I am sure we have all had a point where we have grasped the fact that the response to allegations against Jimmy Savile has become extremely strange. For me it was when people vandalised the bloke’s cottage. I mean, why? Who was being punished but the people who had liked the view?
The report that is the product of Operation Yewtree will not serve to encourage rationalism. It was announced with the claim of Commander Peter Spindler that Savile “spent every minute of every day” thinking about child abuse. I really doubt it and, besides, how would Commander Spindler know? Does he have a sideline in mediumship?
Then it became clear that the police had not investigated allegations against Savile but merely collated them. This, I am afraid, has not established their validity. It is horrible to think that doubt must be expressed yet it is also a fact. This is why, when the targets of accusations are alive, we go through the tedious, frustrating rigmarole of trying them. In this case, where the dishonest could win themselves a great deal of attention, sympathy and, perhaps, cash the potential for the truth to be obscured is especially great.
Some people have subjected claims to scrutiny. The Levitt Report, which was also released today and looks into the Surrey Police investigation, details compelling evidence that Savile abused a pupil at Duncroft School; a pupil who, when older, was so unwilling for her account to be made public that she said she would like to punch the woman who told the police of what she had faced. Hard to see the potential for opportunism there. Given this and the sheer volume of charges against Savile I do not feel unfair in having thought and still thinking that he was a predator.
Yet the extent of his activities; the manner in which they were enacted and the scale of the complicity and ignorance that enabled them remains ambiguous. That is bad for the truth as it relates to this affair and it is bad in its reflection on the epistemic standards of officials and journalists. The unaccountability of the rich and famous remains a grave question. The case of Cyril Smith has also served to teach us that. The scale on which they can exploit the esteem in which they are held is a serious matter. The cases of Sandusky and, it is claimed, Ian Watkins are also proving this. Yet let us not be so aggrieved by our being played for fools that we make fools of ourselves.