Sunday, 8 November 2009

You can't beat a bit of bully

OK, so writing a post in defense of Heather Mills feels rather counter-intuitive, like shepherding children back into a burning orphanage. But why exactly is there so much antipathy to one of the richest ex-wives in England?

Most of the blame clearly lies with the press, who were quick to portray her as the kind of wicked stepmother that even the Brothers Grimm would find outlandish. Then again, if you were put in the unenviable position of being stepmother to Stella McCartney, you'd be speed-dialling the bearded huntsman or pointing her in the direction of the nearest gingerbread cottage before the wedding breakfast was over.

Of course, Heather didn't help matters, having breakdowns on breakfast TV and turning the divorce court hearings into outtakes from Dynasty, minus the clip-on earrings. As a consequence, she's now fair game for anyone with a spare joke about prosthetic limbs.

So we shouldn't really be surprised that Baroness Blackheart, AKA Amanda Platell, saw the chance for a few lazy digs at Heather's expense, once she got her withered claws on some nefarious pictures of the ex-Mrs McCartney in training for Dancing on Ice

Platell's article claimed that Heather was 'desperate' to get on the show, and had recruited a trainer to help her - as though adequate preparation was something to be sniffed at. But the real ugliness came in the form of the Mail's now obligatory rhetorical questions: "Why does she roll up one trouser leg to show her prosthetic limb, yet leaves the other leg covered? Not still milking the sympathy vote, are we pet?"

Unsurprisingly, Heather's not too chuffed with Amanda's spiteful snippery, taking to Twitter to voice her disgust. "She said I kept my trouser leg rolled up to show off my prosthetic, UNTRUE. It was rolled up so Bob Watts the prosthetist could see the alignment and work out why I could not do crossovers without catching my blade and falling over."

The thing is, there's nothing new about Amanda Platell's uninformed, open-ended cruelty. The Daily Mail has been busy developing its signature bullying tone over time, and it's becoming more and more prevalent. Just take a look at the stories from the last week, and how they were headlined:

Can't remember your own songs Leona? 

The snippy, supercilious tone that runs through all of these lines clearly positions the Mail as the journalistic equivalent of the immaculately dressed bitches that figure in most American high school dramas. They spot a weakness or insecurity and exploit it with little or no understanding of the context.

The cruel irony is that today's Daily Mail cover laments the tragic death of a woman who died in a house-fire, whilst trying to save her son, who had been teased for his learning difficulties. It seems that bullying is only ugly and cruel when someone else is doing it.

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