This blog doesn't often focus on the journalistic deficiencies of the Daily Mirror, which is somewhat unfair on the other tabloid purveyors of much the same material, especially considering the way in which the paper often reports on David Cameron with just as much subtlety and fair play as the Sun does on Gordon Brown. Its latest report on the alleged activities of Jon Venables is though, as the Heresiarch points out, just as bad as the very worst Sun equivalent:
Skulking into Liverpool under his new identity, James Bulgers killer Jon Venables cynically flouted his strict parole rules to go on wild benders with mates.
In a cruel snub to the memory of the innocent toddler he and Robert Thompson battered to death, the 27-year-old hit the nightclubs to get smashed on cider and cocktails while snorting cocaine and popping ecstasy pills.
Sources revealed Venables has also slipped into Goodison Park to watch Everton play football in the nine years since he was freed from jail, despite being banned from Merseyside.
The barbaric thug even clumsily chatted up women in clubs not too far away from where he and Thompson killed two-year-old James in 1993. During his sessions he would down Cheeky Vimtos, a lethal cocktail made up of two shots of port and a bottle of blue WKD.
Yes, how dare Venables act in the same way as the vast majority of his peers do? Clearly this sets him out as fundamentally unreformed, causing only further anguish and heartache to the relatives of the boy he killed. It doesn't matter that going by their description of his apparent brazenness that he didn't "skulk" anywhere, nor that the paper has provided no evidence whatsoever that any of this actually happened, apart from the word of their "well-placed sources", being conveniently prevented from doing so by the injunction that also blocks the revealing of his new identity. It is though instructive that the passing of 17 years hasn't diminished even slightly the casual demonisation of someone who committed a crime, albeit a truly terrible one, as a child, and one which he will be paying for the rest of his life as this latest episode more than illustrates.
It was always going to be next to impossible for Venables' new identity to stay hidden once he'd been recalled to prison, and the Sun reports that it has been compromised, while the Mail adds that officials are already resigned to having to give him a new one. How long it will be before the former identity begins to circle on the net, as it almost certainly will, is anyone's guess.
The Sun, like the Mirror, is making the most of his recall. According to them, he's been "gorging [on] burgers and chips in his cell", as only the truly evil and most loathed individuals in the prison estate do. To add to it, it provides the fantastically enlightened views of Anthony Daniels, a former prison doctor, who at least has some credentials with which to comment, and Tom Crone, the Sun and News of the World's execrable chief lawyer, who has absolutely none. According to Daniels a Martian might imagine that we reward a child for killing a toddler, and that "he lived a life of luxury". Venables may well have had it easier than someone put in a young offenders' institution, but I'm not exactly sure that you can call 8 years of imprisonment, regardless of where it was and under what conditions, as a life of luxury or as anything even approaching a normal upbringing.
It's Crone however who really extracts the Michael. Crone you might remember was one of the News International higher-ups who appeared before the culture, media and sport committee's investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World, where like his colleagues, he failed to recall absolutely anything about absolutely anyone. He had never heard of Glenn Mulcaire, never heard of phones being hacked, and had never heard of payments for illegal activity. It's difficult not to imagine that the committee was referring to some of his deeply unconvincing evidence when they concluded that the NotW was suffering from "collective amnesia" and that they had indulged in "deliberate obfuscation". For this same man to then declare that "Jon Venables owes us big time" and that his "crime redefined the extremes of evil" is the utter height of cant. He claims that Venables has "breached the bond of trust" by not living a crime-free life, even when it seems that Venables has not been charged with any crime, and that all the allegations made about his life are just that, allegations. He concludes by claiming that he's "forfeited any right to protection". Crone felt the same way about Max Mosley when he endorsed the publication of the NotW report which led to his action on privacy, just as he endorsed the NotW going to trial rather than settling, which led to the paper's utter humiliation. Mosley was described by the NotW as a "vain deviant with no sense of truth or honour." As someone else recently said in response to a hypocrite, those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.As for the Sun's editorial, it seems to deliberately misunderstand the nature of what a life sentence entails, with the life licence which hangs over someone after they've been given parole:
And we cannot secretly throw people in prison as if we were some medieval tyranny. If someone is jailed, there must be transparency.
Well, err, yes we can, and since when has that bothered the Sun in the past? As the ministers have pointed out, there will be transparency once the proceedings have reached a conclusion and when Venables' identity is presumably no longer in jeopardy. The tabloid media almost as a whole are pretending that the former doesn't matter when it involves someone as notorious as Venables and only regarding the fact that he has anonymity as a historical outrage, hence why they're pretending that it has nothing to do with why the information hasn't already been given. Venables might well be all the things that the tabloids are alleging and more besides, but to pretend that this to do with transparency in the criminal justice system, let alone to do with Labour's record on law and order is absurd. The Sun will undoubtedly use it to give Labour an extra kicking, but this remains all about a press that hasn't forgiven the government for not allowing it to hound the two young men from the moment they were released.
Labels: abuses by tabloids, anonymity, crime, James Bulger, Jon Venables, media hysteria, media reporting, Mirror-watch, Scum-watch, Sun-watch, Tom Crone