The Scum's vile page 3 "idol" competition (warning: nudity) has started up again, with the same pathetic prize as last year - a one-year contract with Page 3, as many teenage wank mag shoots as you can agree to, a holiday with added photoshoot and £5,000 - after which you'll be unceremoniously dumped back into obscurity.
As usual, my faith in humanity upon seeing the legions of young women willingly send in photographs of themselves semi-naked in the forlorn hope that they'll be selected to at least go through into the finals has plummeted through the floor. Why do they do it? Is it hubris on their part, or is it the exact opposite, the search for affirmation and acceptance through the exposing of their body parts? Is it simple pride, showing off what they have because they themselves adore how they look and want to share it with others, or again the apparently increasing belief, amongst younger teenagers especially, that glamour modeling is something to aspire towards?
I don't pretend to have any answers, mainly because I'm a butt ugly young male who consequently has never felt the need to shove a JPEG version of his pathetically average penis into anyone's face. It is amazing however what can constitute something sexually arousing to someone, as any quick trip into the cesspool of the internet will quickly alert you to. That's the other thing though - the internet has in effect flooded the market. Once the avid masturbator interested in the equivalent of readers' wives and girlfriends, which is what the page 3 idol competition in essence is, would have had to turn to the pages of the likes of Razzle and Escort, available from your local friendly corner shop, along with brown paper bag and the recommendations of the owner, who would invariably offer you something "harder" from under the counter. Now those women who would have once had pride of place in the centre pages of those crusty magazines, and as any peruser of older issues of such publications will be able to tell you, they were mostly the older, overweight lady, often outdoors and subsequently showing admirable contempt for the public decency laws, are left with desperately trying to gain attention on the plethora of websites dedicated to submissions from the public. They sink without trace.
I have nothing against exhibitionism, which is also what the page 3 idol contest adds up to. The main question ought to be however how many of those who are submitting their photographs to the Scum would have done if there was not a cash prize, the chance of national recognition and sort of fame, however faint, through doing so. The defenders of pornography, and while I dislike it intensely, I'm not ashamed to admit I use it, often point out that the women involved aren't necessarily the ones being exploited - although disproportionately those who have been abused, come from low income backgrounds or had generally what we'd define as miserable lives make up the numbers of those involved in it, as the tragic recent death of Haley Paige, a well-known US porn performer showed - they're exploiting those that are paying for the privilege of watching them au-naturelle. This clearly doesn't apply in the page 3 idol case, as they're making nothing out of it while the one-handed hordes of Sun readers and page3.com browsers sneer and jerk in equal measure at the collection of today's unlucky 25.
Disregarding the faux-philosophy and psychology behind why women involve themselves in pornography, if anything the page 3 idol contest does bring a whole new meaning to the idea of selling your soul to Rupert Murdoch. Getting your "tits out for the lads" while drunk is one thing; doing it more than happily for a national newspaper for nothing in return is quite another. It ought to show that the Sun, a publication which is nothing more than a propaganda vehicle for Murdoch which pretends to care what its readers' think and like ought to be thought of no better than the semen-splattered pages of Zoo or Nuts are. Instead, prime ministers and politicians bend over backwards to appeal to the base instincts of a pornographer who just happens to have acquired himself a media empire. The Scum is currently harrying Gordon Brown incessantly about the EU reform treaty - he ought to throw the Scum's exploitation of young women back in their faces. Murdoch isn't afraid to play dirty, as the constant lies printed in the Sun show, so why should those accused of selling this country down the river not respond like for like?
Take its response to the release of yesterday's figures from the Ministry of Justice (I shudder every time I write that Orwellian term) which while showing a 36% rise in those under the highest Mappa regime of supervision committing a serious offence actually recorded no real statistical increase, the numbers increasing year-on-year from 61 to 83, a rise of 22. It also doesn't note that as well as defining a serious offence as "any murder, manslaughter, attempted homicide, rape or attempted rape" it also includes arson, kidnap or armed robbery, as the Guardian makes clear. The Sun leader also erroneously claims that "almost 1,700 serious sex offenders committed more assaults while supposedly being monitored". The figures show nothing of the sort, instead showing that almost 1,700 were charged or cautioned for not keeping up with their requirements under their signing of the sex offenders register.
While statistics are never going to be any comfort to those who are the victims of those crimes, if anything it shows that Mappa is doing the best job it probably can. The fallibility of such organisations is never taken into consideration - some of those who reoffend simply could never have been stopped from doing so or showed no signs of being about to do so. The numbers committing a second serious offence could probably be brought down further, but unless we completely re-evaulate the criminal justice system as it stands, and start locking away those who pose such a serious threat indefinitely and disregard the possibility that they can reform, such recidivism is always going to occur. The question has to be whether we are prepared to lock away even more people than we currently do for even longer, when all the evidence suggests that doing so simply doesn't work.
The recent Guardian poll that suggested that the views of the public have now polarised between the two poles, to describe them crudely as the "harsher" and "softer" positions, ought to tell us that there is now the chance to change course completely. No matter how many times the Sun argues in its leader that the "only answer to swelling prison numbers is ... more prisons", it doesn't alter the fact we simply cannot build our way out of this problem. Polly Toynbee in one of her occasional decent pieces today made clear the way that even good figures that show crime is falling are spun to make them look the opposite.
To change this, Labour, whose policies as the Sun says have been appalling, although for entirely different reasons to why they think they've been, has to take the fight to those in favour of ever increasing draconian responses. Crime has dropped dramatically over the last ten years, and one of the reasons why despite that it continues to be such an issue of concern is that rehabilitation in overcrowded prisons simply isn't possible. To make them more effective, less people have to be imprisoned. This means more treatment for those addicted to drugs, and not inside prisons, but outside them. It means that the mentally ill who are stagnating in jails and only getting sicker need to be taken out of the system. Prison should return to what they were designed for: to protect the public from those who are a genuine danger to society, not as the dumping ground for the misfits and broken. It seems so obvious, but in the face of such hostility from the "popular" press has meant this has been impossible. Sadly, the time for this to happen, when the government had the support which such a move would be possible, has likely passed. This ought to be standard Liberal Democrat territory, but instead they were some of those most outraged by the tiny relative increase. Martin Kettle reckons there is a real choice (a theme I might return to when I have more time) but on crime and punishment, there certainly doesn't seem to be one.
Labels: crime figures, crime policies, MAPPA, page 3 idol, pornography, prison overcrowding, Rupert Murdoch, Scum-watch, Sun-watch