Was 2011 the year that shame died?

Dominic Sandbrook today claims in the Daily Mail website’s ‘RightMinds’ section that ‘2011 was the year that shame died’. His reasons for believing this to be true are: the London riots; riots across Europe as austerity took hold; Liam Fox clinging to his job; Sally Bercow entering TV’s Big Brother; two England captains (John Terry, Football and Mike Tindall, Rugby) getting into trouble; fat cat bankers; Fred Goodwin and ‘two Croydon girls, drinking a bottle of looted wine at nine in the morning’.

Somehow, Sandbrook doesn’t find any room for even the faintest mention of the shameful state of the tabloid press or the days of appalling evidence of shameless tabloid actions collated so far by the Leveson inquiry.

Instead – like all good tabloid journalists – Sandbrook prefers to blame the normal groups for the death of shame; the ‘feral underclass’, the ‘Left’ and any kind of social liberalism in general. All of the tabloid cliches are wheeled out, including the classic Daily Mail fantasy:

Of course, few of us would enjoy life in the 1950s, when landladies put up ‘No Coloureds’ notices, and when ignorance and intolerance forced tens of thousands of women to seek bloody and dangerous back-street abortions.

Yet thanks in part to the decline of Christianity, we have lost the sense that morality is public as well as private.

The Daily Mail still holds dear the values of the 1950s – institutional racism, deep-rooted misogyny and a rigid, overbearing sense of class division – and as a newspaper is just completing another year of morally bankrupt and socially irresponsible journalism. It is ironic that Sandbrook writes a missive on the death of shame in a newspaper that has no shame, and Sandbrook just reinforces this by not even mentioning the Leveson inquiry of the general conduct of the press in 2011.

Sandbrook hopes that next year:

we can genuinely rediscover the virtues of social responsibility and moral austerity

But he isn’t convinced. I don’t blame him, when one of the most socially and morally bankrupt institutions in the world dares write about shame without even the merest acknowledgment of its own consistently shameful conduct, things are not about to get any better.

Remember when The Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Sun run huge front page stories about Christopher Jefferies – painting him as a ‘nutty professor’, a ‘peeping Tom’, ‘strange’ and many other unproven smears? Remember when those same newspapers – when forced by the courts to apologise – then buried the apologies on page 2?

Shame is just another topic that no tabloid journalist should ever write about unless they are about to confess the sins of their profession.

Daily Mail and baby names

October 2010 and the Daily Mail happily distorted statistics on baby names given to boys in the UK to make it look as if ‘Mohammed’ was the most popular. The Daily Mail decided to add together the 12 variations of the name in order to claim it was now the most popular boy’s name to create a bit of anti-Muslim scaremongering. They also did the same the year before. Today the Mail website has taken the top 100 boys names in 2011 from an online source and funnily enough Mohammed – in any variation of spelling – does not appear in the list at all.

Make a note of this for when the Daily Mail trots out the ‘Mohammed is the most popular boy’s name’ story next year.

Daily Mail back on the subject of prison vans

The Daily Mail are fond of attacking prisons and associated services as being overly luxurious and expensive even when what they are attacking fundamentally undermines the newspaper’s free market ideology. On the one hand the Daily Mail takes great pain to label the NHS an inefficient lumbering bureaucracy that can only be saved by immediate and complete privatisation, on the other they keep criticising the partial privatisation of services within the justice sector. A while back they distorted a story about how a prison van was driven 96 miles to transport a prisoner 60 yards to court – a story which David Cameron picked up and used to beat human rights with – and today they have another complaint: ‘Hope they’re not watching the Great Escape! Prison vans to get flatscreen TVs and DVD players ‘to keep anxious prisoners calm”.

The article claims that:

security firm G4S revealed it is installing televisions and DVDs in some vehicles.

The flatscreens are being introduced to reduce prisoners’ anxiety as they are transported between jails or to court appearances.

Straight away the Daily Mail is admitting it is only ‘some vehicles’ that are having the televisions fitted. In fact, the Daily Mail could be specific right from the beginning of the article as they do know exactly how many are going to be fitted:

A spokesman for G4S today said the scheme will only take place in Scotland and that only two out of 146 vans will be fitted with the technology.

Two vans, in Scotland, will be used to trial the technology. The reason for the trial is not just to simply ‘reduce prisoners’ anxiety’ but is rather targeted at:

Only prisoners with a particular risk of self-harming during journeys that last up to eight hours will be transported in them…

Mr Denny added: ‘It is feasible that a young person might need to travel from Central Scotland to the Highlands. That’s at least an eight-hour round trip.’

Obviously the Daily Mail then brings in a quote from someone concerned with the cost to the taxpayer, but again, this is just the free market in action. G4S are a private company, if they want to fit their vans with spa baths and mini nightclubs then it is no longer the concern of the taxpayer once the contract has been awarded. Surely this is just the kind of innovation that the Daily Mail believes private companies can bring to the (largely) publicly run NHS – the kind of ‘outside-the-box’ thinking that they should be applauding? After all, G4S hopes that:

the cost of fitting the technology will eventually save money spent repairing vehicle interiors damaged by violent inmates.

Isn’t this what private companies are supposed to be good at – and the public sector bad at – saving money by doing things differently?

It’s incredibly frustrating that the Daily Mail doesn’t even have the decency to be consistent with who or what it is attacking from one minute to the next. If the Daily Mail is in favour of a completely liberalised free market capitalism which expressly requires the services of the state to be privatised – which editorially, it clearly is – then it would be nice if the newspaper could at least stop complaining about the consequences of getting exactly what it wanted in the first place.

Twitter’s new moral arbiter: Kelvin MacKenzie

Twitter uses are set to be monitored in 2012 after ex-Sun Editor Kelvin ‘The Truth’ MacKenzie appointed himself as Twitter’s moral arbiter:

Kevin Spacey, the talented and charming actor-manager, has stopped tweeting because of the avalanche of online abuse he was receiving.

The vileness of these internet thugs is beyond belief.

If the stuff written on Twitter was said on the streets, the police would arrest those responsible in their hundreds.

Of course, it would be difficult to trace these disgusting cowards because they hide behind anonymity.

But can I suggest the police start doing so? The language used is disgusting and the threats are ferocious.

From the New Year, I am going to start monitoring Twitter and will report back to you.

Yes, you read that correctly. Kelvin MacKenzie, who once edited the Sun and was responsible for the front page lies about Hillsborough – never apologising either – is now set to monitor ‘disgusting cowards’ on Twitter. Well, I guess it takes one to spot one.

I guess the correct response to this is to set up a hashtag and ensure that MacKenzie knows exactly what the general public thinks of him. Now is your chance, he will be watching.

Daily Mail outraged at outrage

Have a look at the third paragraph of the Daily Mail’s article on Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about strikers:

In a day of extraordinary overreaction to what was clearly meant as a joke, one union official threatened to report him to police, while another said his comments were worthy of Colonel Gaddafi.

This is from the newspaper that has regularly given front page leads to its campaign against wheelie bins and just this week published Melanie Phillips’ article in which she claimed that two disturbing examples of criminal behaviour:

suggest a total absence of empathy for another person, which is the basic requirement of morality and, in turn, of a civilised society. They illustrate a brutalisation of humanity.

She continues:

Evidence of this sickening tendency has been accumulating for years. While violent crime has always been with us, elements of sadism, cruelty or total indifference to anyone else’s distress are becoming frighteningly commonplace.

And what does Phillips propose as the only solution? Well, the clue is in the title: ‘A sneering burglar, a callous mugging and why only faith can fill Britain’s moral vacuum’. Yes, we don’t read the bible enough:

it has long seemed obvious that this is intimately related to the breakdown of religious belief. It is the morality embedded in the Bible that expressly requires us to put the interests of others first.

Irrespective of what your opinion of Clarkson’s comments is, let’s just take a few seconds to giggle over the Daily Mail – who went to front page war over Ross and Brand’s answerphone ‘joke’ that they branded ‘Sachgate’ and demanded that they both be sacked – talking about a sense of humour failure or how ‘you can’t even make a joke these days without silly outrage’.

My thoughts on Clarkson’s comments are simple: make them on TV and you can expect to get lots of complaints and outrage; make them in a newspaper and you’d be handsomely rewarded as a ‘star’ columnist. If anything, Clarkson has just provided a perfect example of the kind of jokey hyperbole he gets away with in print without a whisper of outrage being deemed as the work of Satan just because he said it on TV.

There is a very interesting double standard in this country when it comes to what is acceptable on TV compared to what is acceptable in print. Just imagine – for example – a TV news broadcast flicking from a serious news story to an upskirt shot of some female celeb getting out of a taxi or a video report about what Suri Cruise has worn during the week or how ‘she looks all grown up’. It, of course, would probably crash the phone network as outraged masses call in their disgust and complaints.

Yet this is what we get in the tabloids. It seems to me that British Society finds the medium of TV inherently more offensive than the medium of print.