Tuesday, July 28, 2009 

The summer holidays were here again...

The silly season, in case you haven't already noticed, has begun in earnest. Not that newspapers and news sites aren't normally stocked fully with churnalism, but it just becomes instantly more evident when there's next to no real news around.

In case then you wondering, the Wookey Hole witch is a publicity stunt. Even if they are paying the winner £50,000, that's nothing as to the free advertising they've received and will receive, especially when compared to how much it would cost to take out adverts on the same pages and same size as the stories themselves will appear. Likewise, the BBC story that "Swedes miss Capri after GPS gaffe" is almost certainly a similar piece of churnalism. It's plausible, as anyone could accidentally make a typo on their system and be guided to Carpi instead of Capri, but like the Wookey Hole story it makes for excellent publicity, even if it isn't as unbelievable as the benchmark, the "Cab, innit", girl. Not directly publicity seeking churnalism, but also designed to fill up the pages, is the Coca Cola carbonated milk launch, which is only happening in the US. Why then do we care over here? Because we haven't much choice.

Over in the Sun they don't need so much churnalism because they've bought Amy Winehouse's ex-husband's story, no doubt for a gigantic wad of cash. This is despite the fact that the newspaper on numerous occasions directly blamed Blake Fielder-Civil for Winehouse's descent into drug addiction, and which it is now handsomely profiting from, with such eye-opening exclusives as the fact that Fielder-Civil saved her from an overdose, and that she stole cocaine from Kate Moss's bag. Winehouse herself in fact claimed that Fielder-Civil saved her, as reported by the Sun at the time, except with the added aside by the paper that FC left her in hospital to go and collect another fix. Doubtless though, the Sun was merely misinformed, and reports headlined "Amy's lag hubby has no shame", "Amy and Blake back to worst", "for God's sake, get help Amy!", "Amy stop your brainrotting", and "You should be ashamed Blake" were mistakes, all now rectified thanks to a bulging cheque.

With all this in mind, the Daily Quail has set up a form where anyone can submit a post mocking a specific example of piss-poor journalism, which has this blog's full support.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008 

Scum-watch: Chasing Amy.

Surprise, surprise, Amy Winehouse is not to be charged over a video which the Scum "obtained" (i.e. purchased from one of Winehouse's "friends" for a no doubt colossal amount of money, much like the video of Kate Moss snorting what might have been cocaine was purchased from one of Pete Doherty's friends), meant to show her smoking crack cocaine. This is of course for the obvious reason that the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt in a court that what Winehouse was smoking was crack; the only way in which she could have been charged over the video was if she made the mistake of admitting to the police that yes, she had been inhaling that wonderful rock and getting completely off her tits. Doubtless when interviewed about it she maintained her right to remain silent, as even the most junior law student would have told her to.

According to the Sun, who after all, paid a lot of Rupert Murdoch's money for this footage, it's a front-page worthy outrage. As the learned Mr Power says, the issue with drugs is that it is not illegal to consume them in the privacy of your own boudoir or bedsit, but it is illegal to have them in your possession. La Winehouse, unlike her luminary Mr Doherty, tends not to make the mistake of continuously being caught with them, although she was fined after cannabis was found in her possession whilst in Norway. If Winehouse had been spotted smoking crack on CCTV, then it might be a different matter. My brother whilst on holiday in Whitley Bay made the mistake of going for a late night walk along the promenade while indulging in the wicked weed, only for the police to suddenly come blaring up, alerted by an eagle-eyed CCTV supervisor.

When it comes to weak, absurd and downright draconian arguments, the Sun's leader on why Winehouse should be brought before a court and presumably sent down for a long time takes the biscuit:

THERE cannot be one person who does not believe Amy Winehouse was smoking crack in a video obtained by The Sun.

That's not the issue here. The police have to be able to have a strong enough case for the Crown Prosecution Service to agree that taking the matter to court will both result in the high possibility of a conviction and that it is in the interest of both the public and the public purse. From just a video, especially one as badly lit and difficult to make out as the Sun's, that simply isn't possible.

Yet police will not prosecute her.

They think they could not secure a conviction on video evidence alone.

Which they certainly couldn't. The judge would throw the case out.

The Sun is deeply concerned.

When stars revel in the degradation of drug abuse, there SHOULD be a way to prosecute them.

Amy’s video is encouragement to break the law.

What utter twaddle. If a young, successful woman looking an utter state, in such apparent desperation that she has to take one of the most addictive but also destructive substances known to man is revelling in degradation or an encouragement to break the law, then the eye of the beholder who thinks in such a way is probably themselves already way beyond help. Fact is, no one would have known about Winehouse's taking of crack if the Sun hadn't bought the video off of one of her so-called mates; she's not encouraging people to break the law or revelling in the degradation of drug abuse to the public, but the newspaper that then brings such things to light when there is no public interest in such matters certainly is. All tabloid newspapers have very funny ideas of what privacy is, but none more so apparently than the Sun.

If you’re caught on CCTV using threatening behaviour, you are charged.

It should be the same for taking drugs on video.

The difference is that CCTV can be used to prove that you were being threatening: it cannot be used to prove that you're taking a controlled substance unless they get you completely bang to rights with you talking about what you're doing while injecting yourself or likewise. Even if you're filmed smoking what looks like a spliff you can argue that it's in fact a long roll-up as long as they don't actually catch you before you've finished it, and you can also argue that white substance you were snorting was not actually cocaine but flour, sugar or something else that looks suspiciously like cocaine when filmed in low quality. This ought to be common sense: otherwise we'd have busybody morons reporting every video featured on YouTube that might show someone taking drugs to the police, or even groups like Mediawatch reporting programmes to the police that show actors supposedly taking drugs. That's the kind of territory we're getting into.

We have laws against glorification of terrorism. So why not against the glorification of drug-taking?

Taking crack in private while talking to someone is now considered to be the "glorification of drug-taking". While we're at it why don't we also make glorification of hitting your husband while drunk illegal, or glorification of anything that breaks the law illegal? What the Sun is asking for is a law to be drawn up which means the press can legally justify their invasions of others' privacy.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith admitted yesterday that she herself SHOULD have been charged for smoking cannabis at university.

Which just proves what a vindictive petty little woman she is. Let's ruin the lives of everyone who dares to enjoy a drug which according to numerous studies is both less dangerous and harmful than either tobacco or alcohol. Incidentally, as we all know, journalists have never personally indulged in drug taking of any kind, and certainly don't snort for Great Britain at the weekend along with a distinct minority of the chattering classes of London. No sirree, they're most certainly not the most loathsome of hypocrites.

The law needs to be upheld in spirit as well as letter.

The Home Secretary accepts that. So let her create a law to save lives.

We're back to the same ignorant and patronising argument used for prohibition in general. The government is putting cannabis back in Class B to protect young people's health, not to placate right-wing ideologues in the so-called popular press who've been running hysterically distorted campaigns demanding just that. This isn't going to save any lives, it's instead crude gesture politics of the worst and most pitiful kind to cover up for the Sun's embarrassment in not getting their own way all the time.

Maybe Amy’s, too.

Oh yes, we have to remember, the Sun is doing all this for Amy's sake you see. It's not because it sells newspapers and brings major attention to the paper in general when it grabs such exclusives, it's because they deeply deeply care about Amy and don't want to see her talent being snatched away through the cycle of drug abuse.

The reality is that the last thing the newspaper wants to happen is for not just Amy, but for any celebrity in general to get off the wagon. After all, that means they don't have anything to write about or splash on their showbiz pages. Celebrity in going home and getting an early night outrage doesn't tend to make the headlines. In any case, just how much the newspaper cares about Winehouse was displayed when it and others crudely invaded and also probably set-up the circumstances in which she was previously photographed in tears in the street during the middle of the night wearing only a bra on her top half. That then was because they cared, not because it made such sensational copy and allowed them to ghoulishly and voyeuristically speculate on what she might have been going through while they profited from her discomfort. This is the legal kind of stalking, and it has no justification whatsoever. The war on drugs will not be won through such idiotic posturing, but through realising that prohibition and indignation go hand in hand in keeping the problem just the way it's been for the last 40 years.

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Friday, April 25, 2008 

Scratch my leg with a rusty nail.

Once upon a time, your humble narrator felt that a career in journalism would be a wonderful idea. So much so that he applied to take a BA in journalism at university, and was meant to take up his confirmed place, only to decide not to due to previously discussed ill-health. To come out of the third-person, I had much the same dreams as probably most of the others at 18 have when they decide to take a degree in journalism: I wanted to muck-rake, scream about injustice to a wide audience, generally shake things up, in that teenage, upper-sixth right-on spirit of combustion yet to be strangled just after birth by cynicism and reality.

As you can probably tell by the fact I've been writing this sad glorified open diary for almost three years, I haven't entirely abandoned some elements of that dream. If I had taken that course I would now be fast approaching the second anniversary of my graduation, and more than likely be now either unemployed or installed at the very lowest rung of the journalistic ladder: thrashing out churnalism for a local paper, writing copy about young footballers or the opening of a new shop, the amazing success of a charity event, or if I was really lucky, about a pensioner being mugged for their fish and chips, earning a pittance while not having a minute to breathe or to actually do anything approaching what I would have been taught during my 3 years of relative instructional tranquillity.

Strip away the sexiness and glamour of the select few that make it on a national stage, which in itself is about as a sexy as Rod Stewart and as glamourous as Jodie Marsh, and no bones about it, being a journalist is really ignoble, irredeemable, and ultimately unrewarding work. In actuality, this is deceptive: by direct comparison to "showbiz" and "entertainment" journalism, local journalists are among the veritable salts of the earth, providing a service that many would miss horribly were it to suddenly disappear. If the entire staff of Heat, Closer, and all the rest of the gossip mags and newspaper equivalents were to be found dead in their beds tomorrow, it wouldn't be a time for sadness and reflection; it would be time to declare a national holiday that would easily surpass St George's Day in popularity, and what's more, it would be genuinely British, unlike the mythical Palestinian. The Mysterious Death of the Scum Day, decreed as a bank holiday by the Supreme Leader himself.

How better to illustrate why no would mourn the sudden death of the paparazzi and showbiz hacks than today's Mail (and Express) front page, featuring one of the few snatched snaps which doesn't have Billie Piper with her top off, with the paper implying that Piper might be pregnant. Not that it has any evidence whatsoever that she is with child; it just thinks she may be because her stomach looks slightly bloated and because she's patting it. This is the sort of thing which is the meat and potatoes of such hackery: female celeb looks slightly more rotund than usual; she's pregnant or becoming a porker! Female celeb looks like she's lost a slight amount of weight; she's anorexic! When there's no stories of celebs shagging each other to fill the front pages of Heat etc, this is just what they fall back on. When the Daily Mail, a supposed newspaper, has nothing better than to splash such bilge on its front page, it's just undeniably tragic of how far journalism in this country continues to fall.

The press do have unpleasant form in this area for either getting it completely wrong or breaking the news before the individual themselves has told anyone. Anton Vowl relates the recent story of Lisa Marie Presley who had to admit to being pregnant after the Mail accused her of getting fat. Back at the beginning of last year, Charlotte Church complained to the PCC after the Sun published reports of "rumours" about her being pregnant, rumours which it knew for a fact were true because Church's PR had told them after they enquired about it. Their request was that they not print it until Church had been for her 12-week scan and her doctor said that it would be OK to tell her family and friends, due to the risks of complications or miscarriage. The Sun instead printed the "rumours" anyway, with the PCC adjudicating in Church's favour:

The Commission has recently made clear that newspapers should not reveal the fact of someone’s pregnancy before the 12 week scan without consent and when the information is not known to any significant degree. The newspaper’s defence in this case was that it had merely reported rumours that the complainant was pregnant because of a change in her behaviour. But the newspaper had provided no evidence of any rumours, and had not denied that it had known for a fact that she was pregnant when it published the piece. In these circumstances it seemed to the Commission that the newspaper had simply tried to circumvent the privacy provisions of the Code by presenting the story as speculation. This was not acceptable within the spirit of the Code. The complaint was upheld.

Similarly pathetic and intrusive behaviour is in evidence tonight involving Amy Winehouse, who is becoming one of those being serially offended against. This time however it doesn't involve the usual suspects but the usually above the fray BBC. On the Ten O'Clock News a reporter had the pointless task of standing outside a police station, informing the nation that La Winehouse was inside and apparently not likely to be questioned until the morning because she was currently "not in a fit state" to be interviewed. Why he needed to be there if that was the case, why the report was on the news at all, and why anyone other than the most sickening obsessives care that Winehouse had been arrested in the first place are all questions that the BBC or anyone else for that matter will never be able to answer adequately.

Nick Davies' conclusion in Flat Earth News is that his profession is one that is rotten to the core, not because the majority are corrupt or lazy, but because a distinct minority that have all the power and the loudest voice are. The same could be said for vast layers of numerous professions, but few of them have such a role in informing and educating as the fourth estate does. The saddest thing is that most of even those that are rotten are not so out of choice; they too had the same dreams I did, but are either slaves to their editor and what's expected of them from their news organisation as a whole, or slaves to their bank balance, or, in an even smaller minority, their snorting habits. Cynicism shouldn't really enter in to it: the reality when you open your eyes is enough to want to journalists and all those, including myself, to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Instead we shall continue with ever more glazed over and despondent expressions.

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Monday, March 10, 2008 

Celebrities ate my homework.

Post 9/11, numerous firms not necessarily connected to either the tourism or airline industry thought it was a brilliant ruse to blame a fall in profits or some failure on the terrorist attacks. As time moved on, the new excuse became the Iraq war. Or Hurricane Katrina. Or the Boxing Day tsunami. Private Eye noted the huge rise in them through its "Warballs" column. Any disastrous event, large or small, can be used by the clever managing director or his PR overlords as a reason for why something hasn't happened as it should have.

Last week saw an increasing rise in a new form of the blame game. According to the latest UN report on drugs, use of cocaine amongst celebrities is encouraging more people to use drugs, and the failure of the courts to crack down hard enough on those caught was exacerbating the problem. The chairman of JD Wetherspoons, rather than pin-pointing the cut price antics which his soulless post-modern hellpits use to ram them in, instead attacked "inebriated celebrities" whose antics are then copied by the general public for the government and opposition's reactions to the binge-drinking moral panic. Then yesterday John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College leaders, in a speech mainly blaming parents for being useless, complained about how celebrities are making kids think that success comes easily or at the end of a lottery ticket. Buoyed by this, Gordon Brown joined in the act, urging "celebs" to think twice before doing drugs lest any children think it was a brilliant idea to copy them.

I've hardly been one in the past to go easy on or defend celebrities, but if there's one thing they can't be blamed for, it's for individuals with their own free will deciding to consume wanker fuel or binge-drink, let alone use crack cocaine or heroin. The first and most laughable attack line, that somehow people see Amy Winehouse or Pete Doherty and think, wow, they look great and like they're having fun, I better get me some of what they're on is ludicrous even at the most casual look. That Winehouse and Doherty would win awards for the most unglamorous drug users if there were such a ceremony ought to be enough to dispel the notion but it doesn't seem to (photographs of Winehouse prior to drugs and tattoos are painful when compared with her current image). That both have sought help because of their drug problems also might suggest that it isn't all fun and games, but that too seems to be dismissed simply because of their stardom. Equally stupid are those that after Winehouse's wins at the Grammy awards said she should have them withheld because of her drug use; presumably musician after musician who down the decades has consumed drugs and quite possibly because of their use produced some of the albums and records that we treasure the most should also lose their recognition because of it. That'll be the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd...(continues)

The UN argument, that somehow the courts aren't tough enough on celebrities who are caught using drugs is similarly weak. Yes, on the face of it Pete Doherty does seem to have had an awful lot of court appearances and never had what would be a "tough" sentence handed down to him, but he also seems to have been specifically targeted by the police on occasion simply because of who he was and his reputation. I don't exactly keep up with celebrities and their amazing addictions, but I think the news is that he's actually somewhat progressing with his getting clean, something that might well not have happened had it not been for the continued persistence of a number of judges in not handing down custodial sentences, although he has been held in custody on a number of occasions. The other problem is obvious; those celebrities, like Kate Moss, that have been exposed are not actually usually technically breaking the law: they have to have the substance on them to be charged, hence why Moss has never faced a court after the Mirror's expose, nor did Craig Charles after a similar outing. Again, the UN alleges that celebrities are treated less harshly than normal members of the public are, something for which there seems to be very little to no evidence for. If you wanted to go for an equally facile argument, you could point out how politicians, many of whom have admitted that they used drugs (usually cannabis) in the past, and who have also never faced charges. In actuality, the point would be far more valid against prohibitionist politicians now urging kids not to touch the stuff that they themselves did, or indeed those making proclamations on drugs or alcohol when they themselves refuse to discuss their own rumoured usage on the grounds of privacy.

All of this though is still missing the most obvious point: that without the sanctimonious media that feels fit to follow a "celebrity's" every movement, and indeed has the power to both make that individual's image in the first place and then later to destroy it if it so desires, the public at large that are apparently so influenced by celebrity behaviour would never know about it in the first place. There are a number of photographs that paps aim for that they get them the real big money: the upskirt shot; the "wardrobe malfunction" shot; the bikini/beach shot; and finally, the "up the nose" shot, that illustrates that a certain celeb has most definitely been consuming the white powder because they've got some sort of substance in their nostril that might just be cocaine residue. Newspapers of course love to have it both ways: they denounce the behaviour of celebrities in comment pieces and leader columns while their sales and showbiz pages depend on capturing that very behaviour which would otherwise go unnoticed. That those who produce them have often been caught in the past in the most flagrant breaches of what they preach against (hacks hoovering up cocaine, splashing the expenses on booze and being spanked by prostitutes, anyone?) never either seems to stick in the public conciousness or is forgotten in the latest moralising over the newest low to be reached. They even make celebrities battling addictions or mental illnesses into daily entertainment and real life soap operas, yet wonder why some might then themselves seek publicity for their own problems. That their very coverage might be making these problems worse, with hacks and paps rushing after them daily making their lives even more uncomfortable is also hardly ever considered except in the "qualities".

The reality is that of the very few who might be influenced by celebrity behaviour, the vast majority would most likely already have had a predilection towards that sort of thing in the first place. Perhaps the biggest irony here is that the UN is by far the most unrealistic towards drugs, with its ludicrous, foolish and downright unattainable policy of the complete eradication of drug abuse. Back in 2003 Polly Toynbee (bear with me) wrote that the UN was optimistic and openly claiming that their programme was on its way to reaching its goals of ridding the world of the cultivation of coca, cannabis and opium by, err, 2008. People do drugs and binge-drink for one reason to begin with and perhaps other reasons only later: because they enjoy doing so. Until this universal truth is recognised and policies are perhaps shaped around this mysteriously opaque fact, we'll continue getting fatuous obscurantists like Tim Martin blaming everyone other than themselves and the UN clutching at straws which they themselves could help to snap.

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Monday, February 04, 2008 

Scum-watch: Potential breach of PCC code, gloating over Kevin Greening and more Helen Newlove.

Some of those with a tendency for remembering tedious nuggets of information about the media and its personalities might well recall that the News of the Screws under Piers Moron was heavily criticised for publishing photographs of Earl Spencer's then wife leaving a detoxification clinic. The Press Complaints Commission's code of practice quite clearly states that

ii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.

Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Someone with a rather short memory then on the Scum has sailed close to the wind in publishing a photograph of Amy Winehouse not leaving the clinic she's undergoing drug treatment at, but apparently walking between buildings of the complex. It might of course be that the two buildings are in the line of sight of the general public, where the Sun can claim that there wouldn't be a reasonable expectation of privacy, but it might also be quite the opposite, as the snap is publicised as being taken by a paparazzi agency. The Scum could also argue that it's well known that La Winehouse has entered rehab, which mitigates against any claim that she has a reasonable expectation of privacy, but they seem to still be chancing their arm. The dog might yet snap it off. I certainly won't be weeping if it does.

Elsewhere, the Scum's been given another familiar, disgustingly prurient exclusive about Kevin Greening, details of which I'm not going to reproduce here. Last time it suggested someone had died in similar circumstances it was forced into giving an apology after it turned that the allegations were completely untrue.

Finally, Helen Newlove is given yet more space to talk about her anguish. Snipping out most of the personal, melodramatic crap:

MURDERED dad Garry Newlove’s widow Helen told yesterday how she contemplated suicide after vicious teen yobs beat him to death.

She sank desperately low, but has vowed to stay strong for their daughters Danielle, 18, Zoe, 15, and Amy, 13 — AND to campaign to drive thugs off our streets.

She said: “I’m going to do all I can to rid the streets of yobs. I don’t want anyone else to go through the hell we’re facing. The charter and the girls keep me from going under.”

As she's doomed to inevitable failure, one has to wonder whether she's either bullshitting or being thoroughly naive. Either way, the very last thing we need is her ludicrous charter.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 

When is a star not a star?

Tabloid editors across the land must have thought that Christmas had come early. After spending all day boozing at various locations, including a visit to a lap-dancing club, the Manchester United squad decamps to the Great John Street Hotel, where, according to "one male guest" courtesy of the Scum:

“I spoke to one stunner who had come up from London and another who had travelled from Newcastle.

“They were gorgeous — it was wall-to-wall babes. Most were aged between 18 and 30 and some were throwing themselves at the players."

It gets worse from there on in. In any case, at 4am the police were called over allegations of rape having taken place within the hotel.

Whenever something such as this happens, the first thing the tabloid editor does is think the worst. In Piers Moron's faux-diaries, he describes how after Concorde crashed that he was excitedly shouting and speculating about just who might have been on board. When his hacks informed him that it was mostly German tourists, he despaired coarsely and wondered how he was going to fill the pages he'd already ordered be set aside. His outburst was sent to Private Eye, which is probably the only reason the incident was included in the diaries at all.

A similar happening would have occurred in Wapping and everywhere else last night. Manchester United player arrested! Who could it be? Ronaldo? Rooney? Giggs? Even Tevez? Err, Jonny Evans. To which, the only cry would be "who he"? He's essentially a reserve team player, having featured in both the Carling Cup and in two of the Champions League games where the team played with a below full-strength side. He's also played for Northern Ireland. Not good enough for a huge splash to fill the glaringly empty pages just before Christmas, though.

It is of course still a big story, as would be any event involving footballers throwing both themselves and their money around. Shaun Wright-Phillips' birthday celebrations recently made the headlines after John Terry allegedly got so drunk that he urinated on the floor and then in a cup. Then again, it was in the News of the Screws, so it probably doesn't have even a grain of truth in it.

Both the Scum and Screws have to tread carefully over any such stories. Both papers have painful memories of having to pay Wayne Rooney £100,000 in damages after they alleged that he had slapped his girlfriend Colleen McCoughlin in front of the other Manchester United players and then told her to "fuck off home", while Frank Lampard, a teammate of Terry's, "writes" a column for the Screws. Private Eye noted that Lampard was described by the Screws' witness as being there but "he wasn't drunk or anything." Just to drum the message in, the photograph of Lampard has "QUIET NIGHT" plastered on it.

A similar non-story was Amy Winehouse's arrest, which had been pre-arranged and completely voluntary, presumably to answer questions about what she knew about her husband's alleged assault and perverting of the course of justice. Not even the Guardian consigned it to the "In Brief" slot it merited, going so far as to fall into the tabloid practice of describing her as troubled in the first word of the piece.

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Monday, December 03, 2007 

Tabloid-watch: Intruding on distress and failing to own up to their own role in the lack of self-esteem.

I'm of the opinion that most celebrities and the press attitude towards them is usually reciprocal - they sell their souls, the media has the power to either crush them or beatify them, and decides on which according to their whims - and although the tabloids often overstep the mark, they usually don't do so in such a manner as to become a matter of open concern. It's only in the rare cases, such of that of Heather Mills, who has certainly brought some of it upon herself but certainly doesn't deserve the vitriol heaped upon her daily, not to mention the numerous lies told about her, even if she has ideas that make Melanie Phillips look sane by comparison. Being called "Mucca" for doing glamour modeling 20 years ago, especially by the Scum, currently encouraging women across the nation to "whip 'em out" for a cash prize of £5,000 is clearly vile. Also completely unacceptable is the similarly disgusting Heat magazine printing stickers making fun of a disabled child - even if that child was unfortunate enough to be born to Jordan.

Today's front pages of both the Mirror and the Scum featuring a photograph of Amy Winehouse in a obvious state of both distress and undress are, by the same yardstick, intrusive, voyeuristic, demeaning and motivated by a state of clear faux-concern, as shown by the Sun's article on the matter. It also raises questions - just what is an apparent paparazzi photographer doing in a street in London at 5:40 except stalking a woman in the hope of getting such a shot which he/she will able to sell for more than most of us will likely make in a year? I'm no fan of Winehouse and the spawn which she and Lily Allen have given succour to over the last year, but to put such photographs on the front page of a newspaper must rank as far lower behaviour than that which she recently displayed at a gig where she was booed for her poor peformance. If the editors of the respective newspapers were photographed in a similar tearful, upset state, they would move heaven and earth to ensure that such pictures were not replicated in rival publications. In fact, the no-aggression pact between most editors in Fleet Street would mean that most newspapers would never even dream of printing them at all, let alone on the front page. Rebekah Wade for instance, had her divorce from Ross Kemp almost entirely concealed from view due to frantic ringing-round by Les Hinton. Amy Winehouse, to whom being described as "troubled" has almost become a reflex reaction, has no such protection.

There are also no protections in the Press Complaints Commission code against such invasive photographers, and that's for the reason that editors are rightly expected to exercise discretion over what they publish. In a world in which the newspapers are now competing with online gossip columns and celebrity magazines which clearly have almost no qualms about what they print, however, to miss such an opportunity is now seen as to pass it on to your rivals. As always, journalists ought to put themselves into the position of the person they're covering: how would they feel to see themselves on the front page of the two biggest selling red top tabloids in such a state? Is the use of the photographs more likely to cause the person to seek help if they need it, or cause them further unnecessary distress? In this case, it seems more likely to me to be the latter. If Winehouse was now to be found dead, or to be admitted to hospital after an act of self-harm or attempted suicide, the media would rightly stand accused of documenting a descent while only profiting from it. It's something that will eventually happen, but until it does newspapers will continue to push the boundaries of what is seen as fair game.

Elsewhere in the Scum, the leader is concerned about a poll showing that girls as young as 6 are worried about their appearance, yet as usual identifies every other suspect for why that is except for themselves:

GIRLS are dangerously obsessed with their image.

A survey says nearly half of girls aged between six and 12 hate the way they look.

It’s shocking — and wrong — that girls as young as six care so much.

They should be enjoying themselves in innocent play at that age.


Parents, teachers and the fashion industry all have a role to play.

Easily-manipulated kids must not be targeted by advertisers.

It’s dangerously simple to hook a girl for life with worries about her looks.

It’s their health and happiness that counts.

Unlike most Sun editorials, there's little there to disagree with. The media itself, however, rather than just advertisers, has just as big a role to play. As alluded to above, the Sun is currently running page 3 idol, the very sort of competition where the "male fantasy" image of a woman as being something to aspire to is inherently promoted. It's run endless articles on cosmetic surgery, especially breast augmentations, and is as mired in the celebrity culture, where looks are everything, as any of the weeklies. This is partly the reason the paper targets the working class male above everyone else, but when you're the biggest selling newspaper other responsibilities undoubtedly come with that.

Another worry is surely the lack of role models, especially for young girls - am I the only one depressed by the survey's findings that only one percent less than those who aspire to becoming a teacher are satisfied in the hope of becoming a hairdresser or a beautician? Some might say that's being realistic, but it's also aiming incredibly low. The paucity of young female role models who aren't either Big Brother contestants or soap stars that after leaving their respective original role spend the rest of their days in the little boy wank mags with their plastic breasts on display, at least when not showcasing their lack of intelligence on other reality shows, is shocking. Radical feminism is rightly dead, but the more moderate variety is also gasping for breath in an age where the unchallenged cynicism of men's magazines and sexism is still rife. The marketisation of life itself though certainly has the most to answer for, and even fewer are willing to stand up to that. Only when true individuality is encouraged, rather than adopting a phony version to be sold, will self-esteem and happiness with and within the own body start to become something natural.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007 

Tonight the streets are ours.

Encouraging news from the United States, where Lily Allen has had her work visa revoked after the unfortunate incident where she was cautioned for common assault earlier this year in London.

Is there any reason why we can't take similar action against Allen and her sort of partner in musical crime, Amy Winehouse? If we can deport suspected terrorists for "not being conducive to the public good", I'm sure we can apply the same standards to Allen. After all, what is her oeuvre if not an musical assault against the ears, aimed at terrorising the average listener into smashing their radio whenever her insipid, overrated jarring compositions, complete with hilariously awful lyrics start floating across the airwaves? Additionally, her body of work has succeeded in brainwashing both record company executives and hopefuls themselves into thinking that they can emulate her unwarranted success, unsurprisingly resulting in the arrival of even less talented knock-offs, such as Kate Nash. Her most inspired, profound, life-affirming lyric?

Why you being a dickhead for? Stop being a dickhead Why you being a dickhead for? You're just fucking up situations

If that's not quite your cup of tea, how about her other crack at conquering the poetic brilliance of our most acclaimed songwriters? Behold the "Shit Song":

Darling don't give me shit Cos I know that you're full of it (you're full of shit, you're full of shit) Darling don't give me shit Cos I know that you're full of it (you're full of it, you're full of it)

Quite clearly, thanks to the actions of Lily 'n' Amy, we're facing an epidemic of worthless, tuneless morons taking over. If their music is not glorifying terrorism against the ear lobes, what is?

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