Next Salon Discussion

First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 3 September 7:00pm start
Do we get the news we deserve? PDF Print E-mail
News Reviews from 2014

Do we get the news we deserve?Do we get the news we deserve?

by Julia


I found myself ranting at the radio last week. This is not an uncommon pastime for me, but the spluttering behind my steering wheel was more colourful, vehement and incoherent than usual. At issue was the spat between deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and the second most widely read newspaper in the country, the Daily Mail, which was being intoned about in soothing accents on the BBC.


My interpretation of the story was that Harriet Harman was being accused of advocating paedophilia. The Mail has since said that they were not “smearing” Harman, but that is exactly what they were doing. Their article breaking this story and the subsequent sustained campaign on this issue carried the headline 'apologists for paedophiles', and Harman was repeatedly accused of having “strangely close”, or “shocking” links with paedophiles. She was repeatedly called on to apologise for these links. She repeatedly refused - and I don’t blame her.


My sense of frustration came from many things, but mainly I was offended by the uniquely toxic nature of the allegation levelled against Ms Harman at this time. We are currently in the middle of a sustained period of national soul searching on the subject of paedophilia born of the revelation that one of the most prominent national figures for children of my generation was allegedly a predatory paedophile responsible for untold amounts of harm. In fact, you would be forgiven for concluding that every man on telly of that generation was a predatory paedophile responsible for untold amounts of harm. We live in an ongoing whirl of changing attitudes to sexuality and anxiety about childhood and at a time of an emerging, determined consensus that the paedophile is an uniquely dangerous being who should not be allowed to express their predilection in public. I find it difficult to remember, but I think there was a consensus in the mid 1970’s that paedophiles were a uniquely dangerous being. However there was clearly not a consensus that paedophiles should be prevented from expressing their views in public. Witness the name, The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) which just could not exist now – they would be lynched.


It is into this context, a national muddle of profound disgust and sorrow, self-righteousness and self-flagellation, that the Daily Mail lobs its slur. The sub