Tag Archives: Jimmy Savile

Online Harris-ment

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Noticed a spike in my stats a couple days ago – 515 reads. To put that in context I have just 50 followers and average maybe 30 reads a day.

What’s going on? Bloody Rolf Harris again, that’s what. Arrested this time. His name first came up in Yewtree reports as early as November and he spent Christmas in The Priory afflicted with depression. Scarcely a day goes by when his name isn’t the most popular search term referring readers to this blog, even though I’ve dropped down to the second and third pages of Google/Yahoo!/Bing results. Most of the accused unearthed by Yewtree have come out fighting: it’s only him and a couple others whose names are being kept out of MSM reports, even though his name was leaked by Mark Williams-Thomas so it’s obviously kosher. Weird.

If I was him – and so stressed out by investigations, allegations and speculations – I’d want to get my side in. And surely no-one really buys into this MRA-fuelled guff about false accusations destroying credibility and careers anymore, do they? Roman Polanski, anyone? Hell, Bill Clinton – that paragon of fair and democratic treatment of females – sat on a panel, bold as brass backing The Girl Effect campaign a couple years back. The longer Harris hides away from the media spotlight, the more it looks like he’s got something to hide. Clifford, Starr, Travis et al are ‘out’ and scarcely warrant a mention. Truth is, the abuse of women and kids is just so damn banal; fit fodder for gossip but does anybody really want to know? Steubenville was a case in point: stone-cold photographic evidence of wrongdoing and media and public opinion is way sympathetic to the perps. Same with Michael Le Vell – it’s all about his anguish and damaged career prospects – the aforementioned Harris, and as for Bill Roache and his rapey (and swiftly semi-retracted, but not really) diatribe about reincarnation etc…

If anyone had started a conversation with me a few years ago about ‘rape culture’, ‘male-privilege’ or ‘patriarchy’ I’d probably have been ‘like, whatever…’. Now it’s all I see when I open up my browser. Depressing…

C’mon Rolf; at least give us your side of the story. you know you want to…

Catholic distaste for bad press

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THE MOST DAMNING PHOTO PUBLISHED BY A BRITISH NEWSPAPER THIS YEAR?

From mirror.co.uk: ‘Jimmy Savile and the cardinal…’

Cardinal Keith O’Brien quit just 24 hours before he was due to fly to Rome to help choose the next pope. His resignation followed a series of recent allegations against him dating back to the ’80s by three priests and one former priest regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour. He ‘strongly denied’ those claims, but revelations of a relationship with Savile dating back to the ’70s will undoubtedly bode badly for his chances of being believed.

Another priest at Kilsyth (O’Brien‘s parish) at the time has been suspended following claims of abuse against two young victims. Ironically, it was Cardinal O’Brien who ordered the investigation last September; and when allegations against Savile first broke in the MSM last year, it was the cardinal who called for him to be stripped of his papal knighthood.

Also ironic is the fact that Cardinal O’Brien is known for his strong anti-gay views: he recently criticized the Scottish government’s plans to enshrine same-sex marriage in law by 2015, describing the latter as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. No wonder he was named ‘Bigot of the year‘ by Stonewall Scotland in 2012. His stance on women’s rights is no less forgiving: six years ago he claimed the abortion rate in Scotland was equivalent to “two Dunblane massacres a day”, also describing the implications of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill as akin to “Nazi-style experiments”. In all ways an exemplary Catholic, then.

It’s extraordinary that in the 21st century, an organization of such far-reaching social and political influence can continue to practice discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation with impunity. But the church has a real problem with sex, full stop. It’s clearly learnt it’s lesson from the last few years of public outrage over institutionalized abuse, and their media machine has been quick to swing into action following the O’Brien debacle:

Jack Valero, of lobby group Catholic Voices, said it was right for Cardinal O’Brien to resign.

He said: “I am very happy that this has been taken seriously, that the nuncio – the Pope’s representative in the UK – has written to the four people who have made the allegations to thank them for speaking out, and that the whole thing has been done so quickly.

I think this shows a new spirit.”

O’Brien tendered his resignation November last, and it was officially accepted by the Pope last week, but his sudden departure was unexpected. Was immenent exposure of the Savile connection a factor? New spirit or not, division, and confusion around the issue of priests and sex run deep in the church to this day, in particular the failure to grasp that the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sex tilts on consent, not the gender or sexual orientation of the participants. The church’s exception to homosexuality is not ‘homophobia’ per-se, so much as calculated propaganda in the interests of furthering it’s world-dominating, sex-dimorphic agenda. When O’Brien spoke of a ‘human right’ to marriage, it was the right of men to produce (Catholic) offspring he was defending. And who are ‘celibate’ priests to be dispensing this advice, anyway? That the Bible highlights the sinfulness of homosexuality*, yet not of paedophilia is scarcely surprising, given the social context of its time: that the church cleaves to those same standards 2000 years later, and that we give credence to the esoteric beliefs of this homophobic, misogynistic rape cult is the real scandal.

* See ‘Intercourse’Dworkin, Andrea. Ch. 8 ‘Law’ p. 185-211 for a penetrating, nuanced understanding of why homosexuality is such a ‘big deal’ within religious orthodoxy; and why policing men’s behaviour is really all about policing women.

State of denial

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And the revelations continue. Today, comic Jim Davidson is identified as the latest in a succession of celebrities to be questioned as part of the ongoing Yewtree investigation into the culture of sexual crime and misdemeanor within the media.

Like Max Clifford‘s ‘…birth certificate…’ interview, Davidson‘s blog comments (apparently now deleted, see extract below) could be read as a cynical disclaimer in advance of his impending questioning. Was he one of the ‘dirty dozen’ who contacted Clifford? Did he know he was in the firing line? Pure speculation, of course…

‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

‘The Jimmy Savile witch hunt is going a bit silly now. We all are starting to speculate and accuse… even in jest. So no I don’t know who’s next. Well, if I was in the pub with the lads it would be a different story.

‘Everyone has had the nod. Everyone is now an expert. Just pick someone you don’t like and say it’s them. So I’ll be the first one to knock it on the head and belt up. How’s about that then?’

DAILY STAR

‘Front page eh?……Well I was only stating the obvious (Jim’s Newspaper). It just goes to show how much interest this Saville (sic) thing is having. I read a thing today (in The Express) some one saw Jimmy Saville (sic) pinch some girl’s bum . Apparently that is a sexual assault. Where will all this end. As odd as he was, Saville (sic) can’t defend himself.The bloke’s dead for Godsake (sic).

‘Let’s move on and get some important stories in the paper. I haven’t heard anything about Jordan lately. What’s happened?

‘Fund raising for the British Forces foundation tonight. Monday sees me, Bobby Davro, Claire Sweeny and Mike Osman off to entertain the Navy on HMS Dauntless.

‘Spare a thought today for the two British troops KIA. There’s news.

‘Oh and do I really know who the next exposed pervert is?….well, have a guess,because that’s what the press are doing,that’s what we’re all doing!’

PANORAMA

‘How come the BBC can make a program blaming the BBC?

‘It’s like having yourself arrested and then being your own prosecuting barrister!

‘The BBC has finaly (sic) gone mental. This hot bed of leftyness has asked itself the question: “Should we have known?” The answer is yes. We all knew didn’t we?

‘A bloke who’s a loner dresses and acts like a nonce and thinks he is the most important person in the world. Hmmm. I knew… and didn’t do anything. Mind you I had no proof. To me he was just another pervert.

‘There are lots of them in Showbiz. There seems to be more gay ones than straight, but that’s because there are probably more gays in showbiz than most professions.

‘Who’s next to be the victim of a media feeding frenzy? I have the answer to that but like Jimmy Savile it’s only rumours… but when these rumours come out… WOW!’

In the comments section from the DM article, ‘Tenerifediver’ added:

‘This overblown witch hunt is a publicity manoeuvre to divert attention from the Asian paedophile gangs. They are alive and active NOW, and are far greater threat. But they’re not so easy to catch or to prosecute are they? … The Asian paedophile gangs have the Human Rights bill to protect them and the spineless lawmakers who allow it to continue. No. Go for dead people! They have no defense (even if they were guilty)…’

 Talk of ‘witch hunts’ and ‘publicity manoevres’ has its consequences, though: it serves to dilute in the public mind, the severity of the implications of the proliferation and sheer mundanity of sexual violence in our societies; and Davidson‘s remarks and Tenerifediver’s message board comments exemplify perfectly most of our misconceptions around violence in general and sex abuse in particular
  • violence/sex abuse are exceptional – far from the truth: under a system of hierarchy violence is inevitable, and the circumstances under which it is condoned are largely a matter of political expediency.
  • specific allegations against – purportedly – ‘soft’ targets are part of a campaign of misdirection from ‘real’ culprits – again, misleading: ‘tip of an iceberg’ would be accurate. One of my major concerns from the outset – the surfacing of allegations against Savile in the wake of his death – was finger-pointing towards specific organizations (e.g. the BBC) at the expense of recognizing (sexual) violence as an inherent feature of hierarchy/patriarchy. The distinction to be made – if any – between ‘legitimate’ violence as perpetrated by soldiers in the ‘theatre of war’ (telling phrase) or by parents under the aegis of ‘discipline’, and ‘abuse’ is, at best, a murky one. Patriarchy inheres a parent/child relationship model between state/authorities and population which tacitly legitimizes a significant proportion of violence in interpersonal/intercultural/inter-class situations (and I admit Dworkin‘s definition of women as a class unto themselves).
  • That the outing of offenders is part of a left wing agenda – if exposing an undercurrent of violence in society is on anyone’s agenda, it’s a feminist one: historically, the left and right demonstrate much of a muchness in their adherence to the patriarchy/hierarchy which gives rise to conflict and abuse.
  • the conflating of gender and race – history is littered with examples of attempts to tie the tendency towards violence onto genes specific to certain ethnic groups. This is troubling and misleading on two counts: that such pronouncements are almost without exception made by majority/oppressor populations against minority/oppressed populations, and, that it locates the cause of violence primarily in nature when, in fact, nurture is overwhelmingly causal. This has implications in gender terms, as well as racial ones. Taboos around violence perpetrated not only against, but also by women remain hugely problematic in today’s societies, as well as historically. Women do commit acts of violence – though to date no women have been implicated in the Yewtree investigation – and find themselves judged not only by the ‘normal’ standards applied to male offenders but additionally as contravenors of ‘natural law’ in societies terms. Patriarchy shafts us all (too often literally) but some more than others.
  • The spurious correlation between homosexuality and sexual abuse – read Guy Kettelhack‘s insightful Dancing Around The Volcano to hear how the Gay community is coming to terms with with ‘deviant’ sexuality (arguably better than their straight counterparts) and foreground the fact that 95% of sexaual violence is male on female, like this
  • perpetuation of the notion of an arbitrary ‘line’ between acceptable behaviour and abuse – of course, no-one would pretend that bum-pinching=rape, or that sexist ‘jokes’ or comments are equivalent to financial sex-discrimination, but – and it’s a big but – they all sit on a continuum of attitudes and behaviours that characterize an inherently unjust, undemocratic society and culture. It was telling that Jamie Kilstein’s ‘rape jokes’ drew abuse from sexist men and approbation from feminists – we all know what’s going on and too many of us would rather it was kept quiet. A sense of entitlement is bred into males and milking that to the max is the gold-standard for climbing the ladder: this certainly appears to be the case with Savile who ascended to ‘untouchable’ status within a plethora of organizations. Who on God‘s earth would think it reasonable having a pop DJ on the board for Broadmoor? If there’s a better example of the failings of the ‘old boys network’ I’ve yet to hear…
What’s becoming clear is that – Yewtree‘s three, Savile, Savile and others and, others categories aside – there are two categories of police witness in the YT investigation: those who allow their names to be published and – in Davidson‘s case, presumably, since he’s yet to issue a formal statement – make public their denial – those who hide behind injunctions. If Harris, and the several thusfar un-named protagonists in the Yewtree investigation are innocent of any wrongdoing they would be well-advised to peek out from behind the curtain of injunction and allow their testimony into the arena of public debate as the likes of Clifford and Starr have done. (Aside: the vast majority of hits on my blog are via search engine terms ‘Rolf Harris‘ + ‘Operation Yewtree’ – none for Clifford/Starr). If they feel they’re being made guilty by implication, or association then let us hear their denial. Harris is, if reports are to be believed suicidal. The fault for this rests with a hierarchy which privately rewards the very abusive, violent and discriminatory behaviour that it purports publicly to find morally repellent. Taboo and fetish are old-accustomed bed-fellows and the ‘high’ inherent in practising taboo behaviour is proportional to the moral indignation and shame of being outed. With such a deep rooted double standard in place is it any wonder men deny allegations of sex crime, well-founded or not. But there’s denial and denial and for all our sakes – especially for our future women and children – we need to know what and who we’re dealing with. If it’s left up to the gossip-mongers, they’ve already been found guilty, whilst our culture walks free and we all lose.

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’s activities were an “open secret” 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’t speak out at the time as he feared he’d lose his job because of Savile’s immense influence. A source who worked on the ­programme – ‘Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile’, to be screened on ITV1 at 11.10pm Wednesday – said: “The 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’s favourite sons. It’s truly shocking.” The programme also interviews a number of Savile’s 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.