Stories that should have been overlooked
I’ve often complained about the increasing problem of oversensitive offence-taking and the modern-day enthusiasm for playing the victim. These characteristics are displayed on social media ad nauseam, and it is one of the main reasons why I can’t bear to spend too much time on either Facebook or Twitter.
But last Wednesday when I checked out the Daily Telegraph website I was astonished to see two stories that should never have got past an attentive news editor. One story was headlined ‘ Australian mother attacked by Facebook friends over constant baby posts’. The story was about a spat between a group of friends over a very proud mum who kept posting over-enthusiastic pictures and details of her baby’s development. It is truly bizarre that a slight disagreement between suburban friends on the other side of the world merits any attention whatsoever in a British newspaper.
Another story that, though more serious, had the same element of triviality was headlined ‘ Muslim men branded “disgrace” for praying at Anfield’. The story was introduced with the standfirst: ‘Stephen Dodd causes storm after allegedly tweeting picture of two solicitors worshipping during half-time break as Liverpool take on Blackburn Rovers’.
Now when the words ‘Twitter’ and ‘storm’ come together in any news story, you know that the barrel is truly being scraped. In reality, this story is the equivalent of a man in a pub after a few drinks saying something offensive. It deserves no attention and no publicity. Silly and offensive things will be said all the time by drunkards, scoundrels and the feeble-minded and no one should spend their time taking trivial offence.
I tend to think that should be the attitude of most readers towards most newspaper commentators, especially the kind who seek to provoke and shock, rather than advance a serious argument.
The Sun columnist, Katie Hopkins, who owes her fame solely to reality television appearances on The Apprentice, is a case in point. In the past she has said variously sneery and offensive things so it should comes as no surprise that in a pretty malicious column she describes the Mediterranean migrants as ‘cockroaches’ and advocates sending gunships rather than the coast guard. She claims to be making a serious argument based on her advocacy of an Australian approach to the issue in which Tony Abbott’s government has faced-off immigrant vessels thereby reducing their number. The trouble is that there is no real comparison. The vessels on the Mediterranean on which people are being packed by unscrupulous traffickers are very different. So is the desperation of those fleeing violence in Libya and Syria.
The answer to Katie Hopkins’ brazen self-publicity is to ignore her rather than to hiss and rail at her every outrage. Without all the faux offence she would struggle to gain an audience in her local parish magazine let alone the Sun newspaper.