October 29, 2012

ACTUALLY, IT’S LONG OVERDUE: “A Jimmy Savile inquiry? We might as well launch an investigation into the entire 1970s,” Iain Martin writes in the London Telegraph:

Clearly, Savile exploited the fact that in the late 1960s and early 1970s a baffled BBC, along with plenty of other institutions, was struggling to comprehend the explosion of youth culture and the impact of the sexual revolution. As others have observed, the BBC – until the end of the 1950s a Reithian, stiff upper lip, arbiter of British morality – didn’t understand what was happening at rapid speed to the country. So it improvised a response.

A few years back the BBC produced a smug, knowing drama which satirised the events of that period. The campaigner Mary Whitehouse was portrayed as a stuffy, nagging nuisance blocking the path of liberalism, progress and sex. In the dramatisation, the DG of the day – Hugh Carlton Greene – was elevated to the status of a liberal demi-God. He was the leader of the younger, sophisticated BBC executives who were determined that they and the corporation should somehow “get with it”.

But what did silly old Mary Whitehouse say? Didn’t she warn that the liberal revolution would blur the lines between childhood and adulthood, and that the obsessive sexualisation of our culture was problematic? Was she too voracious in her campaign, making her easy for smart arses to caricature? Of course, but more than forty years on – surveying the fetid swamp in which Jimmy Savile was permitted to operate – it is surely worth recognising that she had a point.

Martin writes that the era of 1960s and ‘70s need “a good historian prepared to write a decent book on it.” Tom Wolfe’s “The Great Relearning” essay might be a good theme to build such a book around.