Monday, 19 October 2009

Janet over-bites back

Sometimes, the reaction to an event is as fascinating as the event itself. Take the Daily Mail's response to its own self-perpetuated controversy for instance.

Today, in Middle England's tabloid of choice, Janet Street-Porter wrote an eloquent response to Jan Moir's grubby little one-woman attack on journalistic standards. Although best known for accent as broad as the Thames estuary and a set of teeth that could be used for cutting decorative pastry cases, the Sarf London legend has talent and integrity to spare - so quite why she chooses to write for the Mail remains a mystery.

Nonetheless, her article is a sharp riposte to Jan's ignorance, pointing out that true equality means accepting that Civil Partnerships are as diverse and varied as straight relationships. Janet also makes reference to the fact that another gay man died last week. However, unlike Stephen Gately who died of natural causes, Ian Baynham's death was indeed a consequence of his sexuality.

He was beaten and kicked to death by a group of homophobic teenagers in Trafalgar Square. As Janet points out, "the number of attacks against gay men and women in London has risen nearly 20 per cent, and in a recent survey 90 per cent of the gay men and women questioned said they had experienced homophobic insults and abuse." Sadly, Street-Porter stops short of asking where those abusers go to have their attitudes validated.

Despite commissioning this article, the Mail can't quite resist putting its own editorial spin on the whole story. Showing the kind of revisionist approach usually applied by Holocaust deniers, an article appeared in today's issue under the headline "Stephen Gately debate dominates the internet".

By calling it a 'debate' rather than an 'outcry' (their usual preferred terminology for this kind of scandal) they make it sound as though Stephen is the one being discussed, rather than Moir's sour-faced savagery. Throughout the article, carefully chosen phrases like "worldwide debate", "thousands have been moved to comment" and "an extraordinary online response" cunningly mask the true significance of the story.

Of course, Jan's disingenuous defense is also tactically replayed, particularly the opening which reads "Some people, particularly in the gay community...", suggesting that only gay people would ever be disgusted by blatant homophobia. But the final straw in this hopelessly inaccurate article is the tagged-on final line, which reads "The Press Complaints Commission has received more than 1,000 complaints..."

Would it be churlish to point out that the 1,000 complaints were lodged in the first 24 hours, and since then, the PCC has logged 21,000 complaints - an all-time record? I guess if you want fact-checking, truth or reliability, the Weekly World News is your best bet.

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