Tag Archives: BBC

Marillion: a healthy Prognosis

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Interesting interview with Marillion‘s affable and articulate frontman, Steve (h) Hogarth on the frontpage of the BBC website today:

Marillion ‘understood where the internet was going early on’

Nice to see a mainstream publication giving this oft-overlooked national treasure – Marillion in particular or prog rock in general, take yer pick ūüėČ – a bit of air time; and also for them to get well-deserved credit for their early pioneering work in crowd-funding. Marillion continue to demonstrate so well how bands can operate effectively below the radar of the media mainstream and make a decent living as small businesses; utilizing the web to engage with, promote themselves and sell direct to fans.

(Fan entry to a 2003/4 competition to remix tracks from the band’s first crowd-funded album, Anoraknophobia. This track, one of 1000s of entries, appeared on the 2004 album Remixomatosis.)

(From another competition, this time to create a video clip to accompany Whatever Is Wrong With You, the trailer single for the 2008 double-album Happiness Is The Road.)

(Footage from the latest of Marillion‘s renowned fan weekends – an idea which they admit they pinched from The Stranglers, yet indubitably made their own. The recording of Clock’s Already Ticking, from which this is taken set a new record for the fastest ever concert DVD to be released, 10 hours 31 minutes, knocking 2 hours off the previous record set by Pop Will Eat Itself with Reformation in 2006.

http://www.marillionweekend.com/

(The aforementioned Gaza.)

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Aside

As a one-time bastion of truthful reportage and creative expression, doesn’t the recently censorious behaviour on the part of the BBC seem incongruous? First they quash their own Newsnight investigation and now they’re – literally – whitewashing legitimate artistic comment. This is not the way to salvage a damaged reputation.

21st Century Wire

What Do The Taliban And The BBC Have In Common?

The Needle

Taliban

Before……. and After the Taliban

BBC

Before and……and After the BBC

Yes, that’s right, they both destroy great works of art in pursuit of their closed minded ideology.

Banksy, to my mind the UK‚Äôs greatest living artist (and actually, yes, I could justify that statement) created a piece of meaningful art outside of BBC Television Centre in central London¬†which summed up just how disillusioned the British public, especially of my generation, feel right now. It was the poignant¬†image of a young boy dropping his ‚ÄėJim‚Äôll Fix¬†It‚Äô¬†medal into a drain.¬†The BBC sent the workmen in to scrub it away.

Why ? Because it implied criticism of the corporation. All great art speaks, all great art stimulates thought, all great art, from Giotto via¬†Manet‚Äôs ‚ÄėOlympia‚Äô and beyond Picasso‚Äôs ‚ÄėGuernica‚Äô to the present day, has been provocative.

The cultural philistines at…

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Aside

And by way of perspective…
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/blog/poll/2012/nov/12/george-entwistle-payout-poll Entwistle’s severance pay after 54 days of incompetence = the cost of being a vagina-owner over the course of a working career (give or take). Feminism’s gone too far, you say…

Men will pause

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A headline caught my eye today which stated that the average British woman is underpaid vs. her male equivalent by an eye watering £500,000 during her life-time. (I think our American sisters are in a similar situation).

Employers break the law for 37 years with no repercussions

The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1975 (1963 in the US). That means it has been ILLEGAL for employers to discriminate against women in terms of pay for 37 years. Are employers still breaking the law every day?Yes. Is any government doing anything about it? Nope.

They must owe me a cool million!

I’ve been working since my early twenties. Since 1994, I have been paying the higher rate of tax at 40%. I don’t have dependents, haven’t claimed any benefits and have private health insurance.

So it looks like the government/my previous employers/ HM Taxes probably owe me much more than…

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Max and the dirty dozen

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Major stars from the ’60s and ’70s are terrified of being named in connection with the Jimmy Savile child abuse scandal, according to PR guru Max Clifford. [Sky News]

It was no surprise that Gary Glitter was on the list; other names under investigation as part of operation Yewtree are undoubtedly – as Savile‘s “prolific” abuse was – an open secret in media circles; outsiders curious to discover the identities of others could do worse than keep an eye out for middle-to-old-aged entertainment figures hastily disposing of laptops, hard drives and usbs. There’s a good chance that many, like Savile, will have continued to abuse throughout their lives and careers. Which is not to imply that all the ‘names’ who have confided in Clifford are guilty; indeed, all maintain their innocence, however, in Clifford‘s words:

“The stars are concerned because of their hedonistic lifestyles when they were at the peak of their fame, when young girls would throw themselves at them … If you’re 19 or 20 and suddenly you become a pop star and a dozen girls burst into your dressing room… you don’t actually sit there and ask for birth certificates” (my emphasis).

I wrote a few days ago of my concern that the investigations might become too BBC-centric, and it seems that is indeed the case, with the focus of the BBC’s enquiry at least, being if and how corporation ‘culture and practice’ might have placed young girls in danger. Clifford‘s words express a point of view which will strike a chord with many; but they signify yet another blind alley, another straw man.

Talk of ‘hedonism’, ‘fame’ and girls ‘throwing themselves’ at ‘pop stars’ again narrows the focus of a debate which needs to be, on the contrary, broadened; men of all backgrounds, from all walks of life and without the cachet of celebrity and wealth indulge in similar behaviour every day: fathers raping daughters; uncles their nephews; teachers their pupils; carers their charges and so on: a reality that rather belies the notion that hedonism and fame are the problem, so much as gender and hierarchy. And whilst Clifford‘s glib remark about ‘ask[ing] for birth certificates’ might ring superficially (as well as literally) true one has to wonder about its relevance in the context of many of the offences allegedly committed by Savile and Glitter; middle-aged men preying on early/pre-teens. Their adolescent na√Įvet√© and passivity are precisely the qualities that draw the attention of men like Savile, who had remarked in interview (with Louis Theroux) that the idea of a full relationship with a woman was anathema to him; ‘brain damage’, to use his term.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg demonstrated a similar failure to grasp the issues at stake with his comment that Savile‘s alleged crimes ”…show the ‘dark side’ of celebrity…” Celebrity is a peripheral issue at best; and the culture that enabled Savile to predate and escape punishment is scarcely specific to the BBC.

Complaints of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace are more likely to derail the careers of the plaintiff/whistleblower than the accused, especially if the former is a woman and/or in a junior position (the latter almost inevitably the case; witness the testimony of Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig – bullies of all stripes are loath to victimize up). Kids, certainly in decades past, were unlikely to be believed, much less supported. And is it even true that men’s careers are destroyed by allegations, even convictions of sexual assault or impropriety? Despite years of suspicion, rumour mongering and even a number of complaints, Savile‘s career continued unabated, in large part thanks to peer collusion and apathy on the part of his employer and the authorities. When, then TV host. John Leslie was outed in 2003 as the alleged rapist of his former-colleague, Ulrika Jonsson, he simply moved into property development, trousering millions in the process. Other similar complaints made against him were dismissed for lack of evidence, although even he admitted “…[he] had never learnt how to treat women with respect” and “…my behaviour was at times inappropriate”. Roman Polanski‘s career as a movie director was scarcely troubled by his well-documented 1977 attack on (then) 13 year-old Samantha Geimer, whom he plied with Champagne and Quaaludes and sodomized in a swimming pool. John Wayne Bobbitt bounced back from genital mutilation – grisly, albeit apposite revenge on the part of the spouse he mistreated for years – to find work as a performer in the adult entertainment industry: an employer that, perhaps counterintuitively, draws a disproportionately large percentage of sexual abuse/domestic violence survivors into its ranks. Bill Clinton‘s Governorship and Presidency survived numerous rumours and allegations surrounding affairs, incidents of sexual harassment (notably Gennifer Flowers) and eventual revelations that he levered his position to take sexual advantage of intern, Monica Lewinnsky. The old boys’ network looks after its own, that’s the real problem, with the result that Savile is one old boy who’s escaped proper justice.

The upside is that the snowball effect of the initial few testimonies aired by ITV‘s ‘Exposed…’ programme has been unprecedented. With 300+ lines of inquiry and the matter being debated in The Commons, the biggest elephant in the fusty drawing room of patriarchy is suddenly all too visible. Whilst much media coverage is, and will continue to be sensationalist, we owe it to ourselves as a society to look beyond the immediate facts and tawdry speculations and to try to gain a deeper understanding of the sinister and deeply antisocial forces at work here.

It’s going to take more than a bit of PR wizardry to make this problem disappear.

The new institutions

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Facebook hunt ‘tracks wife’s rapist’.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/9616624/Facebook-hunt-tracks-wifes-rapist.html

This kind of vigilante response is scarcely a new thing; albeit that the novel use of social media gives the situation an up-to-date, technological twist. The key word here is empowerment: the proliferation of the internet and, specifically, social networking applications like Facebook has empowered the public at large to take matters otherwise beyond their control into their own hands.

In much the same way that aspiring pop musicians now have a new means to bypass a hierarchical institution (the record industry) whose stock has been devalued by corruption and complacency; now victims of crime have a new means to bypass a hierarchical institution (the police and judiciary) whose stock has been devalued by corruption and complacency.

With ever more lurid revelations regarding the late Jimmy Savile keeping the issue of sex crime high in the media ratings, it’s a good time to reevaluate our historically inadequate response to sex crime and speculate the impact these new media might have in influencing change.

Legislation to deal with sexual-offenders is already in place, and the fact it’s historically proved so often ineffective is rooted mostly in a failure of collective will to enforce it. There’s something of an interrupt between the legal assertion that rape is a felony deserving of strict punishment and the response. The BBC (as other corporations do)¬†manifests in microcosm a wider societal truth: that the welfare of the individual (victim) is of less import than the ‘brand’ (be that corporate entities, the church, the family etc). Deviants (from the prescribed norm) and whistleblowers are to be discouraged at all costs. As a (human) race it’s seductive and comforting to believe that everything’s basically ok, bar a few ‘bad apples’ but to quote Joe Jackson, “it just ain’t so”.

So I’m uncomfortable with the idea of the BBC becoming the focus of this – for much the same reason I was uncomfortable with Asians/Muslims becoming the focus of recent child abuse allegations/prosecutions in Rochdale. The danger is that the public will be presented with – yet¬†another – convenient opportunity to buy into the comforting idea that the problem – child sexual abuse – arises from particular institutions or communities rather than recognizing it for the widespread, deep-rooted problem that it is. Despite recent efforts on behalf of the Women’s Movement and affiliated lobby groups, this kind of hidden violence is still too often perceived as exceptional. It really isn’t. There’s a parallel with the way HIV/AIDS is still too often perceived as an issue only¬†for gays/drug users/the promiscuous; ‘them’, not ‘us’: denial is a powerful thing. Which is not to say that the BBC shouldn’t be brought to book; as¬†Savile‘s employer it bears corporate responsibility to fully investigate the numerous allegations; co-operate with resultant legal proceedings¬†and¬†where necessary, instigate disciplinary action and provide recompense to victims. Nonetheless, the wider, longer-term solution to¬† crime rests on changing complacent, complicit¬†attitudes within public and corporate life.

The new institutions have a significant – one might argue, pivotal – role to play here. The solution to violence is never more violence and we might not all care to be vigilantes anyway; but we can be vigilant and thanks to an ever-more-accessible stream of information via Twitter, Facebook and other public forums it’s becoming increasingly inexcusable not to be. Witness the recent Nick Griffin furore on Twitter for a fine example of how members of¬† the public has embraced this unprecedented opportunity to confront the forces that undermine civilised society in real time and in a genuinely democratic way (for instance this petition at Change.org to oust Griffin from Twitter). For better or worse, the internet is the ultimate enabler; for the criminally-minded and law-abiding alike. Indeed, there’s a certain irony that the very media that have given free reign to the illicit sex industry and other organized crime networks – and make no mistake, these¬†are organized networks dealing in big bucks, let alone the cost in human misery¬†–¬†¬†are the same ones that might potentially bring about its undoing, by way of confronting the public’s long history of denial and complacency. Criminals like Savile will continue their tyrannies, of course, but there’s every chance that social media will provide an effective platform by means of which they might be exposed in their lifetime. Malicious false accusations and mistaken identifications are a possibility, of course, even likely – and there’s a weary inevitability that a few attention-seeking ne’er do wells will jump on the Savile bandwagon – but I’m not unduly concerned by this: typical estimates of the frequency of false criminal accusations hover around 2% of reported crimes, and given the exceptional social stigma associated with sex-crime, combined with ingrained reluctance to believe and thehistorically poor treatment of victims in court,there’s every reason to believe that false allegations of sex-crime are, if anything, less common than that. By contrast, 95% of sex crimes go unpunished; in many cases victims not only don’t report them to the authorities they never confide in anyone at all. As the saying goes, ‘you do the math’.

Savile‘s post-mortem trial by media might fly in the face of long-cherished notions of justice, but given the lack of justice that the majority of sex-abuse victims settle for it’s arguable that we’re in a better position than before. Marsh‘s assailant will face due process, and rightly so – though one hopes he will be treated sympathetically and with lenience – but the fact remains that in a more humane, less misogynistic world, victims of sex-crime would feel sufficient confidence in judical ‘due process’ to report their attacks at the time. It took eleven long years to bring Marsh to justice and many of Savile‘s victims have suffered much longer than that: if social media can effect some kind of paradigm shift, and fill a gap in the short term, then so be it.

Fix this.

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On the day Jimmy Savile died, I read a comment on a popular online message board which read:

‘The skeletons will be tumbling out of his closet soon; good friemds with Jonathan King; what more can I say?’

I admit, I misconstrued that comment somewhat (knowing little of Savile’s personal life) taking it to mean, that like King he was an ‘openly closeted’ (something of an archaism these days) gay man who levered his elevated status within the entertainment industry to exploit starstruck young men. What little I did know – his longstanding ‘batchelorhood, his apparent mother fixation – served only to confirm such an impression. Well, so much for stereotypes – and living and working within Brighton’s gay community I ought to know better…

It appears I may have only been half-way mistaken, though, insofar as Savile‘s alleged victims are female, not male. In Savile‘s first memoir, ‘As It Happens’ (1974) , he boasts of his many intimate relations with members of the opposite sex “… there have been trains and, with apologies to the hit parade, boats and planes (I am a member of the 40,000 ft club) and bushes and fields, corridors, doorways, floors, chairs, slag heaps, desks and probably everything except the celebrated chandelier and ironing board.”¬† Nothing inherently sinister, admittedly: many men, and women too – especially in the entertainment world – have found recourse in bragging of their ‘conquests’ through the medium of autobiography.

However, a soon-to-be-aired ITV documentary, ‘Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile’ places this in a more sinister context:¬† from today’s Daily Mirror:

‘…revelations came to light in a bombshell TV investigation carried out by former detective Mark Williams-Thomas. It has left the BBC, where Savile worked for more than 40 years, facing claims that the star‚Äôs activities were an ‚Äúopen secret‚ÄĚ among some staff.’

Two BBC producers even agreed to speak on camera to Mr Williams-Thomas, with one admitting he thought Savile was abusing young girls. He confesses he didn‚Äôt speak out at the time as he feared he‚Äôd lose his job because of Savile‚Äôs immense influence. A source who worked on the ¬≠programme ‚Äď ‘Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile’, to be screened on ITV1 at 11.10pm Wednesday ‚Äď said: ‚ÄúThe BBC has massive ¬≠questions to answer. So many people knew, or at least ¬≠suspected what was going on, but it was never investigated. The suspicion is that it is because it was one of the BBC‚Äôs favourite sons. It‚Äôs truly shocking.‚ÄĚ The programme also interviews a number of Savile‚Äôs former colleagues. One, former BBC production assistant Sue Thompson, told how she once walked into his dressing room while he was kissing and groping a girl.

One of the most persistent criticisms of these kind of – post-mortem – allegations can be illustrated by a couple of posts from the comments board at www.mirror.co.uk

‘Why do this now? Why not bring the allegations when he was alive and able to stand accused? No doubt there’s money to [be] made somewhere!’

‘Go away you loathsome women. Funny how you decide to trot all this out now.’

(My emphases).

To the credit of the wider online community – or, less cynical visitors to that site, at least – both comments were voted down. Superficially, they may appear to have merit. But do they? Non-reporting of sexual assault is the rule, rather than the exception; especially so when the victims are children, or were at the time of alleged abuse. Attention needs to be paid to why this is so often the case. There is much to be gleaned from studying the testimonies of alleged victims; and the reflections of these women contained in the forthcoming documentary are characteristic of the kinds of testimonies that thousands of sex abuse victims have been making for years. The first comment is easily dismissed: financial compensation (for rape) is rare in a criminal lawsuit, more possible in a civil suit; though to date no such (civil) suits have been registered in Savile‘s case. Criminal suits have been, though they have been dropped for lack of evidence (a common situation in sex assault cases, where it is often one word against another – with the word of one, the male, the adult, the powerful – carrying rather greater weight than the other – the female, the child, the naif, the slut). The second quote reveals more of the poster’s rank misogyny than any worthwhile comment on the specifics of the story.

Let’s examine some of the testimonies…

Charlotte:

‘We all went into this caravan and¬†Jimmy¬†Savile was there and the teacher was saying to us: “Oh he’s going to do a recording of all you girls and he’s going to play it on the radio”. I don’t know if he beckoned me first but I do remember that I sat on his lap. And then the next thing, I felt this hand … go up my jumper and on my breast. I jumped up, I absolutely freaked out and started swearing and “What do you think you’re doing?” And then I was just dragged out of the caravan by two of the staff.

I was told what a filthy mouth I have, how can I make those terrible accusations, Uncle¬†Jimmy¬†does nothing but good for the school and he was just so wonderful and me, I need to retract what I’d said, I need to apologise. I was taken upstairs to the isolation unit, left there for two or three days and said that I could come back when I refrained from saying such filthy things.

When I came out I just didn’t say anything more because I hated it in the isolation unit.

(My emphases).

Kids are too quickly, and too often punished for bucking the system, for confronting shibboleths; the more so when they’re female kids. Savile was an icon, a ‘national treasure’, and on the strength of his celebrity and charitable work, rightly so. Many kids and adults alike looked up to him as a paragon of human virtue. Such perceptions inevitably colour any allegations of wrongdoing: there’s an emotional investment in buying into stories of heroism, altruism and philanthropy and an attendent psychic cost to withdrawing said investment. Easier to pass the cost onto the accuser. To punish that which threatens the comfortable status quo.

Scepticism is an admirable trait – to the maintenance of a fair an impartial judicial system, an essential one – but too often within our institutions – schools, press, judiciary, business – women and children face more than that; rather an aggressive disbelief which flies in the face of fairness and common decency.

Angie:

‘…But being a teenager and not understanding things you do blame yourself and there are so many mixed emotions with this. But I’ve always been full of regret that it happened and that I wasn’t able to do anything about it and I didn’t understand it either. I just feel that he just took huge advantage of me.’

(My emphases).

Our teen years are a tumultuous time and we’re just dipping our feet into the ocean of the adult world. It’s a time of transition, dreaming, recklessness and adventure. We’re especially vulnerable because we take mistakes, failures and let-downs very personally: the tendency to blame ourselves for the outcomes of situations that were in fact, beyond our reasonable ability to control is a familiar one to us all. In the context of sexual development this can be especially pertinent: even relatively ‘promiscuous’ adolescents are unlikely to have a true grasp of their emerging sexuality. Abusive relations may feel ‘wrong’ on a profound level, but without a personal ‘norm’ to measure them against it’s hard to muster the confidence to assert as much to an adult world that seems not to want to know. A real concern is that they (victims) will internalise the abusive experience(s) and create a subconscious paradigm for future relations that will prove both demoralising and potentially hard to deviate from.

Val:

It was only when I was much older I looked back and got more distressed by it. I think when he was alive I would have been too frightened to have spoken out.’

Again, this is typical of the testimony of many adults when reflecting on traumatic childhood episodes. As kids we are encountering brand new (to us) situations all the time, and our desire – encouraged by both adult disapprobation and peer approval – to grow up and deal with it can lead to a misapprehension of our real abilities and limitations. Really ‘dealing with it’ might require breaking away from peer and authority expectation and risking attendent isolation – anathema to adolescents. Too scary to risk the further insult of being ignored, disbelieved, blamed; perhaps further punished like Charlotte.

Easier to compartmentalise, bury the experience. In this way our formative experiences can become subconscious drivers of our behaviour in later life. The fear that led us to hold our tongue as kids may linger even into adulthood, when the catalyst for it has long departed from our lives. It may be many years before we ‘wake up’ from long-established habitual behaviour and reflect on an original situation and see it for what it was; acknowledge our own relative helplessness at the time.

Pedophiles, like most violent offenders, are bullies at heart; and like all bullies they have almost a sixth sense for selecting the most vulnerable targets for their unwanted attentions. Such a sense is not infallible, as Charlotte‘s testimony shows: she instinctively rebelled and made her feelings known but as is so often the case her cries went unheard, and indeed her uncommonly brave efforts were stymied by exponents of the – male, hierarchical – system. Hell, perhaps I’m being unfair; maybe they (the nebulous ‘staff’ of Charlotte‘s testimony) were all-too-conscious of Savile‘s importance in their oeuvre and perceived, in a threat to his standing, a consequent threat to their continued employment; so maybe not misogynists at all. Nonetheless, to sideline a child’s evident suffering, and further, to mete out excessive punishment in the pursuit of (speculative) self-interest is pretty low, either way.

With revelations of each successive case come new expressions of ‘shock’ and ‘horror’ at the cruel, tyrannical treatment of women and children going on under our very noses. But in this media-saturated, media-savvy world we can no longer claim ignorance with any conviction. In truth, we never could. The voices were always there: the onus on us to listen and believe.

In the advent of Savile‘s death, there will be not trial; no justice in the accepted sense. The full truth will never be known, and can only be pieced together imperfectly from the fragmented testimonies of those left behind. Even if not every word printed in today’s Mirror is perfect truth, there is a greater truth expressed therein which we cannot afford to ignore. Trial by media is no kind of trial at all, but we must make the best of it that we can. It is our duty to listen and believe.

And in future, when more victims of this taboo crime come forward with their stories, as they will: we must listen and believe.

And speak out.