Tuesday, February 23, 2010 

Swearing and the news.

Is it really a news story when a news reader quotes a swear word? More ridiculous still is that Jeremy Paxman, after quoting Rawnsley quoting Brown screaming "How could you fucking do this to me" at Bob Shrum, his speech-writer, was instructed by his editor to apologise, although he rather admirably did it in around as half-hearted a fashion as possible. Anyone watching Newsnight was already likely to have read the coverage, and if anyone watching television at 10:30 is genuinely offended by someone quoting someone else saying fuck, they ought to turn the fucking thing off. Far more offensive in any case last night was John Prescott's faux apoplexy at Andrew Rawnsley daring to publish a book.

Quoting a politician or hanger-on swearing is probably the only thing the BBC doesn't have an active policy on. I can remember during the Hutton inquiry the Today programme quoting the section from Alastair Campbell's diary where he had written that the latest "evidence" they had uncovered would "fuck Gilligan", without it being censored or without any apology later being issued. Likewise, James Naughtie quoted President Bush's recorded conversation with Tony Blair back at Margaret Beckett during the Israel-Lebanon war, which contained Bush's observation that "Syria has got to stop all this shit", again without condemnation or apology. While constant, unimaginative swearing can be immature and suggests a limited vocabulary, quoting others swearing so that the record isn't sullied is also surely part of a recognition that your audience isn't a bunch of 10-year-olds who giggle at naughty words. It's instructive then that the Telegraph doesn't allow swearing in any form in its pages, the stern edict of style editor Simon Heffer, while the Guardian is supposedly the most expletive-filled newspaper on the planet. The paper's style guide justification is difficult to argue with:

"We are more liberal than any other newspapers, using language that our competitors would not. But even some readers who agree with Lenny Bruce that 'take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say fuck the government' might feel that we sometimes use such words unnecessarily. "

The editor's guidelines are as follows:

"First, remember the reader, and respect demands that we should not casually use words that are likely to offend.

"Second, use such words only when absolutely necessary to the facts of a piece, or to portray a character in an article; there is almost never a case in which we need to use a swearword outside direct quotes.

"Third, the stronger the swearword, the harder we ought to think about using it.

"Finally, never use asterisks, which are just a cop-out."

One suspects why the "story", if we must call it that, has been in the top ten stories of the day on the BBC's news site is that there's still a certain thrill in hearing certain people swear, especially those who we only usually see and hear under such formal constraints. It's a bit like a teacher swearing when you're a kid; likely you and your friends could have embarrassed sailors, such was your command of explicit language, yet there was still something forbidden and startling about an adult in such a position of power and who was meant to be whiter than white turning the air blue. Paxman though you expect isn't someone to whom swearing is foreign, while you get the feeling that some would pay to hear say, Fiona Bruce, swear. Not me though. Not at all.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010 

Diana in outrage hell.

We all know how much I love Twitter, which reading back now, seems to be one of the most staggeringly hypocritical and self-fulfilling statements that I've ever put together here:

... it's a glorified instant messaging service where every stalker and sad sack can follow your ever so fascinating immediate thoughts ...

Err, yeah. Doesn't describe me at all. Sorry.

This though is hilarious (via Anton), although it's doubtless already spreading around like an online version of the clap. The Express, that journal which dedicated itself to keeping the memory of Princess Diana alive by splashing almost every Monday with a new conspiracy theory fresh from the fevered imagination of the owner of a certain fuggin' Knightsbridge department store, has discovered that someone is besmirching their favourite dead ex-royal by pretending to tweet as Diana from heaven. Cue the outrage:

A SICK prankster has set up a social networking website as Princess Diana.

The macabre Twitter page pretends the messages come from heaven. One says: “I can’t talk about Dodi (Al Fayed) for legal reasons.”

The fake Diana criticises the small numbers turning up to her memorial fountain in London, claiming nobody realises it was filled with the Queen Mother’s gin. Referring to the site of her fatal car crash, she says: “Now looking down at Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Bigger turnout than at Memorial Fountain.”

Alan Berry, co-founder of the Diana Appreciation Society, urged Twitter to ban the page. He said: “It’s sick that some people can pretend to be Diana. What respect is that showing?”

Twitter allows people to impersonate others as long as it is clear it is a joke but last night the firm failed to respond to questions about the Diana page.

It seems that @dianainheaven is in the wrong business. Pretend to be someone dead in a humourous fashion on a social networking site and you're sick; pretend to be a journalist and you can become the royal reporter on the Express.

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Monday, January 25, 2010 

Baby P to Edlington and angels to devils.

Here's a very quick test of just how soon we forget: who wrote the following and about whom?

HIS bright blue eyes stare out at us beseechingly.

A gorgeous, blond-haired, blue-eyed tot with a heart-melting smile.

If you answered with anything other than the Sun and Baby P, or Peter Connelly, as he is never going to be known, then I'm afraid you're wrong. It does however already seem so long ago though, doesn't it? A furore where the fervour has dissipated often later seems to be unreal when it's recalled; were we really that outraged, that angry? After all, it's not us, detached from the case who end up being personally affected, just those with the misfortune to be connected, however tenuously, who find themselves trapped within the vortex of a nation's temporary indignation. Social workers are still getting used to the voluminous amount of new recommendations as advised in Lord Laming's report on Haringey's failings, not to mention the increased workloads after councils across the country played it safe and took more children into care than perhaps needed to be. As for the Sun, well, one of the front pages from during their campaign took pride of place in their 40th anniversary celebrations.

I've gone over this before, but one of the most telling contributions at the time was from Martin Narey, the head of Barnardo's, who suggested had Peter survived he may well have grown up to be the "feral yob" of tabloid nightmares, condemned and castigated without a thought as to what made him. It was part of a speech which was intended to provoke, which is what it did, but it has also now rung almost too true. The case of the two brothers who committed their crime in Edlington could almost be the inverse of the Baby P case: there, an innocent child killed and tortured by those meant to be taking care of him; in Edlington, two "brothers from hell" torture and almost kill two other young boys. On the one hand, the angelic, on the other the demonic. The biblical implications of referring to the unnamed boys as the "devil brothers" is not openly alluded to, but it is there if you look deep enough: "the battle" between good and evil itself seems to be only just below the surface.

And as then, a similar political battle appears to be under way. Both examples of our broken society, of the failure of the state to protect children, with a familiar number of opportunities to intervene missed. According to David Cameron, not just an "isolated act of evil". Michael Gove described it, while calling for the full serious case review to be released into how social services dealt with the family, as "unspeakable evil". The Sun in its leader calls for the review to be released as well, but perhaps there's a clue to its real motives in the actual report's first paragraph:

THE Government was last night urged to publish the full report into the "Devil Brothers" case and shame the bunglers who allowed the savage attack on two boys.

The bunglers? One of those awful words which only the media use, and one which was put into repeated usage to describe Sharon Shoesmith, head of child protection at Haringey council when Baby P was murdered. And there is the other obvious parallel with Baby P: like then, we have no actual names to put to the individuals whose actions we have read about it. Then it was because there was another court case going on at the same time involving Peter's mother and her boyfriend, with their identities needing to be protected to prevent prejudicing that separate prosecution; here it's due to the judge quite rightly concluding that there was no public interest to be served in the brothers being identified. One suspects that it might have been different had they "succeeded" in killing their victims, like how the fact that everyone knew that Child A and Child B had killed James Bulger perhaps influenced the removal of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson's anonymity. With everyone in the Edlington case behind a shroud, the same never applied. And hence, because we don't know who anyone is, there's no one we can personally blame. The social workers who failed Baby P then became the natural scapegoats, even though they were hardly the ones that personally killed the blue-eyed tot. Without names, it's impossible to keep the story going for long: by changing the emphasis from the "devil brothers" themselves onto "the bunglers" they might just give it a longer shelf-life.

Cynical? Certainly. The Tories' reasons for calling for the release of the case review are purer, but not by much. They know that there's political mileage in embarrassing the government yet again, even if it's unlikely that anything will be achieved by its full publication. It doesn't seem to matter that the NSPCC have recommended that while executive summaries of the case reviews should be released, they oppose their release in full "as sensitive information must be kept confidential to protect vulnerable children."

That we are so quick to ascribe evil to the actions of children is itself a cause for concern. This goes far beyond whether those responsible understand the difference between good and bad, which was so hotly debated during the trial of James Bulger's killers. It goes to the heart of our own relationships, our own feelings for our offspring, which have never been so conflicted. We seem caught, not between the dichotomy of angel and demon, but between small adult and friend, and inferior and threat. We hug our own tighter, while pushing everyone else's further away. Until we're willing to unravel just how we've become so insecure about our own successors, we're likely to continue refusing to admit that ultimately the blame, if we're going to lay it at the foot of anyone, is with ourselves.

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Monday, January 11, 2010 

The impossibility of freedom of speech.

As quickly as it was announced, and as quickly as the media were tiring of the story, Anjem Choudary and friend(s) have decided that they're not going to march through Wootton Bassett after all. Not that they were ever going to march in the first place, as anyone who had bothered to take a look at the aborted "March for Sharia" last year would have concluded. While Choudary certainly played a blinder throughout, as suggested last week, it's also difficult not to conclude that the media were wholly complicit in and even further encouraged Choudary's offline trolling. Admittedly, it is a great story - Islamic group which hates our freedom wants to march through the same place where our "glorious dead" are first honoured on their return to their final resting place, especially the chutzpah it takes to suggest they'll be doing something similar, carrying empty coffins to symbolise those that the same glorious dead might themselves have killed, and one which few will have decided not to cover on the basis that it's all bullshit. After all, bullshit is something that the media thrives off, as anyone reading a tabloid on almost any occasion will note.

It is however slightly rich to then play the "distress and hurt" line, on how deeply offended the families of the dead will be by these prancing bearded extremists walking down the same street as their relatives were returned down when you yourself are also causing it by suggesting it's going to happen when it's fairly certain that it isn't. It also allows the likes of the Sun to suggest that because there's one idiot with verbal diarrhoea around there must be plenty of others like him also, and that the government isn't doing its job in protecting us from these clearly dangerous mouthbreathers. It doesn't matter that the Sun itself provided him with more of a soapbox than anyone else, interviewing him, printing his nonsense and allowing him to appear on their piss-poor internet radio station with Jon Gaunt. Clearly it's not the media that provides him with space that are the problem - it's the loon himself. The government, naturally, agrees, hence the umpteenth banning of a group that Choudary's been involved with. To call it futile and stupid would be putting it lightly - all he's going to do is after another period of time create a new one, which will again in consequence be banned, until the world explodes or Choudary dies, whichever comes sooner, and each time it happens Choudary can continue to claim both persecution and mystique, martyring an idiot with no support purely for the benefit of other idiots.

All this is distracting us though from a group that actually did go ahead with a protest, and who were today found guilty of public order offences after protesting at a homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment in Luton last March. Whether they have links with Choudary personally or not is unclear, although it wouldn't be completely surprising if they did, but one suspects that they are also remnants of what was once al-Muhajiroun, or malcontents with an ideology similar to that of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, although that group generally shuns such public confrontation. Luton has had problems with a small minority of Islamists for a few years, causing widespread grief through guilt of association to the wider community, with the protest last March being the final straw.

The conviction of five of the group who were prosecuted, with two others being acquitted, is still however a cause for concern, regardless of whether or not you agree with the views they expressed, when it comes to the right to protest. The old cliche is that to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre when there isn't one is illegal because of the dangers of causing a panic; in this case the men have been convicted not because of something similar, but because they were causing "harassment and distress", to which one response has to be to say "ah, diddums". It would make rather more sense if they were convicted on the grounds that their shouting, accusing the soldiers of variously being murderers, rapists and baby killers, was inflammatory, which it certainly was, to such an extent that the police were having to protect the men from the crowd, with a couple of members of the public themselves arrested for their behaviour in response, but that wasn't the case.

Instead, the worrying thing is that the Crown Prosecution Service felt that their actions had gone "beyond legitimate political protest". Although soldiers themselves are quite rightly very rarely targeted for their role when the responsibility mainly lies with the politicians that send them into conflicts, with the exception of the shout that the soldiers were rapists, the other cries they made would certainly not be out of place on an angry but perfectly legitimate protest against a war, especially one that was ongoing. It's also not as if the slogans themselves are necessarily inaccurate: some relatives of service personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq have described them as being "murdered", hence those on the opposite side could say exactly the same, while air strikes have in the past certainly caused the deaths of whole families, babies included. The rape accusation is the only one that couldn't be made to stick in any circumstances. The difference between abuse and insults and legitimate political protest is a very fine one, and one which some swearbloggers would certainly breach if placed in the same situation. In one sense, what today's successful prosecution means is that protesters have to consider whether the public around them might consider their sentiments to be harassment, alarming or distressing. Doubtless those there to welcome home and support the troops did find a protest which was unflinching in its criticism alarming or distressing and also outrageous; do they though, as the judge said, have the right "to demonstrate their support for the troops without experiencing insults and abuse"? Or indeed, the unspoken implication, without having to put with up any sort of protest that disagreed with the view that the troops were courageous heroes?

No one is going to be crying any tears for those convicted, especially when they are quite clearly using freedom of speech only for their own ends, not believing in it for anyone other than themselves. We have though always had a strange notion of freedom of speech in this country, one that is far more restricted than it is in other equivalent democracies: it would be lovely if we could be more like America on this score, where they put up with the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church without having to resort to the law to prosecute them for pushing eccentric, insulting and abusive opinions, but that seems to be beyond us and our media, who delight in being outraged even while pushing that which disgusts them.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010 

More Islam4UK.

After the sad shutting down of Islam4UK's website (although it seems that it might be making a return: the 403 error is gone and there's now a MySQL one instead) Cryptome has thankfully done the essential job of archiving the nuttiness and wingnuttery for prosperity. Especially instructive of just how likely the Wootton Bassett march is to take place is the page for the October 31st March for Sharia, which Choudary and co didn't go through with:

In forthcoming days, Islam4UK will also publish, as a run up to this special event, a fascinating insight into how Britain's architecture, transport and culture will be revolutionised under the Shari'ah. Watch out for articles including:

Trafalgar Square under the Shari'ah

Football Stadiums under the Shari'ah

Pubs under the Shari'ah

Buckingham Palace under the Shari'ah

It goes without saying that they couldn't even follow up on these pledges: only Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace were presented under the "Shari'ah", although the adult industry was additionally treated to a insight to how it would operate under Islamic law, i.e., it wouldn't. That would presumably be something of a downer for Yasmin Fostok, daughter of Bakri Muhammed, whose plastic mammaries were purchased for her by daddy in order to further her pole dancing career.

Strangely though, some of the right-wingers currently frothing at the prospect of Choudary and gang descending on the hallowed ground of Wootton Bassett might find they share his view of our own Dear Leader:

Almost 300 years old, 10 Downing Street is the official residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister, is one of the chief figures in making laws and regulating the affairs of society. In the last few years, he has undoubtedly brought Britain down to an all new low and appears to be truly blind to the damaging impact of his oppressive bureaucracy.

After demanding the abolishment of the House of Commons Muslims will then march to 10 Downing Street, and call for the removal of the tyrant Gordon Brown from power.

Sounds rather like a jolly Conservative Future outing, doesn't it?

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Monday, January 04, 2010 

The public relations brilliance of Anjem Choudary.

Anjem Choudary is brilliant, isn't he? No one else can currently touch him when it comes professional media trolling; he knows exactly what to say, what to do and who to talk to, and also when to do it. As strokes of genius go, nothing is more likely to wind up the nutters outside of his own clique than a half-baked supposed plan to march through Wootton Bassett, which may as well be our current Jerusalem, a holy place which cannot in any way be defiled, such is how it's been sanctified both by the press and politicians. As for his rather less amusing supposed plan for "sending letters" to the families of those bereaved through the current deployment to Afghanistan, urging them, according to that notoriously accurate source, the Sun, that they should embrace Islam "to save [themselves] from the hellfire", it seems more likely that this would only be through the "open letter" which appeared on the Islam4UK website, which is currently 403ing.

Calling for a sense of perspective is of course a complete waste of time. It doesn't matter that Islam4UK, the umpteenth successor organisation to Al-Muhjarioun, which may once have been a potentially dangerous grouping but which has long since become quite the opposite, probably has less than a hundred supporters and that its only purpose seems to be to get what still could be spoofs into the press (such as how Trafalgar Square would look under Sharia law). It also doesn't matter than the group already has a record for not following through on its stunts: it had a "march for Sharia" through Whitehall and Westminster planned for the 31st of October last year which they didn't turn up for, although the planned counter-demonstrations to it did go ahead. No, what clearly matters is that Choudary makes for good news and especially for outrage when there isn't much to get worked up about going on. And boy, how he and his media accomplices have succeeded this time: already there's a 200,000 plus strong group opposing his march plans on Gulliblebook (sorry, I mean Idiotbook, err, Facebook), while the politicians themselves have competed to condemn him.

It is almost enough to make you wonder whether Choudary is in fact for real and not a long-standing security service plant; after all, we now know that the likes of the IRA had agents right at the very top, or at least those that while still sharing the ultimate aims still felt the need to prevent some of the more egregious actions of their colleagues by informing on them, so it isn't completely impossible. What's far more likely though is that he's become that creature who can be relied upon when news is slow to provide something for readers to get themselves worked up about, a creation as much of the media themselves as a representation of their own personality. Choudary is himself after all describing his group's plans as "publicity stunts"; by firing off press releases that can easily be turned out and churned on by lazy hacks, it's as if the events have already happened without anyone needing to leave the house.

Even by the Sun's standards they are though laying it on a bit thick. Jon Gaunt, who can always be relied upon to turn a molehill into a politically correct Guardianista mountain, suggested that Choudary's plans for the march amounted to "treason". Really? Even when although we can hardly rely upon Choudary's word for it, his plans for the demo seem to amount not to the usual placards and slogans about the superiority of Islam, but instead for an almost reasonable carrying of clear coffins to represent the others that have died in Afghanistan but whom have received no memorial?

Underneath all this nonsense, there is something far more serious going on, and it's just how quickly politicians and others that declare they love freedom of speech and demonstration change their tune when it's a message they don't like being expressed. There is of course the risk if Choudary's unlikely march was to go ahead, even in its rather benign form, that it would naturally attract the attention of equally unpleasant individuals who seem to imagine that the entire notion of Britishness is being defiled by allowing such people to put their own points across; indeed, that's the other point of the stunt in the first place. Choudary wants a reaction, both written and physical. Without it, there's no point to his doing anything in the first place. When Alan Johnson says that the idea of Choudary's march fills him with "revulsion", he's doing Choudary's job for him; in what other circumstances would a perfectly legitimate protest fill him with such an emotion? The Sun's editorial says it's a "unfortunate downside" of our "cherished tradition of free speech" that he and his supporters can demonstrate. An "unfortunate downside"? No one with any true belief in free speech would describe any peaceful protest, even one they disagree with, in such terms.

Increasingly, even while those who oppose the war in Afghanistan increase in number, the actual ways of expressing disapproval about it decrease. It's no coincidence that the Sun, whose whole "Our Boys" campaign, alongside its support for the "Help for Heroes" charity has ensured that to even suggest that perhaps the soldiers themselves aren't entirely blameless in all of this when they freely volunteered to join the army is the outlet leading the cries against Choudary's antics (despite its role in actively promoting them, repeatedly). Those who protested during the Luton homecoming parade back in March are by coincidence currently being prosecuted under Public Order legislation for having the temerity to suggest that British soldiers might be killers; when does something that might be perfectly legitimate to suggest about politicians become unacceptable when it's said against those that actually do the killing? That's a distinction that the jury are hardly likely to reflect too long upon.

As the Heresiarch suggests, Wootton Bassett has become the very centre of the justification for the war, because what started out as a spontaneous and heartfelt tribute for those who lost their lives in the line of duty has become an almost official and politicised remembrance centre where no dissent from the official line can be tolerated. This isn't the fault of the people there, but the media especially and others for exceptionally focusing it on. When there is no major political outlet for discontent, as there currently isn't from any of the main three parties, you can hardly blame the likes of Choudary for wanting to fill the void. If Choudary should give a kick up the backside to anyone, it should be to those that are not lunatics or comedians but who oppose the war to step up their game and properly make their voices heard; the risk is that they get silenced both by the backlash and the view that to oppose the war is to somehow invite bloodshed on our own streets. At the moment it's more likely that the brainless anti-Choudary brigade could cause it through fighting amongst themselves than it happening as the result of anything else.

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Friday, September 04, 2009 

From Bulger to Edlington.

Probably one of the worst moments in this country's recent media history was the hysteria which followed the murder of James Bulger.  In one sense, it was to be completely expected: Bulger's death, at the hands of two 10-year-old boys, with the toddler snatched from his mother in a matter of minutes, was the most appalling, shocking and inexplicable of crimes.  It was also one of the rarest: although we have since gotten sadly used to slightly older teenage boys knifing and even shooting each other, not since Mary Bell had those so young committed a crime so grave.  It was one of those crimes which managed to affect the psyche of the nation, even if only temporarily: the Daily Star's headline the day after the identities of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were revealed still remains to this day one of the most disgusting and despicable, quite possibly of all time: "How do you feel now, you little bastards?"  It was, in fairness, shouted by someone in the public gallery, and probably reflected a mood which many felt, yet it also just highlighted that many had completely forgotten that those in the dock were children, regardless of whether or not they understood or could comprehend what they had done.

The effects of Bulger's murder are still with us today, with politicians reacting in much the same fashion as the media did.  Labour played off of it appallingly, much as the Tories do today with their "broken society" meme, but the real damage was inflicted by Michael Howard, who declared that "prison works", a position which has been only built upon by Labour.  For better or worse though, considering the major controversy over how their sentence was imposed and served, both Venables and Thompson came out of a system which so often fails those older, and genuinely were reformed.  If they were "evil" or "monsters" when they went in, there is nothing to suggest that they still were or still are now that they're living under their new identities.  Some will baulk, understandably, at how those who murdered got might what might well be described as preferential treatment because of the seriousness of their crime, yet surely the ends in this instance justified the means.

How little we've, or rather the media have learned, is reflected in the coverage today of the case of the two brothers in Edlington who more by luck than apparent judgement failed to murder the two other little boys with whom they had been playing, in circumstances similar to that in which James Bulger was murdered.  The differences though are surely important: neither Venables or Thompson had anything close to the record that these two brothers apparently had, although there were some similarities, and also the key, most terrifying detail of the Bulger murder was that he was snatched from his mother by pure chance, something not the case here, and dragged along for hours, in front of numerous witnesses.  Nonetheless, much the same attitude pervades, as typified by the Sun's editorial.  These two brothers are, variously, "hell boys", "evil", "monsters", "dangerous predators" and guilty of "sickening bloodlust".  Not once are they actually described as what they are, despite everything they've done, which is children.  It reproduces a litany of those who failed, in various guises, as well as those who failed to protect the "innocent children" from these savages, but it doesn't even begin to suggest that maybe it was these two brothers who were failed more than anyone else.  That would take the blame away from them, or rather undermine the stated fact that they had "a measure of evil" beyond even the normal "feral" child.

You can of course argue endlessly over whether those who kill or attempt to kill are created by nature or by nuture.  A background similar to that which these two brothers had can be a signifier for such crimes, but equally it would be an insult to those who have struggled through such deprived backgrounds and came out of it without being damaged to suggest that explains it all.  Likewise, you can blame anything else you feel like: the Bulger murder led to attacks on both video games and "video nasties", even though there was no evidence whatsoever that either of the boys had actually watched "Child's Play 3" as the media came to claim he did.  The very mention of the "Chucky" films by a supposed "relative" makes me wonder about the veracity of her comments; it seems far too much of a coincidence that the exact same series of films featuring that same doll would be brought up again.  With that in mind, it is however interesting to note that the same source claims that the boys were dealt with harshly by their father, maybe far too harshly.  That rather undermines the Sun's refrain that "consistent discipline" is the only means by which to tame them, and even Iain Duncan Smith, a proponent of "tough love", made the point that the discipline they received may well have had the opposite effect.

The most distasteful part of the Sun's leader though is that "intimidation is long overdue", as the court in which the brothers plead guilty apparently "bent over backwards" to "show them kindness" by the judge and lawyers wearing suits rather than their usual garb.  This has far less to do with kindness and much more to do with ensuring that they understood properly what was going on, even during a relatively short session in which they plead guilty to lesser charges rather than the attempted murder which was initially proposed.  Intimidation would probably be the very last thing which they need, something already presumably provided by their father.  Then there's just the complete failure to perform a reality check, calling regimes in youth custody "disastrously lax".  These would be the same regimes which are currentlyusing force more than they ever have, leaving little surprise when they fail just as much as prisons at preventing re-offending and reforming as well as punishing.

The hope has to be that same almost made up on the spur of the moment detention regime which Venables and Thompson went through, which involved not young offender's institutions but secure units, held separately, with both going through therapy as well as other programmes is also at the very least attempted in this case, although the sentence the two will receive is doubtful to be as harsh as that which Bulger's killers got, and how they will handle the fact that the two are brothers is also likely to be difficult.  It is though also worth reflecting, as the chief executive of Barnardo's Martin Narey did, on how close angels are to demons.  His suggestion, meant to stir debate, that Baby Peter may well have grown up had he survived to be a feral yob, the kind which are dismissed and demonised without a thought, inflammatory as it was, was the exact thing that the Sun did here.  If evil is inherent, then nothing can be done to prevent it or cure it; if it isn't, and naive liberals such as myself will protest profusely that there is no such thing, then it can be.  These two might not become "pillars of the community" as the Sun puts it, but to abandon hope in children and to demonise them in such a way is to abandon hope in humanity itself.

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Friday, August 28, 2009 

Monsters everywhere.

I presume then, now that Jacyee Lee Dugard has escaped from 18 years of captivity, along with the two children fathered by her alleged kidnapper, that the nation's finest media organisations will inform us that this was the sort of thing that could only happen in closed, post-authoritarian societies where questions go unasked, secrets remain secrets and tents, outbuildings and sheds are permanently closed, while others will suggest that the police should be arming themselves and start searching sheds across the nation, should any others like Dugard be hidden from view.

Or considering that most of those who indulged in such fantasies after the discovery of what Josef Fritzl had been subjecting his daughter to in Austria are rather fond of and think America to be vastly superior to both this country and Europe, maybe they'll just tone down the rhetoric slightly.

P.S. A rather meatier piece concerning today's Sun front page is over on The Sun - Tabloid Lies.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009 

The rise and fall of Richard Desmond.

In the world of catastrophic legal cases, Richard Desmond's humiliation in the High Court must rank up there amongst the very top. Last year's disaster for the News of the World at the hands of Max Mosley seems to be the only really apposite comparison, but the key difference is that was a case brought by Mosley; here Desmond has brought the entire thing upon himself.

Quite why Desmond brought what was such a trivial claim for libel against Tom Bower remains unclear. Bower's QC, Ronald Thwaites, who has somewhat acquitted himself after his disgraceful performance representing the Met at the Jean Charles de Menezes health and safety prosecution, said in court that the real reason was because Desmond's ego couldn't allow him to described as a wimp, "ground into the dust" by Black, even if it was in a book that was unlikely to be read by many in a passage that was hardly remarkable. Others however believe the real reason was to ensure that Bower never had a chance of publishing a supposedly finished manuscript on Desmond himself, provisionally titled Rogue Trader. If it's as damning as Bower's other works, and when you have such a target it's hardly likely not to be, Desmond has far more to fear from that than from claims that Conrad Black had "ground him into the dust".

Surely the only thing that ensured Desmond had anything approaching a chance of victory was our ridiculous and damaging libel laws, where the defendant has to prove their case rather than the accuser theirs. Everyone in the media world knows how Desmond operates: he is a bully, a born liar and someone who surrounds himself only with sycophants and those he has total trust in. Only someone with a personality like Desmond, where the slightest insult can result in a feud lasting for years, could be thin-skinned enough to take offence at being described as a pornographer. Desmond made his money in softcore pornographic magazines, having obtained the licence to publish Penthouse in the UK in 1983. From there he built an empire thanks to his diversifying into most of the more acceptable fetishes, with among his more famous titles the likes of Asian Babes and Skin and Wriggly. This led inevitably to satellite and cable channels broadcasting much the same content, although his channels show the softcore variants of the produced smut; whether he actually owns the companies which produce the hardcore versions is unclear.

For a man who yearns for respectability and to take his rightful place amongst the establishment, owning wank rags and jazz channels is usually a no-no. While decidedly last century, one way to acquire that sort of status is to purchase a newspaper, and while the Daily Star is hardly what most would describe as an educational read, and the Daily Express has been in decline for half a century, his purchase of both ensured that he had finally entered the world of not just business but also political power. Some of course at the time questioned whether such a man should own a newspaper which used to be the biggest seller in the world; happily, a donation by Desmond of £100,000 to the Labour party ensured that no obstacles were placed in his way.

Desmond has since behaved exactly as you would expect a man of his stature to: he has made hundreds of journalists redundant from both papers, turned them even more than they already were into celebrity rags with a side-serving of news, the majority of which is inflammatory and bordering on the openly racist, and paid himself vast sums of money in the process, anything up to £50m a year.

Most modern proprietors of newspapers, like Desmond, deny that they would ever influence anything which their employees write, let alone tell them what to. In court, Desmond's QC Ian Winter said that it was "difficult to think of a more defamatory allegation to make". Most proprietors of course don't have to tell their journalists what to write, for the simple fact that they already know how they think, what their interests are and how to defend them, as Rupert Murdoch's editors do, although Murdoch at least admits that the Sun and News of the World's editorial line is directly influenced by him. Desmond, while also using that kind of influence in the newsroom, is both more brutal and direct. David Hellier, a former media editor on the Sunday Express, described how Desmond was seen in the newsroom "virtually every day between five and seven o'clock" and would regularly demand editorial changes. Any casual reader of Private Eye will have noted down the years Desmond's regular appearances in the Street of Shame, often ordering journalists around and insulting them on their appearance. One more memorable episode was when Desmond apparently told Express editor Peter Hill that his current front page was "fucking shit". Hill, fed up with Desmond's constant interference, finally lost his temper and left, leaving the deputy to redo the paper. Most notoriously, Desmond punched the Express's then night editor, Ted Young, in the stomach after his failure to run an article on the death of an obscure 60's musician. Desmond settled with Young the day before the case was due to go to an industrial tribunal for a six figure sum. Young was prevented from giving evidence in the High Court by Justice Eady, but thankfully his testimony was not needed.

Perhaps the most damning evidence however was given by the person who wrote the offending article which led Black to sue Desmond and consequently "ground him into the dust". Anil Bhoyrul, one of the former Mirror journalists involved in the Viglen shares debacle which was another stain on Piers Morgan's character, wrote the "Media Uncovered" column in the Sunday Express between 2001 and 2003 under the pseudonym Frank Daly. Despite supposedly being a witness for Desmond, Bhoyrul made clear that he was directly influenced in what he wrote by what Desmond "liked and disliked", which was made clear to him by the editor Martin Townsend in phone calls on a Tuesday. Bhoyrul boasted of how he "got a pretty good feel for who, you know, to be positive about and who to be negative about. The impression I got over time was that Conrad Black and Richard Desmond were not the best of friends." Bhoyrul was hardly exaggerating: he wrote around 27 hostile pieces about Black, and attacked the owner of the Independent, Tony O'Reilly, in much the same fashion when Desmond was in dispute with him.

Then there was just the sort of in the public domain knowledge which made Desmond look like an idiot. Three days after Desmond had threatened a business contact down the phone, telling him "[he'd] be the worst fucking enemy you'll ever have", the Sunday Express ran a defamatory article about the contact and his hedge fund, Pentagon Capital Management. When Desmond had to settle the libel claim from Pentagon, a statement was read out in open court that "Mr Desmond accepts that it was his comments in the presence of Sunday Express journalists that prompted the Sunday Express to publish the article." Yet Desmond denied when questioned by Thwaites that he had complained to the editor about his predicament, or in front of the journalists. Unless Desmond was committing perjury, he presumably only agreed to that statement in the libel settlement to get it over with.

Whether in the long run much will come of Desmond's humiliation, apart from the possible publication of Bower's biography, is difficult to tell. Undoubtedly his enemies at the Mail will tomorrow have a field day, as will the others that despise Desmond, but readers of his own papers would never know that he had even lost his claim. The article in the Express doesn't so much as mention it, merely setting out that Desmond "set the record straight", while even more mindboggling is his claim to that it was "worth it to stand up in court". Certainly, the estimated costs of the action, £1.25m, is only about a week's wages to Desmond, but to someone with his sensitivity to criticism and determination to be seen as a honest, generous, philanthropic businessman, he must be secretly devastated. Most damaging to Desmond though is certainly Roy Greenslade's conclusion that he is an even worse newspaper owner than Robert Maxwell was. Greenslade should know: he was Mirror editor under Maxwell (His book, Press Gang, is also a fine post-war history of the British press). Although Desmond has clearly not defrauded the Express in the way which Maxwell did Mirror group, he has stripped it of assets in a similar fashion. The Guardian describes how while Greenslade was giving his evidence, Desmond gripped the table in front of him tightly, while his wife asked whether he was OK. That might yet be nothing on what he does tomorrow when the papers quote Greenslade in an approving fashion.

(Other sources for this apart from the links include the latest Private Eye, 1241, and its report on the trial on page 9.)

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Friday, April 03, 2009 

The media and spree killings.

There's now been at least six spree killings in the space of less than a month. For the most part I tend to be sceptical about claims of media influence, especially to the extent to which it might by itself trigger copycat behaviour or violence, but there does seem to be some reasonable evidence, at least where it comes to suicide, that sensationalistic coverage and especially emphasis on methods can lead to an increase in the number of attempts by those who already contemplating doing so or are otherwise depressed.

If there is a link, then it might well be because the media cover spree killings very differently to the way they do "normal" murders. A case in point was the Virginia Tech massacre, where Seung-Hui Cho did the work of the 24-hour news networks for them, sending an entire dossier, better described as a manifesto, to NBC, which they did the equivalent of ejaculating over. In almost no other cases would news networks allow killers to justify their crimes in such a way as Cho did, putting himself up as a secular martyr. The hysteria which followed Columbine, where everything and everyone was blamed other than those who had failed to spot the warning signs, succeeded in making Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris into anti-heroes, as the psychiatrist on Newswipe suggests, name-checked by Cho himself as previous victims whom he aspired to emulate.

There are of course other explanations, often that those behind such sprees have been planning them for some time and that the dates they actually chose to carry out their murders are simply coincidence. Certainly the current economic situation, which will increase the number who undergo utter desperation at their current lot, hardly helps matters. Other cases, such as the Oakland police shootings, just seem to be down to all those involved, including the shooter, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even so, that doesn't alter the fact that the media doesn't need to report these killings in the way in which the clip identifies. If there's even the possibility that such sensationalism can contribute to those who subsequently go postal, the media has the best possible reason for scaling back the coverage.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009 

I stared into the cold, dead eyes of unpopular journalism...

As well as being exploitative and revolting, the coverage of the Fritzl trial has also delivered some simply shockingly bad journalism. The Guardian, despite its crowing about the only British broadsheet in the courtroom, has at least tried to remove all sensationalism and cod personal insights from its reports, even if the sub-editor behind the headline was not as subtle. The same, unsurprisingly, cannot be said for the Sun, or the other papers that led with the impossibly precise figure of 4,000 rapes, but Brian Flynn's piece in places has to be read to be believed:

I STARED into the cold, blue eyes of incest fiend Josef Fritzl yesterday — and saw not a flicker of remorse or shame.

Fritzl had lowered the blue file binder he used to hide his face from photographers when he entered court.

The power-crazed monster, who regards females as objects to dominate and abuse, was finally confronted by two women who will decide his fate

Yet, with a sick discipline learned from the Nazi heroes of his youth, he simply gazed ahead, expressionless, for more than two hours.


As the public section of the trial ended yesterday, Fritzl reached for his blue folder and held it against his face once more.

It was as if he believed that no one was going to see into his soul.

But he was too late for those of us in court who had already fixed upon his eyes.

I was in no doubt I had seen the most evil man on earth.

Even Craig Brown might have baulked at satirising a humourless, puffed-up journo in such a fashion, thinking that no one would believe one could write such utter meaningless twaddle dressed up as an actual news report. Fritzl will remain the most evil man on earth until the Sun finds the next one, who should be along a couple of days from now.

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Monday, March 16, 2009 

Fritzl and media saturation.

There really is nothing quite like some good old fashioned humbug. The same media which rejoiced in the Josef Fritzl story, covering every sordid detail of the 24-year long abuse of his daughter even as it proclaimed itself shocked and horrified at what he had done, while chomping at the bit to ascribe to Austria as a whole the blame for the man, is now covering his trial in the same fashion. This should be one of those occasions where the media just leaves well alone, lets justice take its course and leaves the shattered family in peace, but of course someone somewhere would cover it, so therefore all of them have to. The Guardian is even crowing about being the only "broadsheet to have a correspondent in court throughout the trial", as if that's something to proud about. The person who abused therefore has his audience, through which the abuse can be continued and extended, even if for the last time.

This is nothing more than voyeurism of the worst kind, purveying the peversions to a salivating audience whilst pretending to simply be providing a public service. Then again, when you have the likes of Peter Hitchens saying with a straight face that women who are raped when drunk have to bear some of the responsibility, it's not entirely surprising that the Fritzl story has been proved to be so amazingly popular.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009 

How not to react to idiotic protests.

Over 5,000 people protested yesterday across Northern Ireland for peace. That was on the inside pages. On Tuesday between 12 and 20 Islamists, almost certainly connected with the successor groups to al-Muhajiroun, exercising their clear democratic right, protested at a parade of troops returning from Iraq. Their slogans and placards were admittedly inflammatory, but probably just on the side of not causing a public order offence or inciting hatred, and in any event they should have been given the benefit of the doubt in order to exercise their legitimate right to demonstrate. Their protest, clearly designed to attract widespread attention, makes the front pages of the tabloids for two days running. Forgive me for wondering about the sense of priorities.

Not that any of this was in the slightest bit surprising. It ticked all the buttons for the tabloids: our brave heroic boys being unfairly abused when they are just doing their jobs, mad Muslims doubtless sponging off the state daring to appear in public with a different view from that of the Fleet Street consensus, and then they of course got to make phone calls to their favourite people, the spouting likes of Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri Muhammad, always waiting on the end of the phone line to deliver a diatribe against some part of life or society. All so predictable.

Less predictable was the tenor of the condemnation from politicians, who rather than suggesting that perhaps the best way to respond to the protest was to not give those who desperately wanted publicity the exact thing that they craved instead competed to spout the most meaningless platitude. Hence we had Harriet Harman hilariously suggesting that the soldiers were fighting for "democracy and for freedom of speech as well as peace and security in the region and the world." These were the troops which have just spent their last six months rarely leaving their base outside Basra, and according to most accounts doing a rather poor job of training the Iraqi police. Their presence, according to no less an authority than the head of the army himself, was in fact "exacerbating" the security situation. She was however outdone by the egregious Liam Fox, who said "[I]t is only because of the sacrifices made by our armed forces that these people live in a free society where they are able to make their sordid protests." He is of course right, up to a point, but the idea that our current armed forces and their deployments are in any way protecting us currently, and that this somehow means that they are beyond criticism, is an attempt to close down such debate, without getting into other arguments such as that made by Matthew Norman. We could however depend on other shrill Tory politicians, such as Sayeedi Warsi, who described the protesters as "criminals", and this blog's much loved Nadine Dorries, who described their intervention as "atrocities" (according to the Sun, although I can't seem to find her describing them thusly elsewhere, although she makes points similar to Harman and Fox on her blog) to even further ramp up the synthetic outrage.

Quite how far what should have been an insignificant protest launched by marginalised individuals with absolutely no wide support was blown out of proportion was symbolised by what we have since learned about the attempts to organise their presence. Mass leafleting went on in Luton, which has an estimated population of around 20,000 Muslims, to encourage protests at the homecoming: that just 20 turned up, and that indeed there are claims that some of those there were not even from Luton or the surrounding area shows how ignored their message was in the town itself. Indeed, the TV pictures clearly showed that there were plenty of other Muslims who had turned up to applaud the troops, who have been completely ignored in all of this. That though was never going to fit into the message which was meant to be conveyed here: that the protest itself was bordering on the almost treasonable, and that anyone who treats the armed forces in such a disrespectful matter ought to be put on the first plane out of the country.

The reaction which those who organised the protest have received will if anything embolden them to repeat their actions. That one of them has lost his job working at Luton airport due to his attendance will be a further greviance they will build on. The real victims in all of this will of course will be the ordinary Muslims whom have been tarnished, both by the protesters themselves and by the media who at the first opportunity get in contact with individuals who build themselves up as representative of the wider community when they are representative only of themselves. Choudary and al-Bakri stigmatise Muslims as a whole, and then individuals demand that good, decent Muslims raise their voices against them; why should they when it should already be apparent that they loathe those who are only interested in their own self-aggrandisement? The other beneficiaries, as always, are the BNP, with Nick Griffin sending out an email to supporters which was actually milder in the language used than most other politicians were.

One final, controversial point to make is to challenge the idea that the troops themselves are completely above reproach. While we thankfully don't have the same jingoistic view of our soldiers as they do in the US, the tabloid press especially insists on regarding every single member of the armed forces automatically as a "hero"; this, it should go without saying, is an incredibly simplistic and unhelpful view to take. The soldiers themselves for the most part resent the way the media portrays them, regarding it both as cynical and false, not to mention embarrassing when they themselves are for the most part incredibly humble about what they do. It also undermines the very real fact that they are working for what many of us would regard as poverty pay, in often horrendous conditions, with old equipment and in unsanitary housing. They deserve respect and support, not fawning and brown-nosing. Targeting them in such insulting terms is wrong, but is not to say that all protests against soldiers are automatically unacceptable. If only we could get past all such orthodoxies, we might eventually get somewhere in challenging all those involved, but it seems destined not to be.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008 

They've only stolen all our jobs!

What goes through the minds of journalists working on a newspaper when they know that the information they are putting out is either demonstratively false or likely to be found to be demonstratively false? An example, if an obviously extreme one, is provided by Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie in their history of the Sun concerning the paper's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster:

As MacKenzie's layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office [but] MacKenzie's dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch. [Everyone in the office] seemed paralysed, "looking like rabbits in the headlights", as one hack described them. The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn't a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight. Nobody really had any comment on it—they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a "classic smear".

No one can on the Daily Star can possibly make the same excuse for today's front page, unless Dawn Neesom is rather more fearsome than she has been made out to be and prepared to use her kick-boxing training against her own hacks,ly Star, Daily Star-watch, Muslim bashing, churnalism, racism, immigration, immigration figures, or Richard Desmond himself was personally involved:

They haven't just taken all our jobs; they've stolen them from out of our hands!

There is instead a rather more simple explanation for the Star's front page, the Express's copy/paste and the similar effort in the Sun, doubtless amongst others: churnalism. As 5cc quickly found out, the origin of these claims is that old favourite of utterly unbiased and completely reliable figures on all matters immigration, Migration Watch. Their press release on the subject has everything that put-upon tabloid hack needs for a quickly cobbled together story; all that has to be added is the huge headline and red lettering.

And, as 5cc explains, it's crap, unsourced or badly sourced like the tabloid stories themselves. As he also points out:

The great thing about this one is that it contradicts its own conclusion with the real reason so many jobs have gone to immigrants in recent years:
The British born working age population also fell during this period, so the proportion in work remained unchanged at 75.4%.
So when the report goes on to say:
These employment statistics are not, in themselves, absolute proof that the employment of British born workers has declined as the result of East European immigration but it is hard to find another explanation.
It looks a bit silly. The other explanation is just one paragraph above.

The journalists responsible for pumping out this bilge in most of the circumstances almost certainly don't agree with or indeed believe it. They just do so because if they didn't they find themselves out of a job. Even so, it does represent something of a continuing campaign by the Star to be the most "outrageous" paper when it comes to tackling such thorny issues as Islam and immigration. A couple of years back you might remember it took a NUJ mutiny for the paper not to run a page 6 "burqa babes special", while more recently it led with "BBC PUT MUSLIMS BEFORE YOU!". In today's paper, apart from the front page splash, there's a similarly doubtless half or not even half-true report about how a "multi-faith area" in Lewes prison had a crucifix removed from it, lest it apparently offend Muslims. The reason for why "the multi-faith space" must supposedly double up for both faiths is made plain in the last independent inspectorate report into the prison:

Worship facilities were very poor. The Christian chapel was at the top of a steep flight of stairs and inaccessible to prisoners with mobility difficulties, the small multi-faith room had been taken over for other use two months previously and Muslim prayers were held in an association area on F wing with no carpet or ablutions facilities. A new multi-faith area was due to be built as part of the rebuild. The coordinating chaplain had identified some basic errors in the design and it was unclear whether it would provide enough room for the number of prisoners expected to want to use it.

The article claims that the "independent board which monitors prisons admitted the Lewes cross was dropped after discussions with a Muslim priest", but if this is a reference to the actual prisons inspectorate, there's nothing on their site to suggest this is the case or contained in the report from over a year ago. It's the apoplexy of Phillip Davies that makes it all slightly worthwhile:

“It’s barmy politically-correct madness no doubt dreamed up by some white middle-class, lentil-eating, sandal-wearing do-gooder.

“This kind of thing does so much damage to race relations because it builds up resentment.”

Doesn't it just? I bet the percentage of the population that read the Daily Star and care about the facilities for different religions in prisons are absolutely fuming. I can't recall whether it was Simon Hoggart or the parliamentary column in Private Eye which described Davies, often mistaken for David Davis, as an "unpopular populist", but for passive aggression on the behalf of the outrageds of Tonbridge Wells who have never heard of him he deserves some sort of prize.

That label of unpopular populism probably applies equally well to the Daily Star itself. After all, anyone really that disgusted or concerned by the twin outrages of uncontrolled immigration and Muslims on the rates must have abandoned the Star a while ago: the Mail or the Express do that stuff without all the distracting women with huge tits in-between. The paper defended itself a while back with the claim that it wanted to give its readers a smile in the morning, and in fairness it's a rare occasion when the paper does go in for such front pages as today's or the one attacking the BBC, far more concerned as it with the tit situation already mentioned.

Which leads us to probably the best, most likely unintended juxtaposition of the gorgeous pouting Danielle Lloyd with the headline next to her. Lloyd, for those with slightly shorter memories, was one of those along with the single-monikered Jade and S Club 7 reject Jo whom bullied Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother. Lloyd's most well-known contribution, apart from asking in the thickest in both senses of the word Scouse accent whether "those people who eat with their hands are Indian or from Chi-nah", was that Shetty "should fuck off home". Unlike Jade, who had to develop cancer before she could be successfully re-admitted to reality television, Lloyd continued in her furrow, much thanks to the readers of Zoo and Nuts not being too picky when it comes to the ideological status of the women they one-handedly admire the aesthetic beauty of. After all, doesn't Lloyd's success in her work suggest that as yet those filthy foreigners haven't managed to steal the jobs of our hard labouring British glamour models? Isn't that something to proud of, that the Daily Star promotes home-grown talent regardless of the foreigners' insidious attempts to thieve such jobs? British boobs for British men, and nothing but the best shall do!

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Monday, December 15, 2008 

Scum-watch: Is the paedophile still dead?

The Sun really can't give it a rest with the open apologia for the murder of a "paedophile" (Cunningham, going by what we know about him, is probably more accurately described as an hebephile or ephebophile), today publishing the views of a former girlfriend:

AN ex-girlfriend of murdered paedophile Andrew Cunningham said yesterday: “I’m glad he’s dead.”

Annette Morris, 47, claimed Cunningham, 52, bedded their 15-year-old babysitter — then detailed it in his diary.

She said: “What he wrote was disgusting.

“It made me feel physically sick.”

Annette, who had a daughter with Cunningham, was 17 when they first met.

She said: “Even I wasn’t young enough for him. He had this obsession for 15-year-olds.”

Annette said: “The world is a better place without him.”

Err, so he met her when he was 22 - but the way the paper has phrased it is to make you imagine that this was some sick much older man preying on a innocent young teenager. It would be interesting to know when Cunningham and Morris got together, especially so we could also place when his relationship with his ex-wife broke down. Presumably this 15-year-old babysitter was the one he was convicted of having unlawful sexual intercourse with. Even considering the somewhat unique circumstances, it seems rather over-the-top for Morris to be glad that he's dead and that the world's a better place without him, which does make you wonder whether that is what she really thinks - prompted possibly by financial reimbursement, or simply exaggerated somewhat by Antonella Lazzeri.

In any event, perhaps because the "evil peados deserve to die" group has already got bored and moved on, the comments are in fact this time rather more balanced:

What a blood thirsty bunch of people.We do not have the death penalty in this country, for good reason.If the courts cannot sentence criminals to death, then no member of the public has the right to arbitrarily decide who can happily be murdered.This is so wrong an attitude.No matter who or what he was.
I am the mother of one son who was brutally attacked years ago, aged 15 at the time, and raped by a man of 42 odd who was married with 3 kids of his own.Do I want him dead? No.Incarcerated yes,and he is.

So now we've gone from 'raping a child' to having consensual sex with a 15 year old.
And still the pitchfork mob cheer the lynching on here.
What a dreadful race the Brits have become.

Am I the only one to find the attitude of people towards this brutal and horrendous murder to be barbaric. He served the sentence which was passed, whether people agree with it is neither here nor there, no one has the right to take the law into their own hands and decide to brutally murder someone

Is the the first step to the complete breakdown of law and order ?

Yes funny how the lynch mob are still thirsting even though its now "consensual sex" with a 15 yr old!

In fact, the whole idea that he was killed by a mob is also being played down. The Wandsworth Guardian reports:

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Scola said he was keeping an open mind on suspects and motives, adding that no rowdy groups were seen in the area on the night.

There had been no reports of sex offences in recent years, quashing a rumour the 52-year-old had fondled a local two-year-old.

Elsewhere, predictably the Scum is making the most of the cock-up on the weekend's Strictly Come Dancing:

YOU can’t trust the BBC to organise a dance-off in a ballroom.

Millions had their weekend viewing ruined after yet another phone-vote shambles.

This time calls and texts to decide who made the final of Strictly Come Dancing were ruled invalid after a counting cock-up.

The Beeb have already been caught conning the public on Comic Relief, Children in Need, Blue Peter and Sport Relief.

The twerps in TV Centre should have learned from these mistakes.

Viewers will rightly expect that in future they behave like Strictly contestants.

And don’t put a foot wrong.

Indeed, who could possibly make similar mistakes? Certainly not ITV, where on programmes such as Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway those who rang in had no chance of winning if they weren't lively enough or in the right area, or on Soapstar Superstar, where the viewing public were asked to vote for which participant should sing certain songs when the production crew were the ones doing the selecting, or the X Factor, with this year's winner featuring on the Sun's front page today, where in 2005 13.9% of votes in the final were received too late to be included. I'm also sure that Sky's 17.9% share in ITV, with the X Factor being by far their most successful show, as well as competing with Strictly, has absolutely no influence whatsoever on the Sun's view of the BBC performance.

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