We’ve all heard that plea, usually said in some movie or television series by someone hysterical about something that is happening around them. Usually the thing that the character is getting hysterical about is nothing to do with children at all and unlikely to harm them in any way that a sane person can think of. But panic has never been a particularly sane state of mind. Some would argue that panic, particularly the sort that is usually associated with mass hysteria, is actually a form of temporary insanity. Whether or not those people are right or wrong, the similarities are uncanny. Reason goes out the window and is replaced with knee jerk reactions to catalysts both imagined and real. I personally have always regarded this as one of the true dangers to the children they call on us to be thinking about.
Take the recent saga of Jimmy Saville (those who have lived in the UK can skip ahead a little as I’m about to explain who this man was to those readers who live outside of this country). For those who are still with us, Jimmy was a DJ and radio presenter in the UK for approximately three centuries. He hosted several television shows throughout his long career but was best known for Jim’ll Fix It, a show where children would write in with a request and he would set it up to actually happen for them. He was kind of like the Make A Wish Foundation but without that pesky “child must be dying” clause. For years Jim fixed it for kids to have their wildest dreams come true. Granted, these dreams were usually tame and cheap like dancing with whatever pop group is flavour of the month (this was in the days before a band would sell one copy of a song and start acting like divas) or having a suitcase prop for them to sit in as they went around an airport luggage carousel (European kids were training to be Olympic athletes while the Brits wanted to be luggage it seems).
Jimmy died this time last year and several tributes to his career were held, including a last episode of Jim’ll Fix It (hosted by Shane Richie who obviously thought Jims ghost was fixing things from beyond the grave by keeping the name). It was this year that the rumours started to come out. Jimmy Saville was a paedophile they were saying. He slept with girls as young as thirteen and pressured them into sex. During his days of fame he used his massive amounts of charity work (thought to have been worth millions per year) to force those who would have exposed him into backing down and burying the stories. When the stories started to come to light after his death, those self same newspapers that supposedly buried the stories conveniently forgot their role in this story and began to villify everyone who may have been involved in any cover up.
Now I’m not going to talk about whether or not I believe Jimmy Saville was innocent or guilty. The man is dead and, innocent or guilty, he won’t get to tell his version of events. There are people who worked with him closely who say that his only real crime is that he wasn’t about to check IDs if a girl looked old enough. Whether that is simply his friends covering for him, whether that was him hiding his true self from those he was close with, whether it is true or not makes no difference to me. I do think it is tacky for people who applauded him while alive to suddenly come out and say they only did it because he threatened them. Having said that I am looking into getting a Jim Fixed It For Me t-shirt and adding suspicious quotes so it reads Jim “Fixed It” For Me instead. So yeah, who am I to talk about tack eh?
Anyway, on with the show. The whole thing is being spun as much as possible by the newspapers. We all know what they’re like. As soon as they find a bone, they’ll tear at it until there is nothing else they can get, then move on to the marrow. In this particular case they’ve hit every single angle you can think of (apart from admitting their own role in the highly organised cover up that they keep talking about). I, and others, are so sick of the story that our minds automatically turn off if we see anything about it now. That was until today when I saw something in a newspaper that horrified me.
Again I’ll take a moment here for my out of country readers to let them know about Children In Need. This is a charity show that is held once per year in the UK. The show has whatever celebrities they can get on for a variety show of entertainment and pledge drives. Celebrities man the phones and special mini versions of shows are put on throughout the night, amongst live acts from musicians and the like. Every year they raise millions for childrens charities in the UK. Everything from abused children to homeless and those who live in poor conditions are looked after by the Children In Need fund and over £600 million pounds have been donated since its inception in 1980. Which is why this disgusted me.
What they’re talking about there is Peter Saunders, the chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC). Mr Saunders has pointed out that, during the days when Savilles status as an abuser was unheard of, Saville took part in several Children In Need shows. Several times he produced a smaller version of Jim’ll Fix It for the show and had answered phones for pledges as well. Mr Saunders believes that the BBC need to apologise on air for these things having happened, despite there being no connection to any of the charges levelled against Saville to his work on these shows. Personally I think that is an over reaction, but I can see why it is being called for. I can also see that it is the first step in the sort of panic that calls for us to think about the children. What I object to is NAPAC and other charities that support abused children saying that the BBC needs to show support for them in the light of this scandal by prioritising donations to them. They believe that this scandal means that they should get a higher share of the cash. Fair enough some people may think, but let me ask you this – where is that extra cash coming from?
The pledge drive will only bring in so much money and that money is usually shared out amongst charities supporting children in the UK aged 18 and under who have mental, physical or sensory disorders; behavioural or psychological disorders; are living in poverty or situations of deprivation; or suffering through distress, sexual abuse or neglect. Increasing the share that one of those sets of charities gets benefits them but at the cost of all those others. Yes, abused children would get more money spent on them but those who suffer from mental illness or are blind or deaf will have less. Those children who live in poverty most of us can’t imagine outside of some Dickensian nightmare would have less money spent on them. Those children who were orphaned and are too old or simply not cute enough to escape the system via adoption would suffer once again. The money has to come from somewhere, and it is these children who will suffer for the sake of showing solidarity with those who feel they talk for others who feel wronged.
For once, let it be my voice asking you all to think of the children but with one caveat. Think of all those who need help, not simply the ones within your purview or that it has become fashionable to support. Think of the suffering that all of these children go through and let the show distribute the funds the way it has been doing for twenty-two years – to everyone it can.