Sto­ries that should have been over­looked

The Church of England - - COMMENT -

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.

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