joined the BBC anyway)

  8. Robin Carmody said,

    a propos Liz Kershaw being groped, Dave Lee Travis used to be on weekend mornings after she had co-hosted the breakfast show with Bruno Brookes, so there’s a good chance he was the DJ who groped her. Knowing what we’ve known about him for years, if Brookes had seen this happen he would simply have laughed.

  9. Robin Carmody said,

    I think Peel probably gets a free pass from a lot of people because he introduced them to several generations of radical Left-influenced music whereas Savile merely played Swinging Blue Jeans, The, and that’s a whole other story. Probably more defensible than Thatcherites/Blairites/Cameronites defending Bill Wyman, though.

    • Paul said,

      It’s one thing to try and manage your publicity and reputation in the current era it’s another thing to manage it 30 years into the future. I am guessing that all those washed-up celebs who boasted in print to 100’s of conquests and didn’t ask for an id, nudge-nudge wink wink, are squirming now. It is interesting to see who will come through unscathed and why. For every lambasted Jimmy Savile there will be a sainted Bill Wyman or John Peel I suspect. Left-leaning credentials may help a bit but may not leave you completely immune

      • Jim Denham said,

        Paul: I hope you’re right. But at least one well-respected figure with credibility (for some unknown reason) on the arty-“left” has, so far, got away with it:

        From Barbara Ellen’s page in the ‘Observer’:

        So now can we talk about Polanski?
        A public figure guilty of child sex abuse gets away with it because of the power of his fame. Sound familiar? However, I’m not talking about Jimmy Savile. I’m talking about film director Roman Polanski who, in 1977, aged 43, had sex with a 13-year-old girl allegedly after drugging her.

        Afterwards, fearing imprisonment, Polanski fled the US to Europe, where he’s (chiefly) managed to evade punishment ever since. His victim Samantha Geimer, nee Gailey, now 47, is set to write her memoirs The Girl: Emerging From the Shadow of Roman Polanski. But don’t expect everyone to sympathise.

        One of the recurring laments of the Savile saga is: “Why did people keep quiet”?

        In Polanski’s case, certain people have kept anything but quiet, crying: “Leave Polanski alone, it was a long time ago, and he’s a fabulous director!” A few years ago, there was even a sprawling pro-Polanski petition, signed by Woody Allen (ahem), but also the likes of Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Wim Wenders and Pedro Almodóvar.

        Hearing about Geimer’s book, in the middle of the Savile revelations, is disorientating. In both cases, the abuse occurred a long time ago but, by some people’s calculations, this makes Savile a paedophile who got away with it, while Polanski is some kind of martyr.

        Is this because one is a renowned film director with an artistic community on his side and the other was a creepy old geezer in a nylon tracksuit? If so, how disturbing. Bearing in mind the seriousness of the crimes, does it matter that one man made Repulsion and the other did Jim’ll Fix It?

        I’m only asking because it seems that, for certain types, it definitely does matter. Sometimes, cultural hypocrisy runs so deep people aren’t even aware they’re guilty of it.

  10. Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    One doesn’t want to come over all over neoconservative and culture war-sy but this indeed the dark side of sixties sexual liberation which really did open up vast new opportunities for sexual exploitation for males in even such petty positions of power as a Radio 1 DJ (it also puts a somewhat different perspective on the Oz Schoolkids issue and all those trendy male celebrities who trooped out in its support).

    In contrast if Lord Arthur Savile had been similarly inclined in the 1890s he would have had to abuse child-prostitutes which involved far more serious risks to life, health and reputation than Sir Jimmy’s molesting of schoolgirls ever did.

    As for the Sainted John Peel I am still somewhat loath to lump him in with his pervie peers until there is an actual accusation of him acting on his schoolgirl fantasies.

    • Rosie said,

      I was thinking this lay in that stretch of time between the sexual revolution and the 2nd wave of feminism. But before the sexual revolution Hollywood directors had casting couches. In the 1930s male bosses groped their secretaries. It was treated as a joke.

      Anybody can do Anything is a humorous memoir about women working in office jobs during the Depression in Seattle. The author talks about her highly confident sister who says to one of her bosses – “Go and pinch someone who can’t type” after one grope too many and chucks in the job. The boss is regarded as a creep – but there’s no recourse but to chuck in the job.

      • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        True – men have always been complete bastards – but at least in the 1930s they had to be hypocrites and could be shamed and even occasionally ruined by their behaviour.

        What separates these 1970s celebrities from the 1930s office groper is the perpetrators sense of entitlement – the victims really were supposed to be grateful that some ageing DJ or pop star (or for that matter catholic priest or froglike Trotskyist cult-leader) thought them worthy of molestation – and that even their colleagues and superiors who had higher standards never thought it worth risking their careers to do anything about it.

        The reactionary right at least has a narrative to address this but as our disarray over l’affaire Assange shows we on the left are hopelessly confused and never managed to really integrate 60s libertarianism with second wave feminism before both the left and feminism were almost annihilated by neoliberalism.

  11. Jimmy Glesga said,

    Rosie. It was maybe treated as a joke but the women needed to work to earn a living. It was men some ugly bastards using their power and money to get into womens knickers. No doubt it still goes on and moreso during a recession when women need to feed their children.

  12. Rosie said,

    @ Jimmy Glesga – of course it’s serious – the waitress putting up with groping from the chef, the girl in the sweatshop having to give favours to the foreman. It’s one victory for feminism that sexual harassment legislation was brought in and that attitudes have changed. In an office at least it will be known that Partner X is a sleazy bastard, but it will be look and don’t touch.

    @ Roger – yeah, I agree. I suppose it was the democratisation of male aristocratic sense of entitlement towards women. Women were either willing, or frigid. In Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse the hero is a new kind of guy who’s attempting to be cool and modern, and one of the supposed jokes is him trying to get his girlfriend to swallow date-rape drugs.

    The women in 60s films and the like were dopey acquiescent dolly-birds whereas the 30s Hollywood women were proud, smart and tough.

    • Roger McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      I’d actually forgotten that scene from Billy Liar – perhaps because it was so entirely unexceptionable in that era.

      And re the female icons of the 1930s being smart, proud and tough wasn’t it Pauline Kael who argued that this was actually an unintended positive consequence of the Hays Codes?

      Someone really should fund the systematic Bechdel testing of sample movies from the 30s through to the present day.

  13. Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

    please take that pIkTuA DOwn.

  14. Babs said,

    I’d like to know where the the Union Reps were, and what they were doing to put a stop to the sexual harrassment that was going on that clearly wasn’t being tackled by Management.

    One ex-newspaper journalist on Sky (evil Murdoch stooge I know I know) said at one point in the late 70’s her male colleague she vaguely knew that she was travelling with simply turned to her and said “should we pull over and have sex in the layby?”.

    He was the Union rep.

  15. paul maleski said,

    Our only salvation from deadly moral decay promulgated by the disciples of the Jewish Frankfurt School is the democratization of the media. The British people had no say, whatsoever, in the creation of a multi-cultural, anything goes hedonistic society. The pro queer, anti -Christian agenda agenda was foisted on us by stealth, for decades we were drip fed poison by a whole succession of Agony Aunts, (many of them jewish), an advertising industry dominated the likes of Saatchi and co. who constantly bombard with us pro miscegenation, anti-family deviant propaganda. The gutless media industry is well paid for its acquiescence in this criminal undertaking; celebrity status is awarded to those who go the extra mile and publicly display their look at me pervertions as a badge of dis–honour. Air time, column inches of print, and lurid imagery is guaranteed to these degenerates by the powers-that-be, Tatchellism has had a far more sinister, corrosive effect on our spiritual well being than Thatcherism ever did. Decent run-of-the-mill society don’t get a look in. Jimmy Savile got away for his crimes because he was allowed to, It is as simple as that, he could name names and could feed dead heads with cheap, ostentatious banality. Mensa Savile knew this, this is why he never owned a personal computer–he did not need one. Ironically, Jimmy Saville and David Icke did rather well out of BBC financed track suits.

  16. frankpjackson said,

    Breaking news: St John International head office in London have this week made the decision to grant awards to two known members of a paedophile gang in New Zealand. The awards are to be presented by the Queen’s representative in NZ, the Governor General.

  17. Robin Carmody said,

    Looking back at these comments I’m tempted to recommend that “paul maleski”‘s post is deleted; on the other hand, he pretty much condemns himself out of his own mouth.

    • Paul said,

      All I would say is if this other “Paul” is right the Jews must be so sinister and subtle and their conspiracy so deep that it’s gone over the heads of most of us. If anyone does believe it I have a Twin Tower conspiracy to sell at a good price. He is right of course about the subsidised track suits. I will be suspicious of tracksuited celebrities from now on.
      On another aside, what odds that Peter Rippon is rehabilitated after the McAlpine scandal. In retrospect his actions can be seen as sensibly cautious

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