I have just come across an interesting theory which might explain why serial child abuser Jimmy Savile was not outed in his lifetime.
It is based in a work of Ludwik Flek, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact, written in 1935.
Flek basically says that facts are social constructions – not the definite, permanent and independent construction of science or other rational enquiry.
Once a structurally complete and closed system of opinions consisting of many details and relations has been formed, it offers enduring resistance to anything that contradicts it.
He argues that this resistance is not simple passivity or mistrust of new ideas but an active process which can be divided into several stages: (NB; A thought style is the term Flek uses to describe the social and culture conditioning which constrains us from choosing between concepts. Those reflecting a particular thought style he terms ‘thought collectives’)
- At first, contradictions of the prevailing thought style are unthinkable;
- So, what does not fit into the style is not seen;
- Or if it is noticed, it is kept secret;
- Or laborious efforts are made to explain an exception in terms that do not contradict the thought style;
- Then despite the legitimate claims of contradictory views, there is a tendency to see only that which corroborates current views and therefore gives them substance.
This reads like a template of the Jimmy Savile (and many other) scandals. His celebrity was a thought style in part of the BBC, a co-created reality. His paedophilia contradicted this reality and, despite the rumours and even Savile’s own unsubtle hints, blind eyes were turned. He was not believed.
Even more tragically, his victims felt unable to accuse him. Their ‘thought style’ – based on what they had experienced – was opposed to the prevailing reality. They not only faced not being believed, but possibly also faced some form of annihilation of their identity as well.
This may go some way to explaining why BBC Newsnight dropped its planned expose of Savile.
It may also explain why the new ‘thought style’ (Savile the paedo) has gathered such momentum – it fits our current thought style about the need to protect children and the demonising of those who would make them suffer. That wasn’t the thought style in the 70s, 80s, 90s etc.
The story of the Emperor’s New Clothes is a workable metaphor for the idea of thought styles and thought communities.