This one is quite angry, which is a shame as I was hellbent on writing something positive today. Yesterday was a good day. For science. Yesterday, they announced something extraordinary. Something incredible.
That’s not what’s on the front pages this morning, though.
The newspapers probably worry that their readers won’t ‘get’ cosmic inflation. That’s understandable. It’s not exactly familiar territory, is it? It’s new – even if it isn’t News. While we might not know all about astrophysics, we are all thoroughly acquainted with other people’s grief. We get that. Suicide, that’s a known commodity. That’s way more saleable. That’s News.
You see, that’s the other thing that happened yesterday. Yesterday, a woman committed suicide. This happens every day. It might have happened to someone you know, maybe – even if you didn’t know them all that well. What doesn’t normally happen in these instances is that the nation’s press decide to leap into action. They have concluded (I’m talking specifically about the Mail, the Star and the Mirror) that the most appropriate response to this event is to publish a photo of the woman’s boyfriend at the exact moment he found out about it. I know it was the exact moment because the newspapers in question, no doubt proud of their achievement, published the claim alongside the image.
The man in question is a famous musician, by the way. Apparently that makes all the fucking difference.
Here’s some stuff from the Press Complaints Commission:
5. Intrusion into grief or shock
i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively.
The Samaritans also have some advice for ambitious journalists to ignore:
6. Consider carefully the placement and illustration of reports
Some suicides attract intense media scrutiny. However, where possible, refrain from positioning a story too prominently, for example on a front page or as a lead bulletin, as this may unduly influence vulnerable people.
The emphasis there isn’t mine.
The print media are often described as vultures. The metaphor is never more apt than when someone is in pain. They feed on pain. They repackage it and sell it as though it were a matter of public interest. As though it were everyone’s business. Even by the rock-bottom standards of the British print media, the Mail, the Mirror and the Star have singled themselves out as loathsome. They are all inexcusable islands of shit in a sea of stinking puke. I find this whole thing staggering. To photograph someone at the precise instant of bereavement and then use it to sell newspapers. I can’t think of any greater intrusion than that.
It’s condemned, but only in some quarters. It’s mostly accepted. More than that, it’s extremely lucrative. And I’m not talking about a niche bunch of weird grief-fetishists. This is a mainstream thing. The Mail is the nation’s second biggest-selling newspaper. British people, for the most part, do not give two fucking shits. Think about that. That’s not a problem you can solve with some judge-led enquiry. The only reason tabloid journalism is so replete with class-A cock behaviour is that all of the people who consume tabloid journalism are class-A cocks. After it turned out that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, I thought that might be a turning point. It wasn’t; people still buy the Sun. They still buy the Sun on Sunday. Are we going to regulate people into not finding this shit appealing?
By the time you read this, people will have flocked in their thousands to buy these publications. I am quite sure the people that consume it have convinced themselves that their interest in the matter is borne out of some weird compassion. That fact is testament to a weird, societally-licenced callousness toward anyone who has managed to flog a few albums. Penance for a measure of success, is that how it works? If you’ve achieved a measure of fame, you don’t deserve a private life. You don’t deserve empathy, and neither does your girlfriend. Not even now.
“Wow! The precise moment he found out? That’s some stellar journalism! I’ll take one!” Work that one out. It seems that to be a celebrity is to be thoroughly dehumanised. People know about you, but they don’t really care. They’re quite happy to invade your private life at every available opportunity. Whose intrusion is it? There are several actors, here, aren’t there? The most obvious is the customer, who is in turn paying a newsagent who has paid a publisher who has paid a newspaper whose editor has taken the decision to use some image taken by some piece of human filth paparazzi. Because after all, if they don’t do it, they’ll lose out on sales to the other newspaper whose editor is an even more inhuman scumbag.
Can you imagine what it would be like if a crowd of people were to spontaneously form a circle around a bereaved person, at the very point of bereavement? If it happened in the street, just as you were passing by? Would you assume that everyone had just lost their fucking mind? That some supergenius had concocted some awful way of making everyone suddenly go evil?
Is there a difference between that and what the tabloids churn out? The only difference is that a great many people have somehow agreed that it’s okay – on the grounds that they enjoy consuming it. I’m not against making a profit, by the way. I’m simply appalled at the idea that this sort of thing can be profitable. The fact that this is commercially viable is a mark of the nation’s collective insanity. Great Britain has lost its fucking mind – I don’t know exactly when it happened, but it happened a while ago.
Well – I have this opinion, here – it’s not fucking okay, it’s despicable, reprehensible, poisonous; It’s fucking disgraceful, and while I’m all for a pluralism of opinion, this is one instance where, frankly, if you disagree with me, I invite you to stop reading this blog henceforth and go fuck yourself, because you are disgraceful.
The rest of you: Until next week.