I used to watch Jim'll Fix It when I was a young child, and although I liked the basic idea of the show, I was never a big fan of Jimmy Savile himself - not because I had any intuition about his dark secret, but because I didn't like his occasional displays of impatience towards the children who came on. Heaven only knows what it must be like to switch on the TV at tea-time on Saturday, and see a children's show being presented by a man who raped you a quarter of a century ago and got away with it, and who you know in all probability raped other underage girls and got away with it.
The most impressive thing about last night's documentary is that it contained very little sensationalism - the facts were simply painstakingly documented, and as such they spoke for themselves all the more powerfully. There was only one unfortunate moment when the presenter couldn't resist dabbling in a little tabloid-style psychology, and suggested that Savile's views on the treatment of Gary Glitter revealed a sick attitude to sex. That may be fair comment, but it still detracted from an otherwise clear-sighted and objective approach to getting at the truth. I sometimes wonder if the slightly hysterical tendency to view all child abusers as inhuman monsters actually contributes to the ability of the likes of Savile to get away with sexually assaulting young girls on an industrial scale for so long. If you hear a piece of information that threatens to instantly turn a person you hold in high esteem into a depraved animal, it becomes all too easy to want to bury that information and the person who gave it to you.
By contrast, if you don't have any prior emotional investment, the absolutism of the need to be disgusted by even the slightest whiff of child abuse can lead to someone entirely innocent being branded a monster. Witness this utterly unbelievable story from a few days ago about a man who spent three months in jail because he accidentally sent a sexually explicit text to everyone in his address book (including two young girls), instead of just to his girlfriend as intended. I'm quite sure there are otherwise sensible people out there who would defend to the death Craig Evans' jail sentence on some kind of 'zero tolerance' principle, even though the facts of the case leave no real room for doubt that he simply made an innocent mistake that a great many men and women could potentially have made.
So one man rapes and abuses with impunity and enjoys a lifetime of being lionised as a saint for his troubles, another man hits the wrong button on his mobile phone and ends up in jail. This is a mad, mad world we live in.