Mark Steel: Why are we surprised by wrongdoing?

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The Independent Online

Investment bankers must have been so relieved. Fred Goodwin will have seen the quotes from executives saying, "We all suspected this reckless behaviour was going on but it was considered normal" and "No one dared criticise then but now I think he should be stripped of his knighthood", and thought "They're starting on me again. Oh hang on, that's a result, it's Jimmy Savile".

This keeps happening. Politicians who grovelled to Rupert Murdoch for years now gasp, "Well, who'd have thought it, it turns out his papers lied and cheated. If only there'd been some clue that his main concern was with his own power. It's always the quiet retiring ones who are up to no good".

There's astonishment that bankers were greedy, or police lied, when anyone vaguely connected to the universe knew this. It's like letting a bunch of crocodiles loose in a swimming pool and after they've eaten everyone going, "None of us could have had any idea this would happen. Maybe we should consider tighter regulation on crocodiles, as long as they agree to a system that doesn't restrict the important work we expect our carnivores to do".

But of all the revered institutions that were clearly up to no good, none was more obviously sinister than Jimmy bloody Savile. I felt abused by him when I was 13 and I only saw him on the telly.

Partly he was protected by his association with charity; anything's forgiven if that's on the CV. But what may have saved Savile even more was the saintliness granted to those celebrities whose entire image is built around being wholesome and uncontroversial, full of goodness and virtue, to be loved by all the family. So for the many people who witnessed teenage girls routinely lured into his dressing room, making an official complaint must have seemed as futile as a bank clerk in 2007 saying, "Are you sure we should lend another million dollars to Mr Stanford?" The only surprise so far about the revelations is that Tony Blair doesn't seem to have had his picture taken with him before going on holiday with him and selling him a tank.