Jimmy Savile was a product of Britain’s swinging 60’s and 70’s, an era of ‘free love’ where promiscuity was hailed as progress
Whilst the BBC now faces serious allegations about a culture of silence regarding the recent sexual abuse claims, it seems that even the Head of the BBC who faced questions today before a government panel had to concur by saying “There is no question that … the culture and practices of the BBC seemed to allow Jimmy Savile to do what he did, (which) will raise questions of trust for us and reputation for us.” A story which seems to be slowly unfolding every day with fresh allegations of abuse at the BBC will lead some to now ask uncomfortable questions regarding how society has so miserably failed to protect the vulnerable.
And whilst there seems to be a steering towards a discussion about the failure of an institution at administration level ( Head of the BBC,George Entwistle- claiming he didn’t seem to know or see anything about why programs uncovering abuse by Jimmy Savile were shelved); what is more crucial is to question how such horrific cases of abuse have been met with a culture of ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ by so many who seemed to know exactly what was going on.
If we draw parallels with the Rochdale grooming scandal which was covered by most of British press and hailed as a similar ‘wall of silence’- the blame was put squarely upon the whole of the Pakistani/Muslim community deeming all their values and attitude and practices as culpable. Yet there has not been even close to the same level of scrutiny into how such abuse went on behind the walls of high profile institutions like the BBC and includes hospitals and schools all the while with adults aware of what went on; yet no blame at the feet of the prevalent values and cultures of that society and community.
This utter hypocrisy can only be understood in light of how liberal values have paralysed secular societies into believing that their tenets of freedom are sacrosanct. Historically, the current abuse cases date back to an era which was hailed as the dawn of a sexual revolution in liberal western societies, where these same freedoms seem to gain full momentum within society. The swinging 60’s and 70’s in countries such as Britain were in the midst of ‘free love’ where promiscuity was hailed as progress, without the threat of complications such as pregnancy or moral restrictions which had existed in decades before. It was within this culture that personalities such as Jimmy Savile would have been expressing his freedoms by sexually abusing young girls. However some have also claimed that ‘society was different back then’ and that in fact such sexual behaviour even towards young girls was not considered completely reprehensible as the culture of ‘free love’ had promoted sexual freedoms. Such a claim whilst seeming to justify heinous behaviour, is also the supposed explanation as to why many people at the BBC, hospital staff, teachers in schools may have all known such abuse was taking place, yet never spoke out.
Such institutions form the very backbone of any society and are in fact a reflection of the very values which exist within the wider society. So whilst society may have been allegedly ‘different’ some decades ago, it was the same liberal values which governed the interaction between people in society legitimising such awful behaviour in a bygone era.
The impact that such freedoms have had on society can now be seen in full, with devastating consequences. It is fact the nature of liberal values which allow the lines of what is free and what is acceptable to be ever changing and blurred and seem to mean different things at different times. So many young girls may have felt that sexual behaviour of this nature was part of the growing tide of a cultural shift in their societies which was considered ‘cool’ or acceptable hence people went along with it. Yet in actuality it gave license for people like Savile to get away with abuse.
So how then can such freedoms be hailed as an advancement when they have allowed the poison of sexual harassment and abuse to be seen as ‘part of the culture’ 30 years ago, yet considered wrong now? Such freedoms had no accountability to anyone including those charged with a duty of care then, and continue to have the same standard now. Freedoms seem to change and be adapted and manipulated by those with the power to do so it would seem. An example such as the recent insults levelled at the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and depictions of Jesus (alaiyhisalam) in musicals, testifies to how religion is fair game when it comes to protecting these same ever ‘sacred’ freedoms such as freedom of speech, yet curbed at other times like when the BBC choose not broadcast an expose on abuse by Jimmy Savile, most likely for fear of litigation. All of a sudden, freedom is not so sacred and not needing protection.
Liberal values have also fostered a celebrity culture which adulates those with money and fame. So even though some claimed they knew that such abuse was wrong, the silence with which teachers, hospital staff and people at the BBC responded, was born out of this culture of celebrity where people are given God-like status and are at liberty to behave in ways not acceptable for the rest of the public.
It should come as no shock that institutions such as the BBC acted in accordance with the very values they purport as they are one of many elements of society which reflect the very values it hails as sacred. Values which are widespread and the norm in secular society. The question is now how such values can be considered with any level of worth when their lack of accountability and moral compass persists. And changing the rules of acceptability as when the most powerful in society deem fit to do so.
And whether it is men from the North of England grooming young girls or celebrities and institutions who protect the rich and famous; the net result is the dire outcome of a liberal culture which is fundamentally bankrupt and will continue to oppress those in its charge.
Women’s Media Representative