Thursday, October 4, 2012

Saint Savile abuses with impunity for decades, while ordinary citizen is sent to jail for hitting the wrong button

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.

Monday, October 1, 2012

European Ryder Cup team puts Team GB to shame : this is how a multi-national team should conduct itself

What a joy the last three days have been. Unfortunately I only managed to catch the occasional bit of Andy Murray's charge towards the US Open title when I was in Portugal, and as much as I enjoyed the Olympics, the spectacle was somewhat tarnished by the politicised zealotry over flags and anthems surrounding Team GB. In contrast, the European Ryder Cup team has shown exactly how a multi-national team should operate - in triumph all the players were proudly draped in their own national flags as well as the European flag. There was no Little Hitler from the equivalent of the BOA telling them they couldn't do that, because this was an inclusive team genuinely representing all of the nations of Europe, not a Greater England team on a political mission to snuff out every other rival identity. As a result, I had no difficulty losing myself completely in the contest as a European supporter. And how rewarding it was to do so, as one of the all-time greatest stories in sport unfolded.

It's the first time in ages that I've watched a golf event on Sky, and I must admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by the coverage. I would have imagined that Colin Montgomerie might be too intense for the commentary box, but in fact he took to it like a duck to water. The only thing that made me wince slightly was that he was a bit too partisan at times, something which stuck out all the more because the only American commentator (Butch Harmon) seemed to be genuinely thrilled for the Europeans whenever they produced a good shot.

Another thing that I didn't entirely agree with the commentators about was their fulsome praise for the spectators. The idiots may have been in the proverbial small minority, but I still sincerely hope that minority will be a hundred times smaller at Gleneagles in two years' time. Shouts of "hit it in the water!" or "hit it in the trees!" were clearly audible time and time again when the Europeans played. And the European spectators can't be entirely absolved of blame either - there was a small amount of moronic booing when Alex Salmond's name was announced during the closing ceremony. Given the composition of the European contingent of supporters, it seems fairly likely that the boo-boys were for the most part English Daily Mail-reading types who were trying to make some sort of tedious point about "keeping their beloved country together". Newsflash, chaps : the team you've been supporting is called "Europe", and Alex Salmond is considerably keener on being part of Europe than you are. It's OK, and probably even quite healthy, to occasionally take your own politicians down a peg or two by booing them at a big event on home soil, but to boo another country's First Minister on foreign soil just makes you look boorish and ill-mannered. Fortunately, Mr Salmond quickly silenced the idiots, and earned warm applause during a short but well-judged speech which hit all the right buttons.

One thing that always slightly confuses me about Ryder Cups is the ambivalence among the players towards the distinction between actually winning the match outright, and retaining the trophy by means of drawing the match. The legend of Jack Nicklaus' sportsmanship in 1969 suggests that the distinction does matter, and yet tonight it was as if nobody really cared. I may be wrong, but Tiger Woods' casual concession of a putt on the 18th that was only slightly shorter than the one he had just missed looked more like an expression of disgust and impatience than of sportsmanship.

Last but not least, congratulations to Paul Lawrie. When he won his point I had a horrible feeling it was going to be in vain, just as it had been as he racked up the points in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 1999. Instead it turned into the perfect day. Let's hope that at least one Scot (Martin Laird?) can follow in Lawrie's footsteps, and somehow squeeze into the team for Gleneagles.