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Standing up for Charles Moore’s ‘why does no-one stick up for Jimmy Savile’ piece

19 October 2012

11:52 AM

19 October 2012

11:52 AM

Getting into arguments with people on the internet about selective quoting is generally a waste of time. But sometimes the intellectual dishonesty is such that one can’t help but respond.

Political Scrapbook ran a post yesterday headlined ‘EX-CHAIRMAN OF POLICY EXCHANGE SAYS SAVILE SHOULD KEEP HIS KNIGHTHOOD’, though the headline now seems to have changed. It quotes Charles Moore thus:

‘Isn’t there a single, solitary person who will maintain that Savile devoted himself to charity work for good reasons as well as bad? … Sir Jimmy should keep his knighthood.’

This is not a mis-quote. Strictly, it is accurate. But it does seem to be almost deliberately missing the point that Charles was trying to make. Here’s the full item  from this week’s Spectator:

Why doesn’t anyone stand up for Jimmy Savile? For decades, thousands said how marvellous he was. I remember thinking myself rather daring for suggesting in this column just after his death that he was frightening and creepy — the BBC had been reporting reverentially that there were plans for his body to ‘lie in state’ in a Leeds hotel. There was a feeling of ‘Santo subito!’ in the air. The tabloids which now almost literally spit on his grave were fulsome in their praise, even though they knew the long-standing rumours against him. Isn’t there a single, solitary person who will maintain that Savile devoted himself to charity work for good reasons as well as bad? Is there no priest who will testify that the man was a repentant sinner, no unmolested child grateful that Jim Fixed It for him? What a dreadful warning all this is about the perils of fame: when you are up, no criticism, when you are down (and dead), no mercy.

And Sir Jimmy should keep his knighthood. Partly this is a question of evidence: it will be very hard to prove any allegation against Savile. Unless it can reach a legal standard of proof, he should have, in official terms, the benefit of the doubt. Besides, those who confer honours should not be allowed to escape from any mistakes that may subsequently become apparent. An honour is granted unconditionally. For someone dead to be stripped of it is a cowardly act, like the photographic airbrush wielded by dictators after their former cronies fall from grace. Personally, I am not in favour of disc jockeys being knighted, but if you insist on sucking up to these Pied Pipers of our age, you must take the consequences when one of them leads the kiddies off under the hill.

I hope you’ll agree having read the whole item that the idea Charles is defending Savile is absurd. Instead, he is making an important argument about how everyone crawled to this DJ when he was perceived to have power and how stripping him of his knighthood would be a way for the establishment to absolve itself of having being so uncurious about the rumours about him. This might seem like a small thing to get upset about. But it is this gotcha attitude that is doing so much to dumb down public debate in this country.

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