News of national treasure and tireless millionaire philanthropist / notorious paedophile and serial sex offender Sir Jimmy Saville OBE has pretty much swamped the PR generated triumph of the Tory party conference. Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher would be turning in her grave, were she yet lying in it. But what to say about the revelations of Saville’s predatory activities?
As was pointed out by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop in the latest episode of Have I Got News For You, allegations about Saville’s predilection for under-age girls were widespread at the height of the late TV presenter’s fame, but at the time no-one had any hard evidence. Evidence, you see, is actually rather important in such situations. More worryingly, few had a desire to look deeper into the affair, such is the power of celebrity, and weakness of the vulnerable in relation to it.
Following Hislop, Father Ted writer Graham Linehan commented that Saville was…
“…very good at hiding in plain sight. His biography is full of him admitting that he did all of this. And so he created a smokescreen comprised of the truth.”
With characteristic succinctness, Hislop added…
“It’s a brilliant disguise – you dress up as a paedophile!”
Absolute genius on Saville’s part, when you think about it.
Now we have senior politicians expressing, with faux naivete, incredulity at how Saville managed to get away with his sex crimes. And then we have sections of the press using Saville to bash the BBC and other state institutions such as the National Health Service, for which Saville memorably volunteered as a roving hospital porter. Yet, as was discussed in the especially grim episode of Have I Got News For You cited above, these same newspapers habitually feature photographs of pubescent girls in states of minimal attire, with references to their imminent coming-of-age.
Now I enjoy state-bashing as much as the next libertarian, but this is ridiculous. At least the BBC has the decency to openly discuss its role in the Saville affair, and admit to the corporation’s failings. Thursday’s edition of Newsnight was a case in point. But the media as a whole were integral to the elevation of Jimmy Saville to a National Treasure who could do no wrong.