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Press perverse

David Dinsmore, managing editor of the Sun, today claimed that it would have been “perverse” not to have printed the naked pictures of Prince Harry, taken by camera phone while he was on holiday in Las Vegas. The argument is that the pictures are available on the internet and across the world, and it was therefore in the public interest that they be printed in the tabloid.

Leaving aside the needlessness of printing a picture which is indeed widely available online, its appearance in the paper is a huge two-fingered salute to the Leveson inquiry, and everything it stands for and was established to do. There is no public interest which could possibly be served by publishing near-naked pictures of anyone, no matter their rank, position, or who their granny is. However, for the pictures to feature a member of the Royal family is a front-page advertisement of the Murdoch empire’s belief that they are above the law – that they can print what they like in the pursuit of greater profits.

I am no monarchist, and I couldn’t give two tiny hoots what a single guy in his late 20s does on holiday – he does at least work to earn his own money as well as living off the country – but no-one should have to see their own body in the media unless they willingly agree to it.

Freedom of the press is a good thing. Free speech is vital to a healthy democratic society – but this is not free speech, this is voyeurism.

What is perverse in this situation? I don’t think it’s Harry, and I don’t think it’s a decision not to print.

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Well, one of the many reasons.

On the 11th July, the ‘newspaper’ ran this story. A perfect example of the Mail’s faintly sneering style, the term ‘plastic Brits’ is judgemental and superior (who wouldn’t want to be British?) Heaven forfend that a furrener should compete as a representative of our sceptred isle. The phrasing that 11% of our “542-strong” team was born overseas smacks of that 11% being the weaker element of our strong Team GB.

And so to this morning’s coverage of yesterday’s triumphs. Not only does Mo’s name make it into a pun in the headline, but he is adopted without question into Our Great Race (TM) – did you know it’s “the first time a British man has won in the Olympic 10,000m race”? Well, colour me astonished. No plasticity mentioned at all. The article does mention that he is Somali-born, but he’s certainly British these days.

It might seem a petty gripe, but it’s just another grubby page in the Mail’s misogynistic, racist, and judgementally right-wing history. The danger, as far as I’m concerned, is in the way the distasteful opinions are stated as self-evident fact. Palatable fascism for the easily outraged.

As a nice counterpoint, have you seen this lovely article in the Guardian? A celebration of the good bits of the Olympics, Britishness, and what’s making us proud.

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London’s burning

Do you ever feel like you are watching history?

I’m watching BBC News channel (still can’t bring myself to watch Sky News, too hysterical), and seeing astounding scenes of buildings burning out of control. Scenes of shops being looted, and police attacked. It’s terrifying, and breathtaking in terms of the speed the violence and disruption has spread.

It’d be easy to name-call and pigeon-hole the perpetrators. Of course the violence is utterly unwarranted, of course the destruction is devastating. It must be terrifying for both police and for those living nearby the flashpoints. I can’t help but look at it sideways, though, and wonder why people are so disconnected from their communities and their culture that these riots and such destruction seem like an appropriate response.

In many areas of London, almost one in four of working age are unemployed. Young men, particularly young black men, are more likely to be unemployed than any other group. There is no immediate prospect for many of them of that situation changing. Participating in mass action such as we are seeing tonight, using social media as a principal method of communication, may be giving many a sense of purpose and belonging they haven’t experienced for years, if ever. And yet these are the areas which are experiencing, proportionally, the worst cuts in government spending. For the rioters, their actions are an expression of discontent and futility. Mindless thugs they may be – but that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg. Writing them off does nothing to solve the problem.

As a country we are failing our youth, failing our minorities – and tonight we are seeing the results.

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