X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Blogs

Jimmy Savile and the dangers of received wisdom

25 October 2012

6:13 PM

25 October 2012

6:13 PM

What does the Jimmy Savile case tell us about received wisdom? Over the last few weeks it has become clear that one of the most famous people in Britain was known by very many people to be an active, abusive paedophile.

Many other people in broadcasting knew it. People in charities he was associated with knew it. People in hospitals he was associated with warned child patients about how to get around it. The person who founded Childline, no less, had heard about it. But nobody said or did anything.

We are told that there were various reasons for this. Savile himself is said to have threatened that there would be some funding shortfall for Stoke Mandeville hospital should claims about his rape of children be made public. In recent days many people have said that even in retirement Jimmy Savile was just too powerful. They appear to have mistaken him for Pol Pot or Stalin in their prime. It is like someone saying that they couldn’t testify in a murder case against Timmy Mallett or the Chuckle Brothers (note to lawyers: not that they would need to) because of the great power of life and death these men held.

[Alt-Text]


Which brings me back to received wisdom. I have just been reading Daniel Hannan’s A Doomed Marriage about Britain and the EU, and the thought keeps recurring of how swiftly received wisdom can change. In the 1990s when ‘Business for Sterling’ was arguing that Britain should keep out of the Euro there were endless paid and unpaid panjandrums saying that people who wanted to retain the pound were every imaginable type of idiot and worse. In recent weeks and months many of these same people have now been declaring what a good thing it is that Britain never joined.

Now I do not want to compare the European Commission and its disgraced cheerleaders to rapacious paedophiles, but there is something similarly striking in all this. One day everybody believed one thing, the other almost everybody believed the opposite. And it is worth remembering that in the case of Jimmy Savile this is paedophilia we are talking about – that is, about the only thing in Britain that everybody can still find it in themselves to express moral outrage over. If the sexual abuse of children – and the sexual abuse of children with disabilities at that – is something that can be an unspoken secret because of fear and group-think (and when the fear is of a crappy low-grade entertainer) what does it say about our inability to deal with major issues arising from people who have real power?

Two things about human nature always come out of such stories: one is completely gloom-laden, the other inspiring. The gloom-laden one is this: that we are such appalling, gullible, fearful, weak and sheep-like creatures that we are willing to put up with anything – including (and as many figures in the Catholic church also recently demonstrated) massive on-going abuse of children – rather than make our lives difficult for even a moment by pointing to a terrible thing that is happening.

The positive thing is that it should remind us of the power that even one individual armed with the truth has to correct a terrible wrong. It is one of the most vital arguments for nearly limitless free-speech, that even one person with a dissenting view must be heard if we are to correct the errors of a whole people. If a person has truth on their side, and they are willing to speak up, then they can do anything: turning round the course of a lifetime, a government or a nation.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close