A predatory sex offender, hiding in plain sight
October 13, 2012 1:17 PM   Subscribe

In a recent exposé, Sir Jimmy Savile OBE – children's television presenter and tireless charity campaigner – was revealed to be what some had suspected and many had known: a predatory sex offender who abused hundreds of young girls.

Hiding in plain sight behind "a smokescreen comprised of the truth", Savile cultivated the character of an eccentric loner, even joking that "I'm feared in every girl's school in this country".

Further questions remain: why did the tabloid press not report the rumours? Why did the BBC prevent the broadcast of its own exposé of Savile? And why was he given access to a secure psychiatric hospital where he abused patients?

With women reporting that they were abused in hospitals, schools and at the BBC, it appears that in some cases a wider culture of abuse existed. And while Savile may be dead, a recent inquiry found that the words of sexual abuse victims continue to be ignored.
posted by mattn (89 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
A recent New Yorker article, In Plain View, has Malcolm Gladwell examining the Jerry Sandusky case and how it played out compared to known methods used by child molesters. The upshot is, it's most often people who ARE in positions similar to Savile, whether of wide renown or merely within a small social circle, who can create the circumstances under which they are able to abuse children.

That abuse victims are frequently disbelieved only goes hand-in-hand with the sort of grooming and cultural standing which egregious offenders cultivate.

At some point we're going to have to have a cultural shift wherein we start taking children seriously who report such things, and stop believing adults who say the children are misinterpreting the circumstances and who play on the good will of adults they have charmed to keep their activities secret. There's impropriety, and there's the appearance of impropriety, and when it comes to sexual contact with children, usually the two are equal.
posted by hippybear at 1:33 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Overheard in my local Tesco this afternoon: "Oi, what's up? You look as though you've been fondled by Jimmy Savile, mate!"

It's an ongoing investigation (from what I gather) but it sounds as though the story's already passed into the vernacular.
posted by kariebookish at 1:35 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


What I don't understand about this is the public's reaction to people who knew about this and never said anything. Janet Street Porter sat on Question Time last week and said that she saw Jimmy Savile with young girls and never said anything because, she said, the male culture at the BBC would have mean she would have been disbelieved and that she never would have worked again. I was pretty shocked that she got absolutely no pushback after that comment.

Compare and contrast to Jerry Sandusky and how Joe Paterno knew about it and never did anything. His long career was essentially ruined due to his inaction. As were the careers of others for the same reason.

I'm not in the UK so I maybe can't accurately gauge the reaction there but I feel we're not seeing the same level of outrage over the many people who suspected or knew about this but never said anything. I wonder if I'm missing something. I do have to wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that with Sandusky it was boys and Savile it was girls, but I really, really don't want that to be the explanation.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:47 PM on October 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


The BBC is also investigating an account in the Daily Mail of John Peel impregnating a 15 year old in 1969.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:50 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not in the UK so I maybe can't accurately gauge the reaction there but I feel we're not seeing the same level of outrage over the many people who suspected or knew about this but never said anything.

Oh there is, but at the moment it's being used as a stick to beat the BBC and the NHS by their right-wing opponents. Predictable and sad.
posted by Summer at 1:52 PM on October 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I have been following this in the Guardian, and the scale of it is simply mind-boggling. Not only the actual abuse, but the number of people who apparently helped to cover it up, because he was famous, because of his charity work (which at this point appears to have been almost entirely a ruse to gain contact with children, the mentally ill, and the physically disabled), and because of his connections in the media and politics.

I did not grow up in England, and had limited familiarity with Jimmy Savile (other than as a term used to insult someone wearing a tracksuit), so my position on him was always "how is this guy a celebrity?" (I mean really, look at him). Now my position on him is "HOW THE FUCK WAS THIS GUY A CELEBRITY?"

Seriously, they're saying he may now be connected to the children's home abuse on Jersey? And it seems like everybody knew about it!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:53 PM on October 13, 2012


It's perhaps wise to remember that none of the allegations have been proven by the courts yet.

However, I just cannot see how Jimmy Savile could have worked as head of a mental health taskforce team at Broadmoor?! Jimmy Savile was a DJ. Did I miss the memo outlining his degree in psychiatry?
posted by kariebookish at 1:57 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


"how is this guy a celebrity?"

supposedly he was an early pioneering DJ back in the day. He has made claims that he came up with the "two turntables and a microphone" setup and also the idea of the discotheque.

Like John Peel, Saville became famous first through the 1960s-70s pop music scene
(based on my vague skimming of articles on this)
posted by Bwithh at 1:57 PM on October 13, 2012


I have to say I always (totally without evidence) suspected this. In London recently, in the midst of all this, I was baffled still to see posters up advertising a Michael Jackson best-of album. Promoting him still is basically a big message to kids - we won't believe you, especially if you make allegations against a rich person.
posted by imperium at 1:59 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]



However, I just cannot see how Jimmy Savile could have worked as head of a mental health taskforce team at Broadmoor?! Jimmy Savile was a DJ. Did I miss the memo outlining his degree in psychiatry?


I can't remember the exact details or link, so take this with a pinch of salt, but my understanding is that Savile got this role as sort of a "honest upstanding citizen and amateur good egg" type after the previous official management/leadership was thrown out after some crisis or as part of some reform.
posted by Bwithh at 1:59 PM on October 13, 2012


Yeah, this is all sick stuff, and further revelations get progressively worse. And yes, as Summer said above, it is really being used against the BBC and the NHS.
posted by skybluepink at 2:01 PM on October 13, 2012


I think he already had some kind of association with Broadmoor (the git), and as Bwithh says the management had just been thrown out for some kind of gross incompetence. The powers that be were presumably casting about for people to sit on the committee to fix things up that had sufficient connection to be worth having, but who weren't directly connected to the existing management.
posted by pharm at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2012


Things like this happen over and over because it's profitable to represent the idea of the kiddy fiddler as some kind of obvious, odious monster (Oblig Paedogeddon Ref) and not an avuncular celeb, or an oddly intrusive relative.
posted by meehawl at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


The BBC is also investigating an account in the Daily Mail of John Peel impregnating a 15 year old in 1969.

Oh god. I hope most people can see that John Peel having an affair with a slightly below legal age girl in the late sixties is not really the same thing as Savile's clearly predatory and unwelcome serial sex offences with minors and adults. Whatever the Daily Mail may want to make of it, and the BBC may have to respond to.
posted by iotic at 2:03 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it depends on whether it's just the first exemplar of a pattern of behaviour iotic. Lets hope not in Peel's case.
posted by pharm at 2:05 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's perhaps wise to remember that none of the allegations have been proven by the courts yet.

He's been dead for a year, how is this going to end up in a courtroom? Him being dead also means we can say what we like about the dirty paedo bastard.
posted by afx237vi at 2:06 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


pharm - indeed yes. Perhaps I should have said "until (if) any contrary evidence presents itself"
posted by iotic at 2:07 PM on October 13, 2012


kariebookish: "It's perhaps wise to remember that none of the allegations have been proven by the courts yet."

Given the number of people who have come forward, I don't think there's any doubt at this point kariebookish. Also, he's dead, so there isn't going to be a court case that involves him directly, although there will almost certainly be cases brought against the BBC, and possible the NHS or the government itself (for the Broadmoor abuse).

The whole thing is sickening, but a salutary reminder that the child safety regimes brought in from the 90s onwards, despite all the compaints, were created for very good reasons.
posted by pharm at 2:08 PM on October 13, 2012


There are people who are most definitely still living who are being mentioned as having engaged in this behaviour with Savile, so this could very well end up in the courts.
posted by skybluepink at 2:08 PM on October 13, 2012


Jimmy Savile was completely unknown in the United States, at least until now.

Although, to be honest, I thought we were all jaded enough. We expect celebrities to be nihilistic, sex-crazed, substance abusing or insane. And isn't it expected that UK celebrities be sexual deviants?
posted by Yakuman at 2:09 PM on October 13, 2012


What I don't understand about this is the public's reaction to people who knew about this and never said anything.
I'm pretty angry. I only knew of Jimmy Savile through watching him on telly as a kid. Obviously at my age I couldn't judge him as a person, and thought he was an funny and friendly grownup. When he died I felt quite respectful to a man who had done so much for charity. Why would I think anything else?

Now though, we hear folk in the generation or two above my own saying that "they always knew", and I feel angry at them. Is it so fucking hard to point a finger and get something done about these allegations? To actually take it seriously and deal with (what turns out to be) a big and onrunning problem of child abuse? Yeah, Savile betrayed our trust, but he was always going to do that to get what he wanted. Everybody else? They're aren't monsters, but they took an incredibly loose view of their responsibilities.

I will be damn happy if somebody gets hauled into court for knowing something concrete about Savile's child abuse but failing to act on it. And no, I'm not blaming the BBC or the NHS, it's the individuals who need to be held up.
posted by Jehan at 2:10 PM on October 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Jerry Sadowitz had a few things to say about the man.

Apparently Jim'll had a key to Stoke Mandeville's mortuary and has been linked with the abuse at Haut de la Garenne.
posted by run"monty at 2:13 PM on October 13, 2012


BTW this is not just a child abuse case - the first allegations were from of-age women that he raped, particularly one that then had to pay to get an illegal abortion. Shows how much we think of of-age rape victims that the focus has entirely shifted to the allegations of pedophilia.
posted by Summer at 2:16 PM on October 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


I am always slightly uneasy about statements like "oh, everybody always knew" and big tabloid headlines screaming to high heavens about sex-mad celebs, so I'm trying to remain as neutral as I can until proper investigations come forward with signed & sealed conclusions.

I am a 20th century relic, in other words.

(But again Broadmoor?! - I am stuck on that one)
posted by kariebookish at 2:17 PM on October 13, 2012


BTW this is not just a child abuse case - the first allegations were from of-age women that he raped, particularly one that then had to pay to get an illegal abortion. Shows how much we think of of-age rape victims that the focus has entirely shifted to the allegations of pedophilia.
I don't mean to lessen any rape. I only have read about the abuse of children and mentally ill.
posted by Jehan at 2:18 PM on October 13, 2012


Savile was investigated by the police at least 6 times for sex/abuse-related crimes. the first was in 1958, before he was famous
posted by Bwithh at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


So much about this is bad that it is hard to reasonably say what is the worst thing about it, but one candidate is this: according to this and this Savile had written pretty openly about his activities in his 1976 autobiography.
posted by motty at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


25 years ago, the comedian Jerry Sadowitz had this to say about Savile:

"There have been serious allegations of child abuse in Cleveland. To my mind there is only one way to find out whether this is true or not and that’s to . . . CALL IN JIMMY SAVILE! You can’t afford to f*** about! Bring in an expert! Am I right? A friend of mine reckons Jimmy Savile is a paedophile. Rubbish — he’s a child-bender! That’s why he does all the f****** charity work: it’s to gain public sympathy for when his f****** case comes up. He might have fooled you, but not f****** me I'll tell you that" video link
posted by Lanark at 2:22 PM on October 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


An unfortunate-in-hindsight 2011 article about Savile's Catholic faith and its purported inspiration of his public service. He at least the appearance of being devout.
posted by Bwithh at 2:26 PM on October 13, 2012


Given the libel laws, though, I think probably a lot of people were concerned about getting the shit sued out of them.
posted by skybluepink at 2:30 PM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


hmmm. Yorkshire, sex crimes cover-up, police corruption, the 1970s. I'm reminded of David Peace's Red Riding Trilogy/Quartet (the closest British equivalent of James Ellroy's LA crime noir)
posted by Bwithh at 2:40 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As commented above, this is being used as a stick to beat the BBC by the press, all of which (and their owners) dislike the Beeb (and their editors must be enjoying it.)

The thing is, this sort of thing has been going on for years, Chaplin, and, if memory serves, Fatty Arbuckle did similar, and paid people off. It is strange as it is a bit like all of the star thing, where they are surrounded by yes-people as they are the ones who bring in the money. So you get Riders on contracts which have to be obeyed exactly or you get a tantrum, or that actor who went mad at a stagehand who walked across set and was screaming and cursing about "destroying his fucking concentration" and how he was the star. And if you say anything, the star can have you fired.

When Jim'll Fix It was on BBC 1 it probably had 15-18 million viewers, a massive audience for the UK. it was one of the biggest shows on tv. He was a massive star, had been one for ages, from pirate radio to radio 1 - he was one of the original djs. All the cachet of fame was there, and he was primetime on BBC 1. And the industry has been covering stuff up for years, so if you worked at the BBC you knew how it was. Easy to see why people didn't stop the guy or why it was supressed.
posted by marienbad at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, Charlie Chaplin? Arbuckle is old news, but Chaplin? This is the first I've heard of that. Do you have any citations you can provide to back up that claim?
posted by hippybear at 2:48 PM on October 13, 2012


hmmm. Yorkshire, sex crimes cover-up, police corruption, the 1970s. I'm reminded of David Peace's Red Riding Trilogy/Quartet

When Savile met the Yorkshire Ripper
posted by afx237vi at 2:48 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jimmy Savile always struck me as a dodgy character. Makes me wonder if the whole Jim'll Fix It format was setup for grooming or access and the BBC just footed the bill.
posted by arcticseal at 2:53 PM on October 13, 2012


Wait, Charlie Chaplin? Arbuckle is old news, but Chaplin? This is the first I've heard of that. Do you have any citations you can provide to back up that claim?

Yeah, Oona O'Neill had apparently just turned 18 when Chaplin (who was 54) married her, and it was a bit of a scandal, but that's hardly sex abuse, rape, or pedophilia.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:58 PM on October 13, 2012


hippybear, what rock have you been hiding under? Three of his four wives were still teenagers when he married them. It was a combination of his predilections for underage-or-almost girls and his Red political leanings that made him a target of J. Edgar Hoover and led him to flee to Europe for the remainder of his career. When he was 29, he believed (incorrectly, as it turned out) he had impregnated the 17-year-old Mildred Harris, who became his first wife. When he was 35, he married Lita Grey, 16, who was indeed pregnant. When he was 54, he met and married the then-barely-18 Oona O'Neill, even if it was clearly a love match. Paulette Goddard and Pola Negri are among the *few* of his romantic partners who were already clearly of age. I'm not saying he was a predator, like Savile, but he definitely preferred very young women, and fans have to reconcile that with his iconic film "gamines".
Oona, btw, had already dated Peter Arno, Orson Welles, and J.D. Salinger.
posted by dhartung at 3:07 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to muddy the waters, The Daily Mail is carrying a story about "Fiona", who appeared in the ITV documentary. She was also interviewed by the BBC's Newsnight programme, who claim to have dropped their story as they could not verify that the 2007 police investigation was dropped because Savile was too old - the official police line was that lack of evidence stopped them proceeding. "Fiona" had a letter from the police stating the former, but never gave it to the BBC. Now she has provided it to the Mail - and it is a fake.
posted by Mellon Udrigle at 3:10 PM on October 13, 2012


To questions about his apparent lack of a sex life, Savile retorted that he had committed himself to the entertainment business at an early age, and it was only "logical" (a favourite word) that he should rule out personal ties in favour of his career. He remarked that sex was "rather like going to the bathroom". Savile was never going to be Milk Tray Man, parachuting out of the darkness carrying a red rose and a box of chocolates.

A rather grating paragraph from last year's Guardian obituary to Savile.

I had originally assumed that the Savile revelations might be about somebody who used his celebrity status to abuse women and children - unpleasant but not exactly novel. But the really bizarre turn to the story is the fact that an enquiry in 1988 led to all the staff at Broadmoor hospital getting sacked - under an enquiry headed by home secretary at the time, Ken Clarke - and then for a task force to be set up up to clear up the problem. Not just on the task force - but heading it and enjoying his own set of keys to the place - DJ Jimmy Savile. What the fuck was going on there?
posted by rongorongo at 3:12 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying he was a predator, like Savile, but he definitely preferred very young women

Right. Okay, so you said that Chaplin did things similar to Savile, and that he paid people off to keep them quiet, only he was marrying these women, which is hardly an act done in secret, and you've provided no evidence that he paid anyone off to hide anything.

I understand being squicked out by men who are attracted to young women, and whatever, but your apples are not equivalent to your oranges.

In any case, Savile seems to have been a creep of an entirely different type from Chaplin, and it's probably not wise to conflate the two.
posted by hippybear at 3:14 PM on October 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


The thing is, this sort of thing has been going on for years, Chaplin, and, if memory serves, Fatty Arbuckle did similar, and paid people off.

No, Arbuckle really was railroaded, when a girl (above the age of consent) who was at his party died of a pre-existing medical condition a few days afterwards but the media blew it up in a scandal and old school Hollywood saw it as a chance to get rid of him for being too powerful an actor.

"how is this guy a celebrity?"

Jimmy Saville started out as a wrestler, before he moved into being a discjockey, one of the first in Britain, if not the world, doing dancehalls and all that, (one of the first to break the race barrier as well), then got a stint with Radio Luxembourg which, if you don't know it, was at the forefront of the rock and roll revolution in Europe in the late fifties/early sixties. Then he got on telly, then Top of the Pops, where over time he morphed into everybody's favourite loveable if weird uncle, doing shows like Jim'll Fixit, make kids dreams come true, as well as doing a lot of charity work.

Which is of course now deeply ironic if not sickening considering what he actually got up to on the sides.

Over at Blood & Treasure (here and here) the discussion has been about how much was known and tolerated about Savile at the time and the role the opening up of social and sexual freedom in the sixties had to do with it. The idea being that his public image was a bit the creepy uncle with the schoolgirl obsession, but that on the whole the idea that adult men might fancy and sleep with underage girls was much more tolerated. So of course you'd look at a sixteen year old, but a fifteen year old is pushing it and somebody who's fourteen, well, some of those girls do look much older; you know the drill.

He may have been hiding his true predatory nature within the greater sexual freedom of the sixties and seventies, where it was no longer a sin to shag, but public morality hadn't quite caught up to the whole question of consent and whether or not shagging under age girls was admirable or not even if they'd agreed to it in the first place (not the case with Jimmy). There may have been quite a few people who'd thought of him as a somewhat creepier Jagger or so, rather than a rapist.

There are anecdotes of assistents and such making sure Savile was interrupted if alone with a girl, doing the sort of informal policing you do when you know somebody can't be trusted but you can't prove it or get your concerns taken up by higher management. He also used his power and connections to hide his predilictions of course.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:19 PM on October 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


Jimmy Saville on the telly freaked me out when I was a kid.
posted by carter at 3:20 PM on October 13, 2012


"When Savile met the Yorkshire Ripper"

It's Frank Bruno shaking hands with Sutcliffe that really puts that picture over the top. It's like a really bad joke: "So, a serial killer, a radio DJ and a heavyweight boxer walk into a mental hospital..."
posted by MikeMc at 3:28 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


In fairness to Frank Bruno, he may well have not known exactly whom he was being introduced to. "Here's Pete, a long term patient..."
posted by Jehan at 3:31 PM on October 13, 2012


(Further to that, Sutcliffe is now known as Peter Coonan, so it's likely that even if Bruno was told his name, it wouldn't have rung any bells.)
posted by Jehan at 3:33 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's likely that even if Bruno was told his name, it wouldn't have rung any bells.

I'm not criticizing Bruno, it just strikes me as such a mind bogglingly improbable gathering.
posted by MikeMc at 3:38 PM on October 13, 2012


Well, that's true.
posted by Jehan at 3:42 PM on October 13, 2012


In London recently, in the midst of all this, I was baffled still to see posters up advertising a Michael Jackson best-of album. Promoting him still is basically a big message to kids - we won't believe you, especially if you make allegations against a rich person.

As long as we're talking about apples and oranges, let's dispose of this one. It is of interest, maybe, to contrast Jackson's case, in which he was subject to numerous rumors and even a public trial, to that of someone who (from what I've learned from the above links) enjoyed the benefits of a code of silence even from Britain's notoriously predatory tabloids. (When Jackson died, Maureen Orth, who had written several articles for Vanity Fair in which she'd all but accused him outright of doing the deeds, defended herself by saying that she'd been the mother of a young boy herself and, besides, she'd never been sued by Jackson.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:45 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I do have to wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that with Sandusky it was boys and Savile it was girls

Jimmy Saville died rich, loved and respected. Jonathan King served 4 years of a seven year sentence. King's proven and alleged activities, while abhorrent, appear neither to have been as extreme or extensive as those that are alleged of Savile. The difference, King abused boys.

Jonathan King is a vile little man, it seems, but his claims that he was treated differently from others because of the gender of his victims is ever harder to deny in the light of recent events.
posted by howfar at 4:01 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not in the UK so I maybe can't accurately gauge the reaction there but I feel we're not seeing the same level of outrage over the many people who suspected or knew about this but never said anything. I wonder if I'm missing something.

I don't know the details, but my uninformed view is that Joe Paterno and Janet Street Porter were not both operating in the same era and under the same standards when they did nothing. When Porter says she was in a position where she wouldn't have been believed and it would achieved nothing (except ruined her), I believe her. Paterno was in a position where I think it's more realistic that he could have made a difference. Therefore I see it as consistent to hold different levels of outrage for these people.
posted by anonymisc at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, so you said that Chaplin did things similar to Savile

I did not. Perhaps you meant marienbad?

he paid people off to keep them quiet, only he was marrying these women

Something of a cultural standard which has changed. In those days you could evade the law or the parents through a hasty marriage. [Cynics have argued that the main accomplishment of the sexual revolution was to absolve men of this responsibility.] According to biographical materials, at least in the case of Lita Grey, Chaplin offered money and abortion, not to mention finding her a suitably-aged suitor, as options before marriage. The likelihood is that he sought out far more of these young women than he eventually married. There were jealousies between his wives, mistresses, and [platonic?] co-stars at regular intervals. His various scandales were sources of concern to his financial backers. He remains, to this day, one of the most famous persons prosecuted under the Mann Act (though he was acquitted).

your apples are not equivalent to your oranges

Um, I'm not even sure that marienbad was making an exact equivalence. I was simply trying to answer your question. As this is such a well-known aspect of Chaplin's character, I was surprised at your surprise.
posted by dhartung at 4:08 PM on October 13, 2012


Sorry, dhartung. I didn't intentionally confuse you with marienbad. I just didn't do due diligence as to who was responding before I replied. I still don't see the equivalence between Chaplin and Savile, but perhaps I'm wrong in not doing so. I'll withhold further judgement until I learn more about both parties.
posted by hippybear at 4:20 PM on October 13, 2012


If lots of BBC employees turned a blind eye to his abuse and the organization quashed reporting on the subect, isn't crticism appropriate?

I'm not from the UK, so I'm sure I'm missing something, but can't one both believe there should be pubic broadcasting and also complain about the BBC when it screws up?
posted by Area Man at 4:25 PM on October 13, 2012


I don't know the details, but my uninformed view is that Joe Paterno and Janet Street Porter were not both operating in the same era and under the same standards when they did nothing. When Porter says she was in a position where she wouldn't have been believed and it would achieved nothing (except ruined her), I believe her. Paterno was in a position where I think it's more realistic that he could have made a difference. Therefore I see it as consistent to hold different levels of outrage for these people.

The idea being that his public image was a bit the creepy uncle with the schoolgirl obsession, but that on the whole the idea that adult men might fancy and sleep with underage girls was much more tolerated. So of course you'd look at a sixteen year old, but a fifteen year old is pushing it and somebody who's fourteen, well, some of those girls do look much older; you know the drill.

Fair enough. And the point is definitely taken that the outrage is there but is being pointed at the BBC. I also believe Janet Street Porter and I'm just using her as an example here and not trying to blame her for anything. The failure of so many people to do anything in the Sandusky case was so central to the whole scandal that it inspired this Onion headline, which is what popped into my head when I saw her say that.

Here is the JSP statement I'm talking about.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:27 PM on October 13, 2012


There's a scene in the ITV documentary where a journalist tells of how he was visiting Savile's home for an interview when a young girl arrives. Savile takes her into the bedroom for about 10 minutes, then comes out and washes himself at the sink.

The journalists says that he then left, knowing he wasn't wanted, "even though I hadn't even got a story".

At first I thought "really? You couldn't see this huge story right in front of your face?" but on reflection I think it explains this apparent Omerta: at the time this was going on, it didn't even seem like a story to a journalist.

"Guy likes young girls", are they going to start condemning that? In the same newspapers that were running countdowns to the 16th birthday of teenage models?

Savile didn't just take advantage of celebrity and charity, he took advantage of a world that was already half-willing to look the other way.
posted by fightorflight at 4:41 PM on October 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Wasn't sex with under age women really quite common among rock stars in the 60s and 70s--Mandy Smith met Bill Nyman at 13, for example.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:48 PM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find the story that the UK tabloids were mostly afraid of pursuing the sex abuse rumours about Savile because of libel laws + they didn't have enough evidence a bit curious. It hasn't stopped them in a huge number of other cases.

e.g. in 1998, the British science fiction author, Arthur C Clarke (not a big a celeb as Savile but known worldwide for 2001: A Space Odyssey and many other works) was accused of pedophilia (in Sri Lanka) by the British tabloid The Sunday Mirror, just before he was due to be knighted. It was enough for him to ask for the knighthood to be delayed. He was cleared of charges by the Sri Lankan police and was eventually knighted in 2000. He didn't pursue a defamation case against the Mirror.
posted by Bwithh at 4:50 PM on October 13, 2012


but at the moment it's being used as a stick to beat the BBC and the NHS by their right-wing opponents.

Didn't Savile used to spend his holidays with Thatcher?
posted by octobersurprise at 5:03 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yep

Sir Jimmy was a close friend of Baroness Thatcher during her tenure as Prime Minister, and was said to have spent 13 consecutive Christmases watching television, “shoes off in front of the fire”, with the Thatchers at Chequers.
posted by Bwithh at 5:08 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wasn't sex with under age women really quite common among rock stars in the 60s and 70s--Mandy Smith met Bill Nyman at 13, for example.

Not to condone that in the slightest either, but there's a difference to be noted in that those girls believed themselves to be consenting (even though you can't properly or legally consent at that age). Mandy Smith described herself as "complicit" in her relationship.

Whereas a lot of Savile's victims were clearly non-consenting and describe how they made it very clear to him that they were saying no. These girls were abused and raped, and not only in the statutory sense. Even if the rock world had normalised under-age sex, his was still a crime by those standards, too.
posted by fightorflight at 5:08 PM on October 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I find the story that the UK tabloids were mostly afraid of pursuing the sex abuse rumours about Savile because of libel laws + they didn't have enough evidence a bit curious.

Aside from the quasi-halo Savile was of course a lot richer. In particular, probably rich enough to employ Carter-Ruck (expensive libel lawyers, non-UKians) for as long as required.
posted by jaduncan at 5:38 PM on October 13, 2012


I love Louis Theroux in the third link. Nobody else can say so much by just saying nothing.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:48 PM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love Louis Theroux in the third link. Nobody else can say so much by just saying nothing.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:48 PM on October 13 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


yes, that video is chilling
posted by Bwithh at 6:00 PM on October 13, 2012


Aside from the quasi-halo Savile was of course a lot richer. In particular, probably rich enough to employ Carter-Ruck (expensive libel lawyers, non-UKians) for as long as required.
posted by jaduncan at 5:38 PM on October 13 [+] [!]


That's true, and probably part of the explanation but on the other hand , the UK tabloids and their dark arts have gone after celebrities much wealthier/powerful than Savile too
posted by Bwithh at 6:02 PM on October 13, 2012


UK tabloids and their dark arts have gone after celebrities much wealthier/powerful than Savile too

Sure. But that rich, regarded as that saintly and connected enough to holiday with Thatcher? Not so much, and when it does happen it tends to happen as a tipoff from an existing police investigation.
posted by jaduncan at 6:07 PM on October 13, 2012


Yeah, it sure is amazing that the Murdoch tabloids didn't go after one of Mrs Thatcher's friends. It's almost as if they aren't politically impartial.
posted by howfar at 6:13 PM on October 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think it depends on whether it's just the first exemplar of a pattern of behaviour iotic. Lets hope not in Peel's case.

I heard rumours about John Peel back in the 80s, from (the female) members of a band who had appeared on his show. I doubt it was something hidden; as noted earlier, sex with underage and very young women was a kind of masculine perk of the times. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary served time for statutory rape, and his apology is illuminating: "In 1970, Yarrow was convicted of, and served three months in prison for, taking 'improper liberties' with a 14-year-old female fan. He has since apologized for the incident: 'In that time, it was common practice, unfortunately –– the whole groupie thing.'" It sounds like Savile was in a sense enforcing what was already accepted in the entertainment world at that time. And as someone who is the exact age of his victims-- I was 14 in 1973-- I can attest that there was a sense of it being open season on girls anywhere around the music scene or the so-called counterculture.
posted by jokeefe at 6:15 PM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


As I closed this thread, the words "Baden Powell" leaped out of the page, next thread up. This Savile/Sanduski thing leaves a terrible aftertaste...
posted by marvin at 7:57 PM on October 13, 2012


Penny Lane: How old are you?
William Miller: Eighteen.
Penny Lane: Me too! How old are we really?
William Miller: Seventeen.
Penny Lane: Me too!
William Miller: Actually, I'm sixteen.
Penny Lane: Me too. Isn't it funny? The truth just sounds different.
William Miller: I'm fifteen.

I still don't see the equivalence between Chaplin and Savile, but perhaps I'm wrong in not doing so.

hippybear, I hope you don't take this personally, because I just see it's part and parcel of the whole issue. It's not just you -- it's all of us who are eager to absolve our heroes of sin. Chaplin could never get away with his dating practices today -- cf. Woody Allen also effectively hounded off to Europe. Heck, look at Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Look at the victim-blaming ensconced within the terminology accorded Chaplin's actions -- "making an honest woman" of an accidentally pregnant girlfriend is a phrase you no longer hear for good reason, but in those days, covered up for not the man's actions in abusing someone and violating boundaries, but effectively with soiling himself by getting involved with a loose woman. If you look at Savile's actions, as noted above, how quickly we focus on the cases where he was abusing (mainly) girls who were powerless and very underage, while simultaneously hearing anecdotes about probably older, seemingly consensual relationships such as the young girls coming to his trailer in the presence of a journalist. Look at the legal scrutiny that Allen had to endure because of our -- clinically probably largely correct -- assumption that one peccadillo (sleeping with his not-quite-stepdaughter when she was an adult) implies others (allegedly molesting his biological child). Look in this thread for the smoke-implies-fire judgement on Michael Jackson, a sentiment that was widespread up until his death when suddenly it no longer seemed funny. It's a whole spectrum of attitudes, not to mention actions, and I don't think there's any bright line here.

I think a lot of abusers are skilled at creating a kind of bubble for their behavior. The entertainment industry, it seems, is probably very helpful in supporting and protecting that bubble. There are probably thousands of people (almost all men, naturally) who took advantage of the free love era without much regard to ages of consent, and I have to wonder how many of them sweat a little when a story like this comes out.

What's shocking, of course, is the extent to which Savile's bubble was reinforced and endorsed and laughed off and given all-hours access to buildings full of victims. That doesn't just happen -- it happens because of the power of celebrity, yes, but also because of historical traditions of broad acceptance of authority. I don't think he was the only person abusing young girls in those institutions, in other words. He wasn't pulling the wool over everyone's eyes and they refusing to see; he was finding confederates who were willing to give him lax oversight along with a nudge and a wink, a perk of the profession. To some extent we want to focus on the extent to which he's a monster because it means we don't have to confront the wider cultural gulf we find looking back at those times.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I'm not in the UK so I maybe can't accurately gauge the reaction there but I feel we're not seeing the same level of outrage over the many people who suspected or knew about this but never said anything."

"Oh there is, but at the moment it's being used as a stick to beat the BBC and the NHS by their right-wing opponents. Predictable and sad."

Our perception of the level of outrage is filtered by a media actively working to misdirect attention from its own complicity. Twenty years ago, I heard a story about a woman who was shown innappropriate pictures of young girls by Saville. She took the story to a tabloid, where she was told that the paper had a file an inch thick on him but chose not to use it because of his charitable work. Twenty years ago. The papers are very happy to let the BBC take all the blame but sooner or later attention will shift and then I think you'll start to see a lot more outrage.
posted by londonmark at 12:49 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anthony Clare did an interview with Jimmy Savile for his series "In the Psychiatrist's Chair". Here he is talking to Clare about "ultimate freedom" and about his lack of emotion.
posted by rongorongo at 1:23 AM on October 14, 2012


Is it silly of me to think that the ridiculous UK libel laws played a part in this? Does celebrity privacy look any different now?

It's kind of amazing how far we can get the worst of both worlds, though: innocent people get their phones tapped for no particular reason and we're all watched on video night and day, yet still Jimmy Savile has to die before anything can be discovered; in spite of what appears to have been a lifetime of monstrous, virtually unconcealed abuse.
posted by Segundus at 1:41 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid we went to see Jim'll Fix It being recorded. I was a bit disappointed at the time that my sister and I were at the middle of the circle at the BBC TV Theatre rather than with the group of kids on the side of the stage so we wouldn't get to be on TV. In hindsight it was probably a good thing. I remember him getting two young girls to go and hug him in his chair while doing the warm-up (think one even was made to sit on his knee), which they were unsurprisingly a bit uneasy about.
posted by kerplunk at 2:23 AM on October 14, 2012


Oh there is, but at the moment it's being used as a stick to beat the BBC and the NHS by their right-wing opponents. Predictable and sad.

<devilsadvocate>
OTOH, large, unanswerable institutions can develop toxic cultures in which psychopaths use them to prey on victims on a systematic scale. If this is true of the Catholic Church, could it not also have been true of the BBC?</devilsadvocate>
posted by acb at 2:51 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd heard stories about this guy for years. That he was a rapist, a paedophile, a necrophiliac. That he procured underage girls for Edward Heath. I've heard rumours about him and rumours about other "celebrities" too.

Peter Stringfellow was allegedly a gangster run out of Sheffield by a Police force that didn't have enough to convict him, but knew enough to offer him the option of either getting away from Yorkshire or having an accident.
Do I know if this is true? No idea. It may be true, and it may be false. But me even typing it out probably breaks a bunch of libel laws.

The Mumtaz group of restaurants allegedly made their initial money through drugs and laundering. Again - it's probably completely illegal to say this, it'll never be proven but it's "common" knowledge.

Despite all the rumors, I didn't know 100% if Jimmy Saville was guilty. Nobody knew. There were a bunch of rumours about him of varying levels of believability, and they were interesting enough to tell your friends, but there was nothing there that could be published in a wider context without having all your money taken off you in libel proceedings.

I'm glad that the Jimmy Saville story has come out eventually. I have some reservations about the levels of press interest, but I sincerely hope that the girls abused by him get some kind of closure from this.

But to start waving blame at the various people who had heard some rumours is ridiculous.
posted by zoo at 3:09 AM on October 14, 2012


The story gained the unmistakable hue of truth when his family came out quickly and had his pompous gravestone removed in the middle of the night and broken up. Damnatio Memoriae is an interesting and long standing practice.
posted by stonepharisee at 3:22 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The story gained the unmistakable hue of truth when his family came out quickly and had his pompous gravestone removed in the middle of the night and broken up. Damnatio Memoriae is an interesting and long standing practice.

When that happened, there was an article in the Independent lamenting the climate of hysteria requiring such a rash act, presumably still on the assumption that his groping of young women at the BBC was an isolated act in an otherwise good life. The fact that his family acted in this way suggests that they may have known of Savile's crimes and anticipated the torrent of horrific revelations that was about to burst forth.
posted by acb at 3:40 AM on October 14, 2012


Not sure if the rumours were actually about him procuring *girls* for Edward Heath. I'd always thought those rumours were about as true as the "Freddie Mercury/David Bowie/Elton John/Noel Edmonds/Marc Almond stomach pump" playground tales.
posted by tapeguy at 3:45 AM on October 14, 2012


I'm not sure Edward Heath was in the least bit interested in girls.

One thing about the BBC during the 60s, at least, especially in the world of Television Centre (another institution on the way out), was that it was structurally and managerially an extension of Oxbridge, but that it was also a part of theatrical culture, and very socially tolerant. Which, up to 1967, meant that gay men were gladly accepted throughout the organisation: it was a safe place.

For John Peel and Jimmy Page and all the other 60s luminaries who had relationships with very, very young women, it was significant that the the relationship was something that those women wanted: what the age of consent means is that we, as a culture, do not accept that those women are competent to make that decision. I don't know how we feel about that these days. From what I've read about that time, the age of consent was considered to be an officious legal blockage preventing young women from expressing their sexuality. The fact that this was a belief promoted by male ephebophiles is telling, but I think they saw themselves as liberators at the time. The young-woman-coming-to maturity-via-sexual-awakening trope is still very popular - viz the recent success of An Education.

It's understandable that the BBC considered its employees sexual life (where it transgressed against the morés of the time, or as sterner people would have it the law) in the same way, a kind of averted-eyes acceptance. That today we might consider that to be a good thing in the case of gay culture and not so good in the case of shagging 14 year-old girls shows that we have the benefit of hindsight.

What sets Savile apart from this - though I think he deliberately exploited this culture - is that he seems to have had little or no interest in what the young women did or didn't want. When his status and wealth couldn't buy sexual enthusiasm, perhaps they could be tricked or cajoled or intimidated or he could take a trip to Stoke Mandeville to find young women who were physically incapable of resistance. I do think, however, the story of this appalling rapist does show up a lot that is rotten in the Swinging 60s narrative of "sexual liberation".

Which makes me sound like some kind of Tory prude, which isn't my intention. Besides, as Clare Balding pointed out on the grim-but-gripping edition of Have I Got News For You on Friday, it's interesting to see what you get if you put the phrase "all grown up" into the search engine for the house organ of Tory prurience, The Daily Mail.

Incidentally, another thing that was mentioned on HIGNFY was the "infamous" Jimmy Saville appearance on that programme, which was described there simply as a hoax, though the reality of it is slightly more complicated.
posted by Grangousier at 4:38 AM on October 14, 2012 [18 favorites]


Is it silly of me to think that the ridiculous UK libel laws played a part in this? Does celebrity privacy look any different now?
Not really. It seems as though there was enough to hang Savile every day of the week, and they certainly did that to others even though libel laws are silly. Moreover, "celebrity privacy" doesn't override public interest, exposing criminal deeds falls fairly in the latter.
posted by Jehan at 7:06 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like jokeefe I was 14 in 1973, when Jimmy Saville was at the apex of his fame. He was seen as a bit of a joke amongst my peers and he certainly wasn't perceived as being in any way attractive to my age group - we were obsessed with Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. To us Saville was a creepy old man.

But in working-class Britain in 1973 society was very different from the Britain of 2012. There was no pastoral care in schools and the idea that a pupil could go to a teacher with a problem was unthinkable. Childline didn't exist, and believe me when I tell you that there was absolutely nowhere a teenager could turn for help - outside of the "Cathy & Claire" column in "Jackie" magazine. "Difficult" children were threatened with approved schools or children's homes.

So I can see exactly how he was able to get away with this for years and why the victims were too afraid to speak out at the time - because who would they tell, and who would believe them anyway?
posted by essexjan at 7:29 AM on October 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


hippybear, I hope you don't take this personally, because I just see it's part and parcel of the whole issue. It's not just you -- it's all of us who are eager to absolve our heroes of sin. Chaplin could never get away with his dating practices today -- cf. Woody Allen also effectively hounded off to Europe.

No, of course I'm not taking this personally. It's an interesting conversation, and you're not attacking me.

I do think it's important to not try to apply the mores of the present to people in the past. And to acknowledge that, yes, what Chaplin did then would be considered ooky today, but for its time, it wasn't exactly outside of the acceptable. It wasn't mainstream, but it wasn't considered child abuse or rape or anything like that. Doesn't make it right (just as Jim Crow laws may have made it legal to kick black people out of your restaurant but didn't make it right to do so), but context in living means a lot. Hard to know what Chaplin would do if he were starting his dating/married life today. I think it's dangerous to assume that he would behave now exactly as he did then, given today's moral and legal climate. Context changes can mean behavior changes. But, again, impossible to say, as that situation will never occur.

The Woody Allen case is an interesting one. It's hard to disentangle Farrow's need to punish Allen for what she feels is a betrayal from the truth of the matter. Child abuse professionals, who have a mission to catch abusers and certainly don't have any stake in protecting someone like Allen, decided that the videotape made of Dylan talking about abuse looked as if it was a directed description and not something the child actually experienced. It's entirely possible that the abuse occurred and these professionals were protecting their hero, or something. But it's an entirely different matter from people like Savile or Sandusky who were using their charm to keep those close to them from talking about things they knew about for certain. The possibility that Farrow might have been using the situation with Soon-Yi and how hurt she was by that in order to fabricate other charges in order to hurt Allen should not be dismissed. I remember seeing interviews with her at that time, and the level of her distress and feelings of betrayal were certainly apparent to the point where I can easily believe she would try to engineer a much larger problem for Allen than him simply falling for another woman, who inconveniently was her adopted daughter. In any case, we don't know exactly what happened, although we do have a legal case being brought and decided which is as much as one can hope for in such things.

I'm really not trying to defend anyone here. As someone who has consistently been sexually attracted to men in their 30s to 50s, I've never truly understood the whole "beauty of youth" thing. Men and women, even into their 20s, look young and not adult to me. How or why people get sexually fixated on even THAT age range isn't something which I'm wired to understand, let alone wanting them even younger.

Of course, when I was in my 20s and had an eye for the 40 year olds, it played to my advantage. But I was pursuing them, I wasn't being manipulated by them. That's a big difference, and is one which I think is important when it comes to cases like Savile, where manipulation seems to have been part of the game.
posted by hippybear at 8:21 AM on October 14, 2012



OTOH, large, unanswerable institutions can develop toxic cultures in which psychopaths use them to prey on victims on a systematic scale. If this is true of the Catholic Church, could it not also have been true of the BBC?




The BBC is large, but it is hardly unanswerable ( and does not have anything like the power over people that the Church does) Politicians ( govt and opposition) and private sector competitor media (especially Murdoch newspapers) from the left and the right have long found useful to frequently bash the BBC for whatever reason ( sometimes with substance, sometimes not). Although the BBC is editorially independent, the whole thing is funded by a tax that has to be reviewed and reassessed publicly by the government periodically. this is hardly unanswerable.
posted by Bwithh at 9:30 AM on October 14, 2012


Yeah, apparently the papers had the goods on Uncle Jim for years (apparently the sub-editor jokes was 'Remember it's Savile with one 'l', which is where he's going')... but because of libel laws; his do-gooder reputation; the power / attitude/power of the BBC / radio 1*; his rumoured links with high-powered politicos, criminals and or masons.

And it has run and run (One day I saw five different spin-off stories / non-stories on the tabloid) front pages.... it's very handy re Leveson Enquiry that the papers can now turn around and say oh look what we missed / could miss again if we can't snoop. Plus evil NHS + BBC.

*Back in the Smashie / Nicey era the DJs were as big if not bigger than the bands they played
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:32 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do I know if this is true? No idea. It may be true, and it may be false. But me even typing it out probably breaks a bunch of libel laws.

You said "allegedly" and you said they were rumors. I am not a lawyer but I think you are OK.
posted by Bwithh at 9:33 AM on October 14, 2012


Although the BBC is editorially independent, the whole thing is funded by a tax that has to be reviewed and reassessed publicly by the government periodically. this is hardly unanswerable.

The reviews are limited to every 10 years, and the power of politicians over the BBC is limited. Additionally, the BBC does not lose funds if it falls foul of public opinion. These factors help (in theory) to make it independent of the government of the day or popular prejudices (though its coverage post the Iraq inquiry has been somewhat timid), though conversely could be used by people like Savile (and, by the sound of it, other as yet unnamed sexual predators) to hide behind.

It's true that Murdoch and the Daily Mail would like to see the BBC destroyed or neutralised, and politicians such as Blair and Cameron would find its elimination most agreeable. However, this should not steer progressives into circling the wagons and denying that anything could be wrong with the BBC's culture or institutional organisation, just as being a faithful Catholic shouldn't require the defence of the institutional corruption and lack of transparency at the heart of the Church.
posted by acb at 2:57 PM on October 14, 2012


I stayed up late last night to watch the entire Louis Theroux episode where he met Savile. It left me with chills that he was so open about some of his actions, how he was never brought to justice is shameful.
posted by arcticseal at 4:44 PM on October 14, 2012


how is this guy a celebrity?

From personal experience, if you move to another country, you will be asking this question all the time. And - after a time - when you visit your old home country, you will ask that question there too.

Celebrity-dom is largely inexplicable. But if you're a local, you won't notice this.
posted by outlier at 1:55 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jilted John - Gordon Is A Moron - TOTP 1978. And there he is. Spooky.
posted by marienbad at 1:30 PM on October 21, 2012


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