Thursday, 30 January 2014

21st-century hysteria, click bait and the absence of common sense

It’s a sorry state of affairs when something that should be blindingly obvious that it requires no comment demands digital column inches to point this out.

It appears that veteran Channel 4 news reader Jon Snow dared to admit that he had thought about colleagues in terms of S.E.X.

This provoked an outcry – not just on Twitter, but also in the Spectator and, inevitably, in the pages of that bastion of hypocrisy, the Daily Mail.

Such was the response to this admission of being, err, a human being, that Felicity Morse penned a short piece on the topic for the Independent, pointing out that this is entirely normal for a normal human being – we are sexual creatures, after all – and adding that not only is he hardly the only one who has entertained such thoughts, but that … wait for it … women have too.

Of course this also comes at the same time that a certain organ (fnar, fnar) was berating the performance of singer Beyoncé at the Grammy Awards.

Oh My God! She wore something that wasn’t as modest as a burka! She gyrated! Alongside her husband! Our boys will be turned into rapists and our girls into sluts!

I bet you won’t be able to guess which media outlet was leading the charge on that one, will you?

Of course you will.

It was indeed our old friend the Mail that shrilled: “Is this really what little girls should aspire to, Beyoncé? Parents attack ‘vile’ display at Grammys”.

Apparently they found one parent was quoted anonymously, plus a couple of the professional ‘won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children’ brigade, Pippa Smith of SaferMedia and Vivienne Pattison of Mediawatch-UK.

Let’s clarify this: the Mail is the same rag that publishes lashings of pictures of women in as little clothing as possible – mostly to point out that they have put a bit of weight on/lost a pound or two/got cellulite.

The pages of the dead tree edition are bad enough: the online version sees this obsession squared.

It’s so depressing to have to point out that Morse’s piece is common sense.

It’s equally depressing to point out that Ally Fog’s latest Guardian article, in which he called on people to stop pretending all teenage boys are becoming violent because of porn, is another example of a situation of there being an apparent need to state the bleedin’ obvious.

Fog uses the article to press the case for serious reform of the sex education situation in the UK, where some schools are still using materials related to the homophobic Section 28, and where others are censoring what they tell the children on the basis of religious beliefs.

It’s difficult to understand who would consider it progress that such articles need writing – primarily as a response to plenty of idiocy in a media that is increasingly given to straightforward sensationalisation in order to sell copies or as click bait, and in the case of Fog, he acts as a bit of a counterbalance to the extremist voices of the likes of Julie Bindel and her misandrist, transphobic friends.

How on earth do they get away with it?

Is the British public at large really so puritanical (when not consuming and being scandalised by vast amounts of titillating gossip) that it actually considers it abnormal or surprising that their fellow humans might look at other people and consider matters sexual?

Or that they think that Beyoncé’s dancing will turn their daughters onto a path of sexual promiscuity?

Or that all teenage boys are internet-porn addicted abusers?

But then, there are apparently parents around who do not want their children to have an open and proper sex education.

Part of the problem, though, is that spouting the sort of bile and myth that in these pieces was being rebutted, is irresponsible, and risks giving a sense of justification to bigotry and intolerance and sheer stupidity.

Only yesterday, I read of a court case where two men escaped prison after beating a trans woman in her home, with their lawyer telling the jury that they were having a laugh.

The likes of the Mail, when it lets Richard Littlejohn spout transphobic bile and the Guardian, when it lets Julie Burchill et al do the same, do nothing to stop a culture of seeing trans women (because it usually is trans women) as odd and, therefore fair game.

And that leaves us with a pretty sad state of affairs: both that such articles need writing and that at least some people do believe all these sort of myths and more.

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