The anti-Daily Mail campaign that followed Jan Moir’s column on the death of former pop star Stephen Gately is still going strong.A report from journalism.co.uk says: “An online petition launched following Jan Moir’s Daily Mail article about the circumstances of Stephen Gately’s death, has attracted over 1,700 signatures at the time of writing.” [02/11/09]
Gord help us
The petition calls for Gordon Brown to make the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) a public body.
It points out that Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is chairman of the code committee for the PCC, and demands an end to what it sees as self-regulation of the press.
That’s far enough, I think. Time for a backlash.
Chesterton said that “Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord Jones is Dead’ to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive”.
It also consists of editorials telling the world what a git Lord Jones was before he’s cold in his grave; of reporters banging on Lady Jones’ door to ask her how she and her weeping children feel about His Lordship’s passing; of muckrakers stalking Lord Jones’ bit on the side to offer her (or him) a fortune for her (his) story; and of a gleeful public lapping up every word.
This might be nasty, but it is a Good Thing. It’s why we knew about Cook, Blunkett and Prescott. And it’s why we knew about MP’s expenses; about how Jaqqui Smith turned the (Second) Home Office into a family business; about the moats and duck houses and the flippers.
Rod Liddle – one of the few people to have written any sense on this sorry tale – put it better than that (be fair – he earns more than I do): Dancing on graves is what journalists do.
Less is Moir
I was slow on this one because, to tell the truth, I’d never heard of Stephen Gately; I didn’t know he was gay; all I knew at first was that he was dead. And even when I picked up the tweets, and read the column, to be honest, I really didn’t know what the fuss was about.
I found the column cruel, and I thought it would be hard for his family to read. And, yes, of course, people who were offended were right to complain.
But much of the anger seemed manufactured, assumed, and there was a defiite feel of people leaping onto a PC bandwagon.
And note that they weren’t just complaining. They wanted ads pulled; they wanted the column expunged; and now they want the press controlled so that, we can assume, columns like this won’t get written.
I find that offensive. And intimidating.
The easiest word
The worst thing about the whole affair: Jan Moir said sorry. That’s a mistake. She and her bosses should have brazened out, or at least rode out, the storm.
In the words of Captain Nathan Brittles:
Never apologize, it’s a sign of weakness.