NYT's Bill Keller Explains Why He and His Media Colleagues Lie About 9/11

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This is an excerpt from a Keller column in the NYT about Jimmy Savile, the British television icon who is accused of molesting young girls throughout his career. Keller asks how it was possible that while Savile's behavior was an open secret in media circles, no one ever exposed him...

“There has been a persistent rumor about him for years, and journalists have often told me as a fact: ‘Jimmy Savile? Of course, you know he’s into little girls.’ But if they know it, why haven’t they published it? The Sun or The News of the World would hardly refuse the chance of featuring a Jimmy Savile sex scandal. It is very, very hard to prove a negative, but the fact that the tabloids have never come up with a scintilla of evidence against Jimmy Savile is as near proof as you can ever get.”

The fact that the tabloids missed the story hardly lets the BBC off the hook, but it points — as these cases so often do — to a culture of denial that goes beyond his employer.

Psychologists understand pretty well the web of confused affection, guilt and fear that silences the victims in these cases. But what stifles the suspicion of adults? There is an abundance of overlapping theories.

It was the times, some say. The sexual liberation of the ’60s and ’70s gave license to the worst sorts of misogyny, before feminism and scandal put us on higher alert.

Or it was the star culture. Men (always men) who reach the top in sports or show business are too powerful and too intimidating to be taken on.

One subtler theory is that everyone looked away because we love winners, and we need them to be good people because that means the world is fair. Think Lance Armstrong. A community, in other words, needs its pillars. You would think the first imperative would be to protect the children. But by protecting the pillars of the community, we let ourselves believe we are protecting the community itself.

The other day The Telegraph published a comment on the affair by a figure whose stature at the BBC matched Savile’s. Esther Rantzen was a pioneering consumer reporter and, of particular relevance, the founder of a major child protection charity.

“Everyone knew,” she confessed. “That is, everyone in the television and pop music industries knew.”

“A journalist friend told me in the 1970s about a little girl with a heart defect. Jimmy had helped her to have the defect surgically corrected. A newspaper heard about his generosity and contacted the girl’s family to run the story, but the family refused to talk to them because they were sickened by what they knew he had done to her to make her ‘earn’ the operation.”

There was more, but it was “hearsay, rumor, gossip.” And he was just Jimmy, eccentric, saintly. He was “unassailable.” There was “a kind of national conspiracy which united all of us,” she concluded, “and together we colluded with him.”

Rantzen also appears at the end of the “Exposure” documentary. We watch the BBC star and child defender watching the filmed interviews of Savile’s accusers, believing them, grimacing, and finally burying her face in her hands. And we hope that we are witnessing remorse.