Little lies set course until no way back

19:49, Nov 04 2012
ALLEGED COVER-UP: Late BBC children's television star Jimmy Savile has been accused of being one of the Britain's most prolific sex predators.
ALLEGED COVER-UP: Late BBC children's television star Jimmy Savile is suspected of being one of Britain's most prolific sex predators.

"Liar, liar, cycle pants on fire." After 20 years of Lance Armstrong passing urine samples, it appears the drug testers weren't the only ones taking the p . . . in the world of professional cycling. They all were.

Now the adulation that was heaped on Lance has turned to disgust. In turn we are flinging that disgust back at him in equal measure. Like the rotating pedals on a bicycle, it is a seamless cyclical transition.

The same can be said in the case of Sir Jimmy Savile. The British television icon who spent over 40 years breathing the rarefied air of celebrity, has finally had the spotlight turned away from what he wanted us to see. Now we see what he didn't want us to see. It isn't pleasant.

While neither of these two cases directly relate to New Zealand, you'd be a fool to think there's not a bucket load of lessons to be learnt from them.

The BBC's involvement in the Savile story is still being fleshed out, but it's unlikely they are going to come out looking anything but complicit in his actions. Turning a blind eye is no excuse.

As in the Armstrong case, the media has been shown to be seriously lacking. What is the purpose of a "free press" if not to ask hard questions? Why didn't they dig deeper?


For Savile it was 40 years of preying on women and young girls and for Lance Armstrong it was 20 years of drug taking. Savile's entire career was performed inside the "belly of the beast" and likewise for Armstrong, the media were all over his every move. So why has the truth, or anything like the truth, taken so long to surface?

"They securitised the risk by ensuring that others had as much to lose as they." That's what Chris Hackley says in his blog. He goes on to say, "like investment bankers . . . [Armstrong and Savile] managed to get others to buy into small packages of nefariousness to spread the risk through mutual complicity."

Hackley's a professor of marketing in England so he uses big words like "nefariousness" all the time. It's a good one. So too the phrase "mutual complicity".

Just the other day, in little old Nelson, police tried out their own example of "mutual complicity" with the courts. As a result charges for 21 people were thrown out. A lot of work came to very little, but in the end the courts wouldn't accept being used as part of the game in building up the story and the evidence of an undercover policeman.

It's a tragedy the BBC accepted being used in Savile's games. Small "indiscretions" were tolerated. Pretty soon they weren't so small, but the "blind eyes" continued to be turned. Before long, they had no other option but to continue to be turned.

It was the same for Lance Armstrong. He too raised millions for charity. His back-story of surviving cancer cut him some slack. It was all he needed.

With every yellow tour-leaders jersey, podium finish, title and high profile sponsor added to his stable, the truth continued to get more unpalatable and more distant by the day.

Little lies were easy to tell and they soon built up. They set like concrete. Soon they were both enormous and unmoveable.

Big lies, as Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, are easier to accept by the public because they call into question so much of what they believe. When it comes to lying and deceiving the masses, Hitler knew what he was talking about.

For years accusations of drug taking around Lance Armstrong and his team of elite cyclists have existed. But because the lies surrounding professional cycling were just so big, people refused to accept the accusations. Many still do.

So in New Zealand, when we jump up and down about little lies, I am happy.

When our leaders are shown to turn a blind eye to small things, I am not happy.

And if there are any "big lies" we are missing, I want people with fresh eyes to draw our attention to them.

So how about this for a big lie then - neo-liberal economics. After 30 years of the same old tired ideas, why is much of the Western world still refusing to change direction? What shape is New Zealand in today compared with 30 years ago?

The GFC has continued for five years and what have we changed? Our leaders still shrug their shoulders and accept neo-liberal morality as if it is the only option.

When the machinery that surrounds won't allow something wrong to be made right, we have problems.

Sir Jimmy Savile wasn't allowed to be a paedophile and Lance Armstrong wasn't allowed to be a drug cheat.

Like banks, sometimes people and ideas just get too big to fail.