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Jimmy Savile and the BBC: the making of a cultural icon

By Lis Howell, MercatorNet

The Savile story is not just about the ghastly flaws of a celebrity. It is about how Britain's toffy public broadcaster has itself been seduced by the sexual revolution.

[...] Perhaps the most important thing I want to draw attention to is the issue of the Savile scandal itself. The issue of Newsnight dropping the investigation is much, much bigger than the later fiasco about the North Wales children’s home. The most important point is that the Savile story was not just a story about exposing the ghastly flaws of a celebrity.

Savile was known to be bonking his way round Britain in the ?70s. Then it was acceptable. I can think of at least five male stars, still happily at it today and sometimes being lauded in the redtops for doing so, who were the same. It was distasteful but in the heady days of the sexual revolution and the enormous seismic shift in British values, it was overlooked. Anyone who criticised sexual freedom of any sort then would have been monstered, like Mary Whitehouse, as a horrible repressive harridan.
The change was massive, a slow tsunami starting after the Second World war, augmented by technology such as the contraceptive pill, but most of all, fuelled by the rise of ordinary people who started to question the patriarchal structure of society – sex, drugs and rock ?n’ roll was just the icing. The cake was a libertarianism never seen before, the result of education, better housing, consumer goods and wars which shook the world.
To many of these working class people, someone like Jimmy Savile was more than an entertainer: he was the pirate who took over the ship of state, the cheeky Northerner who stood for fun and frolics, and people with accents like ours on the BBC. We needed to love him. He was the zeitgeist. People did not want to believe that he took advantage of children in homes, or hospitals. For those who knew he went that far, it was too horrible to contemplate. Savile stood for our brave new world. We didn’t want to know.
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