A plague of mutant rats the size of cows threatens Britain. Or so the redtop tabloid Daily Star claimed last week in a front-page splash.
It caught my attention on the newsstands not just for its eye-popping improbability but also because it came on the same day as the latest “horrific” and “sickening” revelations about the alleged depravities of the late Jimmy Savile were dominating supposedly more sober and respectable media outlets, including the BBC.
Even more eye-poppingly, literally, Savile was said to have stolen glass eyes from corpses to make rings and other pieces of jewellery, and also to have had sex with corpses. The reason why even the “quality” media gobbled up this bullshit with greedy alacrity, like a monstrous mutant rat getting its teeth into tasty, tender human children, is that it was all safely in an official government report. So it must be true then!
Whereas the mutant rats thing turned out to be just an obviously exaggerated version of a quote from a scientist, the government report, from the Department of Health, was based on accounts from “victims” and others who had known Savile. And we all know that “victims” are never sad fantasists and attention seekers or compo-hunting liars, don’t we?
The Guardian wheeled out famous psychotherapist Oliver James to explain Savile’s psychopathic deeds; the Sunday Telegraph had Glenda Cooper saying the original stories of sexual predation had “turned into a Gothic monstrosity that even the Brothers Grimm would struggle to imagine”.
Neither of them significantly challenged the evidence.
The mainstream media across the board failed dismally to stress-test this story but at least the admirable Anna Raccoon has stepped into the breach in her blog Eyeball Eyewash! – The Yewtree Allegations.
Anna reports her reaction as one of “utter shock” at the ridiculous nature of the allegations. She sets out a number of them, as detailed in the official accounts, and invites her readers to “gaze in wonder at the hours of expensive NHS time that has been expended writing these reports, the hours of conference time, the NHS resources expended….enjoy!”
For the full works, see Anna’s blog. Here is a taster (with my own bold text for emphasis), this being from a report by the Director of Corporate Affairs at the Royal Hospital, Portsmouth:
An alleged sexual abuse reported to Operation Yewtree: committed by Jimmy Savile against a patient at the Royal Hospital in Portsmouth in 1968. This information is related to an allegation by an individual who said that he had been told that he had been abused by Jimmy Savile but that victim had no recollection of the incident. The victim did not know the name of the witness to the alleged abuse who told him that it had occurred.
No interviews of staff have been conducted, as the only staff member involved was the cleaner who had supposedly witnessed the alleged attack. It has not been possible to identify this witness as the complainant was unable to provide a name or description of her. No documentary evidence exists that confirms this or any other visit to the hospital by Jimmy Savile.
I have been provided with a summary of the interview, conducted by Gosport Police at the complainant’s local police station, which includes descriptions and assertions by the complainant that appears to be either fanciful or impossible. Gosport Police state in their summary that they do not consider him to be a credible witness. The complainant was asked, during his interview with the Police, why he had only now come forward with the allegation. He replied that “he might be believed as others had reported the same and that he wanted the BBC to be fined and held to account as they knew what was going on and chose not to investigate”.
Details provided to me during my interview with the complainant were broadly similar to those given to the Police, although there were some significant differences and 5 omissions. However, this is perhaps not necessarily surprising when considering the time that has elapsed since the alleged incident and that the complainant suffers from schizophrenia and memory loss. The complainant told me, when I asked why he had chosen to speak out about the incident after 46 years, that he wanted some compensation.
This document speaks eloquently for itself, as do the other “victim” reports Anna sets out. So I need say no more about them.
Back to those mutant rats, then. In case you are wondering, the only authority given for that “big as cows” claim was an unnamed report. In addition, Leicester University scientist Dr Jan Zalasiewicz was quoted as saying, “Given enough time, rats could probably grow to be at least as large as the capybara, the world’s largest rodent, that lives today, that can reach 80 kilos.” Impressive enough, you might think, but the average size of cattle is 753 kilos. The biggest breeds, such as Aberdeen Angus and the Hereford, can weigh more than a ton and a half without looking fat (1600 kilos), while the smallest, such as the Jersey, do not average less than 272 kilos.
How do I know? Because I’ve looked it up, of course. It’s a bit sad, arguably, being such a fact anorak. Those, like me, for whom facts, facts, facts are all-important have had a bad press ourselves. In his novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens gave us the character Thomas Gradgrind, a fact-obsessed headmaster, to paint fact freaks as unimaginative, soulless, boring types. The classroom, to be sure, is a place where kids’ creativity should be given free rein. Learning isn’t just about cramming their heads with information. There’s a place for poetry and invention, including the telling of tall stories.
But there is also a time to get real, when the fantasising needs to stop. So far as Savile mania is concerned, this is just such a time. The current orgy of credulous gorging on gossip about Jimmy Savile alarmingly reveals a sort of mass infantilizing of the nation: we demand scary fairy tales, not reality. This is deeply dangerous.
Comments posted at Heretic TOC have now passed the 2,000 mark. It’s good to see such a lively active interest from readers. Thank you, everyone! The most recent blog, as I write, has attracted 47 comments. This is well above the overall average of about 17 comments per blog over the 115 articles published to date. It would take a while to check, but my impression is that the average number is on the whole rising over time although it all depends on the subject. Remarkably, some of my own favourite pieces have attracted relatively little comment. I like to think that’s because I have covered the topic well enough and readers feel they have no need to add anything! What really gets people going, of course, is when there are differences between us on matters we care passionately about. Your input is always interesting but when there is controversy it becomes even more valuable.