I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but never got around to finishing it off. But I like the idea of putting a blog on auto-pilot, so I’m setting it up as a scheduled post while I travel.
Last weekend I realised how badly I was missing my Kindle so got myself a shiny new Paperwhite, and after a chance read of this Guardian interview the first thing I’ve been reading is In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies. For anyone outside of the UK who’s not familiar with Savile, he was a DJ, television presenter, charity fundraiser and all-round national celebrity for several decades during the 60s, 70s and 80s. The man was knighted. After his death a couple of years ago, he also became known as one of the most prolific sexual abusers the country has ever known, including many, many children and young teenagers.
The book is not perfectly written, but what does come through over and over again is that this was no double life. This is not a Jekyll and Hyde story of a man who carried his dark side to the grave. Everything was right in front of us the whole time, not least in Savile’s own autobiography, or the repeated (and ignored) complaints from his victims. The book is a fascinating study of how the actions of famous and powerful men can get stuck in a filter of ‘eccentric’ – in this case, for decades – where instead they should have been disgust and horror. Because even if you always found Savile creepy and weird, this – in a strange way – still provided an effective cover for the more serious truth underneath. The book is worth reading, because some of the examples are truly quite stunning.
Britain has a bit of a reputation for cultivating and celebrating eccentrics. In this case, these forces went very badly wrong indeed.