Now the 2014 New Years Honours List has been revealed, my thoughts return to that erstwhile Knight of the British Empire and dark phenomena that was Jimmy Savile, as they have many times during the past two years of research, background reading and reflection on the nature of malignant narcissism, for the purposes of writing my latest novel, ‘The Life Coach less Travelled.’ Jim the Fixer makes the main character of my novel look like a novice. That’s the point.
The premise of my novel was influenced by my exploration of the characteristics of people with narcissistic personality disorder, including the works of the late psychiatrist, M. Scott Peck, particularly ‘The Road Less Travelled’ (1978) and ‘The People of the Lie’ (1983) which I think of as attempts to describe psychologies of love and evil respectively. In the latter, the author asserts that the evil hide their motives with lies, want to appear to be good and seek to discourage others to think for themselves by fostering dependency, that when confronted by evil, the wisest and most secure adult will usually experience confusion, and in order to oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all cost.
Jimmy Savile is a model of malignant narcissism when measured against the above criteria and the ‘Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder’ listed by PsychCentral.com below:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes
Much of the above has always been self-evident in Savile’s behaviour, I would argue. With regard to the sense of entitlement, I imagine that he actually felt that he was owed something from the young and other vulnerable people he preyed upon; that he deserved to be indulged because of who he was and what he had done for them, and that they were in some way privileged by his attention. I also believe that to him they were just objects for his gratification, not really worthy of any other consideration.
In 1991, after an interview with Savile, BBC psychiatrist Anthony Clare was left with serious concerns about the popular broadcaster of the time; the ‘saint’ with no feelings, who spoke of enjoying ‘ultimate freedom’ and its potential for corruption and his planned means of escape should things go wrong for him. To me, in that interview Savile was demonstrating the trait of not submitting to anything ‘higher than oneself’, which Scott Peck highlighted in the evil; a sense of being ‘above the law.’
Savile was “hiding in plain sight” during his offending, which began in 1955, says the Metropolitan Police report (Jan. 2013) of Operation Yewtree, the investigation into Savile’s offending. Commander Spindler, head of the inquiry, said Savile had “groomed a nation” and that the report “paints a stark picture emphasising the tragic consequences of when vulnerability and power collide”. He said Savile’s “offending footprint” was “vast, predatory and opportunistic”.
There are so many examples of Savile’s disdain, his litigiousness, his making scapegoats out of anyone who threatened him, the fear he engendered in any who might be brave enough to do so, the universal confusion caused by his actions and the more specific mental disturbances experienced by the vulnerable and dependent he preyed on. But who were Savile’s ‘enablers’? Even he couldn’t do it all on his own.
“There are serious questions to answer,” said Alan Collins, a lawyer specialising in sexual abuse cases, having taken evidence from 12 people, men and women, who claimed to have been abused by the presenter . “The story is not about Savile. The real story is how was he able to get away with abusing children, if that is what was happening, for so long. They [the BBC] were in awe of this man and were scared of him. If you allow that dominating culture to develop, all the child abuse measures in the world aren’t going to stop that.”
Challenging the narcissist takes courage, but if done, starves the monster. That’s love, isn’t it, according to Scott Peck? Extending oneself for the growth (as opposed to the destruction) of another. However, the culture which protected Savile and allowed him to thrive would also have to be challenged, although even now it seems that those ‘in the know’ have a great deal to lose, should their complicity or moral cowardice be exposed.
Now what? Now what? Now what?