Sunday, 13 January 2013

Satanic Savile

Today's Sunday Express offered a free paedometer to every reader. It's a remarkable device: just wave it in the general direction of some passing priest, scoutmaster or retired Seventies DJ, and if he's a pervert it'll start beeping loudly enough to warn off any children within earshot. No family should be without one.

Oh no, sorry, it's a pedometer, which is some sort of fitness device, apparently. My mistake. I must have been distracted by the main headline: "Savile was part of Satanic ring".  Jimmy Savile, we're told, "beat and raped" a 12 year old girl during a Black Mass-style ceremony held in a "candle-lit basement" at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1975. That's right: Stoke Mandeville Hospital had (has?) a Satanic temple in the basement, and no-one knows. It's like something out of Buffy. Wearing a "hooded robe and mask", we learn, Savile "chanted Hail Satan in Latin as other paedophile devil worshippers joined in and assaulted the girl." The tale "shines a sinister new light on the former DJ’s 54-year reign of terror," according to the Express. It certainly shines a sinister light onto something.

If you remember anything about the Satanic Ritual Abuse panic of the late 80s and early 90s, during which children in Rochdale, Orkney and other places were taken from their families amid hair-raising accounts of diabolical rituals, you may recognise the name of the Express's principal - indeed only - source. Valerie Sinason, who describes herself as "a poet, writer, child psychotherapist and adult psychoanalyst", was, indeed still is, the leading proponent of the view that SRA is widespread in Britain. The 1994 book Treating Survivors of Satanist Abuse, which she edited, marked the apogee of the UK's Satanic panic. It was not universally well-received, however. In a largely hostile review Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Minnesota, wrote that it was


Useful for anyone who needs a startling, clear demonstration of the amazing ability of 20th century human beings to persuade themselves to believe firmly in utter claptrap and nonsense. Every contributor... is solidly committed to affirming, supporting, describing and explaining the reality of satanic ritualistic abuse and the actual existence of large numbers of people who engage in the most bizarre, weird, impossible and incredible behaviors. The only problem is they are never really found.

Sinason's claims were seriously undermined in a Department of Health report written by Professor Jean Lafontaine, also released in 1994. Lafontaine argued to the satisfaction of most observers that SRA was not so much a crime as a construct of the therapeutic process, as well as an example of modern urban folklore. Thereafter the claims of widespread organised Satanism largely vanished from the front pages and into the more feverish parts of the Internet - the David Icke Forum, for example, where it has long been a favourite topic of conversation. (Indeed, Icke himself exposed Jimmy Savile as a Satan-worshipping paedophile months before the information filtered into the wider public domain.) For her part Sinason has continued to promote her beliefs and has some prominent backers, including the journalist Beatrix Campbell and the Cross-bench peer Lord Alton, who in 2002 a hosted meeting in Parliament at which campaigners including Sinason presented their evidence. She has also been a regular guest on Woman's Hour.

A good impression of Valerie Sinason's approach can be gained from this exchange in the Observer from December 2011:

Sinason insists she doesn't use recovered-memory techniques. "I'm an analytic therapist," she says. "The idea of that is someone showing, through their behaviour, that all sorts of things might have happened to them." Signs that a patient has suffered satanically include flinching at green or purple objects, the colours of the high priest and priestess's robes. "And if someone shudders when they enter a room, you know it's not ordinary incest."

Another warning, she says, is the patient saying: "I don't know." "What they really mean is: 'I can't bear to say.'" A patient who "overpraises" their family is also suspicious. "The more insecure you are, the more you praise. 'Oh my family was wonderful! I can't remember any of it!'"

But what do these Satanic rituals actually involve? Not just sexual abuse, it turns out:

Sinason talks of a popular ritual in which a child is stitched inside the belly of a dying animal before being 'reborn to Satan'. During other celebrations, "people eat faeces, menstrual blood, semen, urine. There's cannibalism." Some groups have doctors performing abortions. "They give the foetus to the mother and she's made to kill the baby."
"And the cannibalism – that's foetuses?" I clarify.
"Foetuses and bits of bodies."
"Raw or cooked?"
"The foetuses are raw."

It's significant, I think, that many accounts of Satanic Abuse uncovered by Sinason and similarly-inclined therapists, including today's story about Jimmy Savile, relate to events that allegedly took place during the 1970s, a time when Devil-worshipping orgies and ritual murder in suburban locations were a common theme of popular horror films. The memories are real enough, in many cases, but they are memories of things seen on TV rather than of experiences actually undergone.

As for the Savile story, Sinason claims to have been told it by one of her patients in 1992. A second alleged victim approached her a year later and described an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy at a house in a wealthy part of London which she had attended as a 21 year old "supposedly consenting" prostitute.

Along with other young women, the victim was shepherded to wait in another room before being brought back to find Savile in a master of ceremonies kind of role with a group wearing robes and masks. She too heard Latin chanting and instantly recognised satanist regalia.

From films, presumably. Although the two stories are made to seem similar, they actually differ significantly, the first being a "classic" case of SRA and the second more along the lines of a kinky party. Interestingly, the other papers haven't picked up on the Express report. Perhaps they sense that it's a Savile story too far. It's very much Express territory, of a piece with the title's long-running promotion of conspiracy theories involving Diana and Madeleine McCann.

One place the Express splash has been greeted warmly is on the David Icke Forum. "What we had all hoped for," said one regular on the site's gargantuan (2000 pages and counting) Savile thread. For the lizard-spotters, the news that Savile's links with organised Satanism has finally broken into the mainstream media is a welcome development after the disappointment of Friday's official Police/NSPCC report. One forum member described the latter as

Utterly insufficient and denying 'clear' evidence of a paedophile ring. It is what they have had to do because Savile was a procurer for the rich and powerful but ALSO I am increasingly certain to say working for British Intelligence. He had to be, he was afforded, and still is after death, such enveloping protection spanning all those years and hospital, prison, royal, foreign access and close interaction with the highest of the 'high'. He possessed links to links to links and used those links to forge further ones with the help and advocacy of the British establishment and the power of blackmail.

That's the Savile conspiracy theory in a nutshell. And to be fair, if Savile was indeed as prolific and monstrous an offender as the consensus now holds him to be, some such explanation of how he managed to evade detection is not wholly implausible.

Most of the press, as yet unwilling to pursue the Satanism angle (or other Ickean themes, for example Savile's strangely close relationship with members of the royal family and senior politicians) have contented themselves with hyperbole. They're helped in this by the wholly uncritical nature of the NSPCC-backed report (pdf), which is based on the dangerous principle that any claim made by a self-identified victim must perforce be true, and by the headline-grabbing comments made by its authors. While most newspapers virtually ignored the much more substantial and balanced report prepared for the CPS by Alison Levitt QC, all gave prominence to the plainly absurd statement by Commander Peter Spindler that Savile had "spent every minute of every waking day thinking about". On the basis of such authoritative pronouncements, The Sun can call Savile "Britain's worst ever sex-beast" without fear of contradiction (who now remembers Fred West?) while the once-serious Times is reduced to breathless tabloidese:

Savile even turned his long-running Jim'll Fix It television show into a vehicle for depravity when he pored through his fan letters to pick out victims.

Amid all this media groupthink, Charles Moore has been a lone dissenting voice. The press, which turned a blind eye to allegations against the old creep while he was alive, so invested was it in the narrative of St Jimmy the tireless charity-worker and quintessential Yorkshire "character", is now equally wedded to the idea that anyone he so much as breathed upon must have been the victim of horrendous abuse. The only serious analysis I've seen is by Anna Raccoon, who apart from her formidable forensic talents has personal knowledge of Duncroft Approved School, which was the source of the highest-profile allegations. There are some highly enlightening comments there, too.

Such voices of balance and rationality are fighting an uphill struggle, though. As far as the British media are concerned, Evil now has a new face, complete straggly blonde hair and a cigar. Whether or not Jimmy Savile worshipped Satan is largely beside the point. He was Satan.