This blog is a pretty personal one, I don’t tend to write about things that don’t directly affect me and I have no reason to say that ITV exposing Jimmy Savile as a paedophile has any relevance to me personally. But I’m pretty upset by it. I was pretty weirded out by how much a media story exposing a dirty old man who has nothing to do with me got to me.
Yet, I think I do feel betrayed, for no better reasons than those which got Mary Whitehouse pissed off in some ways. I watched Jim’ll Fix It every Saturday night that it was on whilst I was growing up. I wrote several letters asking him to fix it for me to have a number of things done none of which were ever replied to. He was in my home every weekend and like most kids I knew, we wanted him there.
He is a random guy who used to present a show that I watched as a kid. If Philip Schofield were discovered to be a paedophile would I feel this betrayed? And it is betrayed that is a large part of the upset I’m feeling. I don’t honestly think I would, Philip Schofield is just one of those people, a man in a suit with greying hair who did a serviceable job presenting Children’s TV from The Broomcupboard and had Gordon T Gopher for a while. But if Philip Schofield was a meaningful nonenity Jimmy Savile wasn’t even someone I particularly liked.
He wasn’t a nonenity though, he didn’t vanish into the background and he looked like, as I and my friends remarked time and again, a paedophile…because they have uniforms you understand. (Sarcasm). I have his damned theme tune in my head, the one that starts ‘Ba ba ba‘. I once remarked to my parents that I was surprised he didn’t have any of the dodgy sex-offender rumours about him given that he was an older man who worked with kids. I got a bollocking and a stern reminder that people, nice people, don’t gossip and make up rumours about genuinely nice guys.
That’s a part of it I think, that as far as we who simply watched him on tv were concerned, he was an old man with a good heart. Anyone who saw the Louis Theroux documentary, which I watched because Jimmy Savile was in it and I was interested, worked out that he was not a *nice* man. Really not, but some of that I put down to age and some of it I was glad of. He felt like a genuine person rather than the smarmy Hamiltons or yet another polished-up celebrity. He felt like a product of his upbringing as well. He’d been a manager of northern clubs, admitted to violence and hinted at more.
The fact that he lived with his mother until she died had me wondering if he was gay, so did the thing that he admitted to Louis about claiming to hate children so as to avoid people looking into his private life. Not, I should point out, because I link homosexuality and child molesters but because the media have a tendancy to. That has me angry, that he was an unusual person and that that unusualness was not in a good way. It has me so very angry that he was a male who worked with children (and gods know we need more of them) and in no way was he a good role-model…except…that he was up until anyone knew.
And then that brings me on to the next thing.
All these stories are about people coming forward, now, after he’s dead. I’m not talking about the victims here, gods know I can understand people who’ve been abused not being able to confront their abusers. I’m talking about nurses who told a girl to pretend she was asleep, personal assistants who procured girls to come back to his dressing room, celebrities who felt he touched the kids just a bit too much. A lot of these people had a duty of care to the children. Some of them didn’t. At the point where he starts being connected not only to Gary Glitter but also to Haut de la Garenne and there are pictures and just too many people saying the same thing for it to be the type of banal celebrity tripe that sane people ignore then I start to wonder how many people were keeping their mouths shut?
I feel betrayed, not so much by the man himself, but by the people around him. I feel like I’m part of a group of kids who were let down by the adults that were supposed to be stopping people like that get to us.
Not only that but I believe that people are basically decent and if you think that a dirty old man is taking girls off to his private flat from a hospital, from a care-home, from any damned where you tell someone, you report him to the police…
…I said before he was a product of his age and culture. I think I am unusual in my generation in that I grew up in a small village where dirty old men were understood as separate from paedophiles. It was a given that sometimes Santa Clause’s held you a bit tight, that some men like to stare if you’re wearing a short skirt or whatever.
That’s not the case now and I doubt it was then, unless you grew up in the middle of nowhere.
But there is a difference between a child and an adult and adolescence straddles that gap. There are very few people nowadays who believe that a fourteen year old is anywhere near an adult. But once it used to be the standard age to leave school. Not that I think many people would have argued that a school leaver was the same as an adult. Not many.
Fourteen was the age where you started courting though and I mean that seriously. Sixteen you can still get married with parental consent and that’s where this country draws the line. If he’d live in another country some of the rape charges which are hinging on being statutory rape rather than non-consensual sex would not be brought.
Adolescence is the age that, because it straddles that gap, is one of vulnerability because there is trust and experience wrapped up in one. If we were talking about consensual ephebophelia then I might well be making the case that he’d done nothing wrong. If it was just teenage girls from the dancefloors when he was DJing and Esther Rantzen’s assertation that because more than one person has claimed something it must be so then I would be maintaining that gossip unproven is exactly that.
I could make allowances for people misunderstanding what they were seeing on one-off occasions as being that. But it wasn’t just one-offs that people claim to have been seeing. I could make allowanaces for people being caught up in the celebrity gossip of it all. But so many people? This doesn’t seem like the witch-hunt or hysteria that it might have been. And the problem is I’ve been watching Youtube clips of that documentary…a lot of people that are smarmy, polished celebrities seem to have known or seen things that they should not have ignored.
I’m angry and upset because someone eccentric turned out not to have been harmless and he was someone that was celebrated for his work with children…actually I think that’s the nub. Not just that of apparently so many people not one pushed it hard enough when there were five separate police enquiries that failed to find a case but the implications that Jimmy savile himself had enough power and influence to stop those enquiries in their tracks.
A lot has been said about the implications that doing enough charity work buys you some sort of imunity. I wonder. There seem to have been thirty girls over a forty year period. Even for a man living with his mother that doesn’t seem like many for someone who is given over to predatory rapes. Am I trying to cling onto the notion I had before ITV’s documentary, before Louis Theroux lived with him that Jimmy Savile might have been a nice guys? He raised over £40 million for charity, he ran marathons, a lot. What makes someone do that? Could it have been guilt? Or was it just that it provided a good cover to get into the children’s ward at Stoke Mandeville?
Yes I’m angry with Jimmy Savile, but I’m more angry at the system and the people surrounding him that allowed it to continue. I’m also angry at the half-thought in the back of my head that there is a possibility that this may turn out to be a media storm about nothing because people are lying and mis-representing consensual sex (albeit statutory rape) from forty years ago as something it wasn’t…I’m angry because I’m thinking it and because it’s there at all.
[Edit]Julie Blindel in the Guardian expresses exactly what’s upsetting me about this.