When Louis asked Jimmy about being a paedophile

A scene from the 2000 interview shows the allegations were a long time coming.

The culture of silence around the apparently widely known allegations that Jimmy Savile abused children who appeared on Jim'll Fix It in the 1970s was strong, but not impermeable. One of the few people to break it - even slightly - was broadcaster Louis Theroux, who had the following conversation with Savile in When Louis Met Jimmy, which aired in April 2000:

Voiceover: We were nearing the end of our time together, and as we headed back to Leeds, it was clear that Jimmy was pleased about the press coverage of his broken ankle.

But it struck me that his relationship with the press hasn't always been a happy one.

Louis: So, why do you say in interviews that you hate children when I've seen you with kids and you clearly enjoy their company and you have a good rapport with them? 

Jimmy: Right, obviously I don't hate 'em. That's number one. 

Louis: Yeah. So why would you say that then? 

Jimmy: Because we live in a very funny world. And it's easier for me, as a single man, to say "I don't like children" because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt. 

Louis: Are you basically saying that so tabloids don't, you know, pursue this whole 'Is he/isn't he a paedophile?' line, basically? 

Jimmy: Yes, yes, yes. Oh, aye. How do they know whether I am or not? How does anybody know whether I am? Nobody knows whether I am or not. I know I'm not, so I can tell you from experience that the easy way of doing it when they're saying "Oh, you have all them children on Jim'll Fix It", say "Yeah, I hate 'em." 

Louis: Yeah. To me that sounds more, sort of, suspicious in a way though, because it seems so implausible. 

Jimmy: Well, that's my policy, that's the way it goes. That's what I do. And it's worked a dream. 

Pause

Louis: Has it worked? 

Jimmy: A dream. 

Pause

Louis: Why have you said in interviews that you don't have emotions? 

Jimmy: Because it's easier. It's easier. You say you've emotions then you've got to explain 'em for two hours. 

Jimmy: The truth is I'm very good at masking them. 

The scene is not online, but the chat begins at 44:40 in this episode.

Louis and Jimmy. Photograph: BBC

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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