The demonisation of people for what they think

We are on a very slippery slope.  Today was the day the media reached a sickening new lows in its unjust and disproportionate treatment of people it makes the objects of supposed news stories.  The media has appointed itself the judge, jury and assassin of the characters of people for daring to say what they think.

Story One
Listeners to BBC Radio Five Live have endured near saturation coverage of what is probably being called ‘SkySportsGate’ behind the scenes.  At the time of writing the story of Sky Sports presenter Richard Keys and pundit Andy Gray engaging in some misogynistic conversation about Premier League linesman assistant referee Sian Massey and West Ham vice chairman Karren Brady remains the number two news item on the BBC News website.

It was the major news item this morning.  Then it became the hastily promoted discussion piece on Nicky Campbell’s phone in.  As the BBC’s editors salivated uncontrollably and developed moist loins at being able to put the boot in to Sky, the story rolled over into Victoria Derbyshire’s show. There the listeners were subjected to an all women prosecution, jury and judgement on the two men as speculation mounted about the appropriate punishment for this ‘offence’.

At this point Karren Brady was rolled out, without any hint of irony, to explain how these sexist comments made her ‘blood boil’ and castigate Keys and Gray for their comments.  This of course is the same Karren Brady who was so opposed to sexism she left her advertising job at LBC radio to work for pornography publishing baron, David Sullivan.  Not that La Derbyshire brought that up – although a number of listeners did via text and email. Being offended by sexism, it seems, is a selective condition in Brady’s case.

To say this is out of all proportion is the understatement of the century.  Were their comments inappropriate?  Were they laced with resentment at the spectacle of a female official?  Were they ungentlemanly or downright rude?  You know what, it doesn’t bloody matter because it was a private conversation between the two men.  They were not comments made for public consumption.  Yet some opportunist toad listening across the ‘talkback’ function before the coverage started made a copy of the comments; and instead of complaining to management, sent it to the press to turn it into a big story.

Nevertheless the BBC has lapped it up.  After all, it’s their big rival Sky, a part Murdoch-owned organisation that achieves commercially what the BBC dare not attempt.  The demonisation is total.  Having been admonished and making an apology, the BBC coverage has pushed Sky into a public relations corner and so Keys and Gray now face disciplinary action.  Not for a failure to do their job well, not for doing anything wrong on air, but for expressing their personal thoughts in a private conversation.  The BBC have gone hunting for scalps and will not be satisfied until Keys and Gray have lost their livelihood.  So now the two men are to be punished for what they think.  It is deeply disturbing.

Update: After another clip of Gray being offensive was released he has been sacked by Sky Sports. It was justified but the manner of this coming to light, via the leaking of a private conversation, remains of great concern.

Story two
Readers of the Belfast Telegraph in recent days will have experienced near saturation coverage of the tragic honeymoon murder of Michaela McAreavey, the daughter of three-time Tyrone All-Ireland winning GAA manager Mickey Harte.

A beautiful, popular and by all accounts talented girl, Michaela was killed by hotel staff when she caught them stealing from her and her husband’s room.  However the Belfast Telegraph’s intimate coverage of the story makes it feel like she has been elevated to the position of Northern Ireland’s Princess Diana.

The killers have been caught and made confessions.  Michaela has been repatriated and buried.  But still the Telegraph’s coverage continues unabated. To date, in the 13 days since the story broke, the Belfast Telegraph has published no less than 60 related articles about the killing, family grief, funeral, family background, calls for an inquiry etc. etc.  Maybe you could expect such a number over a period of time if the case was open and police were still trying to catch the killer.  But this case is all but over.

Not everyone appreciates the excessive coverage.  One such person is a 19 year old girl called Susanne Morrison.  Writing on her Facebook page, this witless kid – a part time photographer for an obscure paper in County Down:

ranted that she was “sick of hearing” about Michaela’s murder because she could not see “what makes her so special”.

Susanne also made other sickening remarks which we are not repeating.

Morrison’s comments are at best inelegant, and if her other remarks (removed from Facebook) are indeed ‘sickening’ then she is clearly unpleasant and inconsiderate as well.  But the reaction of the Belfast Telegraph gives great cause for concern.  Like the BBC in the casestudy above, the Telegraph has a self serving agenda.  It has gone after Morrison in a faintly sinister manner that is deeply disturbing.

Without any good reason, the Belfast Telegraph has told readers where Morrison lives, Rathfriland.  In a society where religious denomination is often denoted by the football team one supports, the BT tells readers that she supports Rangers and Linfield (predominantly protestant supported teams).  To help readers identify Morrison, the Telegraph goes on to name her employer, the Co Down Outlook – while inflaming the matter by pointing out the paper ‘circulates in the area where Michaela’s devastated widower John McAreavey plays football for the Down county side’.

Despite Susanne Morrison’s comments having nothing to do with her part time employment, the Sunday Life (from where the Telegraph picked up this story) contacted the Co Down Outlook’s editor Joanne Ross – who then issued a statement saying that they were horrified by the Facebook comments and the paper was investigating.  This is an example of the media attempting exact retribution by trying to harm someone’s career prospects and livelihood by dragging the employer into the story, where the employer feels compelled to take action for PR purposes. Why also is there any need to tell readers which High School Morrison attended and provide details of her HND qualification in photography?  The Telegraph appears to be making Morrison a target for abuse by going to extraordinary lengths to give as many details of her as possible, while including a large colour photograph into the bargain.

It is both cynical and vicious, but it is also personal.  For at the heart of the Telegraph’s determination to nail Morrison to the wall is her criticism of the Telegraph’s over the top and disproportionate coverage of the story.  It says that Morrison had already widely circulated her comments on the Internet. But there is no evidence this idiotic and mouthy youngster did anything other than make comments on her Facebook page to her 600 or so ‘friends’ – a very different circulation to the tens of thousands of people who read the Telegraph.

This is another example of the media trying to silence people through direct bullying and the threat of intimidation and the potential loss of employment.  It is an effort to dissuade people from expressing their thoughts and views, whether they are considered or obnoxious. It is by extension a form of censorship and attempt to stifle any opinion but that of the media outlet indulging its editorial whims.  It is unacceptable, but it underlines the loss of freedom of expression and the growing intolerance in our society.  It shows we are on a very slippery and disturbing slope.

Update: Following the Belfast Telegraph’s successful witch hunt, Susanne Morrison has lost her job.  Her comments on Facebook were unpleasant but the Telegraph has twisted the story, claiming Morrison was criticising ‘the outpouring of grief’.  She was not, she was criticising the completely disproportinate and self serving saturation coverage in the media, particularly in the Belfast Telegraph which is now up to 62 articles covering every conceivable angle of the story and family’s private aftermath. After what are alleged to be spiteful comments by Morrison the Telegraph sunk to her level and was equally spiteful because she had pointed out the overblown coverage.

What have we allowed this world to turn into?  What have we allowed the self appointed elite to get away with?  Is there any way to redress the balance?

26 Responses to “The demonisation of people for what they think”

  1. 1 BBC - £148 per annum for total crap 24/01/2011 at 10:52 pm

    “As the BBC’s editors salivated uncontrollably and developed moist loins at being able to put the boot in to Sky,”

    The BBC has very little to feel smug about, given its own record and the fact that it is always moralising about PC causes….

    “Miriam O’Reilly wins Countryfile ageism claim

    Ex-Countryfile host Miriam O’Reilly has won an employment tribunal against the BBC on the grounds of ageism.

    The BBC has apologised to O’Reilly and said it would like to “discuss working with her again in the future”.

  2. 2 Edward Spalton 24/01/2011 at 11:55 pm

    When canvassing in the 2005 election, I was horrified at the number of times people suddenly checked themselves speaking and asked “am I allowed to say that?” Fear of the Thought Police is now deeply ingrained amongst people of all sorts but especially among those who are employed by or have contracts with any public authority. I am thoroughly ashamed that a formerly free people should have come to this disgusting state of fear and subjection.
    A friend from South Africa of British stock remarked “The British people have been tamed”. I am sorry that is true.

    I noticed one thing in the reports of the Australian floods. People there who had lost their houses and everything ranged from the stoic to the upbeat – although British reporters did their best to get them to emote, whinge and feel sorry for themselves. It was only when they interviewed the political/official class that I began to hear the tones of the professional, “caring” victimological voice. It’s difficult to describe but you know it when you hear it. The encouragement of feelings of helpless victimhood or phony, vicarious “grieving” and sentimentality, such as that over the late Princess of Wales, has been brought to a fine art. Fortunately I was out of the country at that time or I would probably have been lynched. It must sell papers or the media would not promote it. I suspect it also serves official purposes in encouraging low moral fibre, sadness in people and a feeling of need for the “caring” state to comfort them.

    I knew a social worker who was involved and totally exhausted with the Piper Alpha disaster where about 150 people died. Of course, that meant 150 families to advise about the practicalities – claiming for pensions etc and I am sure they did their best to do that sympathetically. But a huge amount of time was spent “counselling” the bereaved and I’m sure that was done conscientiously too. But there are ministers of religion and friends for that sort of thing. If I were in that state, the very last person I would would want intruding is some council officer. Yet the state seems to have become all embracing, all-wise, all “compassionate” and all-powerful. People seem to like it or at least acquiesce to it.

  3. 3 David C 25/01/2011 at 11:31 am

    Good post – thanks

  4. 4 Ann Ballintine 25/01/2011 at 6:38 pm

    I’m a Protestant mother of three and for the purposes of clarity, loyal to the crown. But Susanne Morrison’s comments were repulsive and totally those of guttertrash loyalism. Having read some of Susannne Morrison’s comments I think she is an afront to protestant values and I would promote the young Michaela Harte as the preferred role model for my christian Children any day – not alone for my family but for our country… She was a wonderful and beautiful ambasador for our tiny island, rich in all the qualities those who disrespected her memory lacked. I hope Susanne Morrison for the sake of her souls’ salvation seeks forgivness. May the lord reddeem her.

  5. 5 Autonomous Mind 25/01/2011 at 7:46 pm

    Quite right Ann, the comments were terrible.

    But if we believe in free speech, however much it infuriates us, she should be allowed to spout her gutter trash loyalism on her own Facebook page without the media deliberately making her a target simply for what she thinks.

    She should be allowed to express her annoyance at the media for going over the top about a personal tragedy without being set up for a witch hunt and having her employer pressured into taking action against her for something completely unrelated to her work. Morrison has a point that 62 articles now in 14 days in the Telegraph is completely over the top.

  6. 6 Eric Kantona 25/01/2011 at 9:55 pm

    I think you are missing the most important part of the story regarding Susanne Morrison’s Facebook entries.

    Miss Morrison is quite entitled to her views regarding the media coverage of Michaela Harte’s death, even if she expresses them inarticulately online, but she went MUCH further. What she posted was that “what comes around goes around” suggesting that in some way the murdered girl deserved what happened to her. Why did she deserve it? because she was a catholic and a member of a family prominent in a nationalist sporting organisation.

    What Miss Morrison was eluding to was the not terribly bright Loyalist notion that the GAA are the “IRA at play” and therefore whatever happens to such people well, they deserve it.

    Dont mistake those who spew ignorance and bigotry as crusaders for free speech.

  7. 7 Autonomous Mind 25/01/2011 at 10:24 pm

    Eric, in no way have I suggested she is a crusader for free speech or defended her personal comments. She is 19 years old and clearly a bit of an idiot. But, she is entitled to her view on her Facebook page, however unpleasant it is, as long as she does not incite violence.

    The Telegraph only went after her because they have gone completely OTT with the story and that was what had irked Morrison. It wanted to exact retribution and has now succeeded as the girl has lost her job. That is sinister because it was the Telegraph who dragged the employer into this to put them in an impossible position. Just hope you don’t upset the Telegraph otherwise it could be you next.

  8. 8 Eric Kantona 25/01/2011 at 11:12 pm

    I don’t really think Miss Morrison was “irked” by the level of coverage. She was probably “irked” by the fact that such attention was being given to the death of a catholic. Plain and simple, the young lady is a bigot. One of her posts detailed waking up on the 12th of July, the divisive height of the yearly marching season and knowing she was one of “gods chosen people”

    Oh dear.

    Btw it wasn’t solely the Belfast Telegraph who were covering this story- it was wall to wall in print and on TV – the reason being the nature of the murder and the fact that the dead girl was the daughter of perhaps the best known sporting figure in Ireland.

    As a resident of Northern Ireland I’m actually impressed by the public reaction to all of this, the vast majority of people being appalled by what was posted online and having little sympathy for Miss Morrison. Twenty years ago her story wouldn’t have made the pages of the unionist Belfast Telegraph and not only because Facebook wasnt around.

    To defeat sectarianism the message has to go out loud and clear that it is no longer acceptable. If that means exposing idiots like Morrison then fair enough.

  9. 9 Autonomous Mind 25/01/2011 at 11:52 pm

    Well I hope you don’t reap what you sow Eric. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Today the Telegraph has ruined the future of a 19 year old girl because she made moronic comments on Facebook – and the comments showed it was about the level of coverage, even if she displayed bigotry. Who will it be tomorrow?

  10. 10 John 26/01/2011 at 12:44 am

    So a girl was flippant about the death of somebody she doesn’t know nor care about. Harldy the crime of the decade….oh wait….she’s proud to be a Prod, get her hung drawn and quartered.

    Btw to help clarify, I would assume the comments about karma were likely in relation to rumours about two ira men called Harte being her uncles and other similar rumours about her and her family.

    Too many people on here getting caught up in the media hype, maybe try thinking for ones self instead of getting caught up in hysterics over some fashionable grieving.

    As for Anne saying how fantastic she was, did you know her well yourself then? It’s not too often any negatives about a person come out when they have just died.

  11. 11 fed up 26/01/2011 at 1:03 am

    @ eric kantona. The person that is coming across as biggotest and hate filled is yourself, and you rightly know what Ms Morrison was eluding to and not that it was the GAA is the sports wing of the IRA. I don’t agree with her comments about karma etc as that is petty and narrow minded, but I do agree that the media sensationalises and drags out stories for far to long. And before you reply calling me a biggot and hate filled I support Tyrone GAA and am sick of people like yourself on both sides of the divide slinging mud and trying to point score for their own agendas, the sooner this country wises up and stops voting the same old partys in we will can then move forward.

    An Tir Eoghan

  12. 12 Eric Kantona 26/01/2011 at 1:41 am

    Theres no shame in being proud of your protestant heritage, as I am of mine. Being a bigot is another thing altogether.

    “Too many people on here getting caught up in the media hype, maybe try thinking for ones self instead of getting caught up in hysterics over some fashionable grieving”

    Would you apply the same to media coverage of Wootton Basset John?

    As for who Michaela Harte’s relatives may have been I didnt know Karma was transferable for (alleged) murder and mayhem, I certainly hope not, otherwise by association (proven) the entire political class of Britain is in big trouble.

  13. 13 Eric Kantona 26/01/2011 at 1:45 am

    fed up, something about your post just doesnt ring true.

    I think it was your inability to spell Tir Eoghain properly. Nice try but no cigar. Have an orange lollipop instead.

  14. 14 jack johnson 26/01/2011 at 2:30 am

    “Morrison’s comments are at best inelegant”

    Such as her quaint little endorsement of the master race psychosis – “Waking up on July 12th and realising you are God’s chosen race.”

    Of course, she’s just a more honest reflection of the tyrranical ochlachracy that’s been imposed on the indigenous community there.

  15. 15 anon 26/01/2011 at 6:20 am

    She should have joined the ira and murded a few people, she would have made first minister instead of being sacked over a few comments over the nations sweetheart who was murdered.

    Interestingly none off the rags that are publishing this utter bile about the young girl, printed such bile when the mother off poor mickybo made jokes about soldiers that had been murdered in antrim. DOUBLE STANDARDS YET AGAIN.

  16. 16 Autonomous 26/01/2011 at 9:49 am

    Its so wrong that people get riped apart for things that they say,even if it was not nice, while others in this country can murder and get away with it. What other goverment in the world would let a soilder be murdered and then put the man that pulled the trigger into power and then tell the soilders perents they do not know who killed there son, when they know full well who pulled that trigger.

  17. 17 Verbrannt 26/01/2011 at 12:36 pm

    I assume you mean the two soldiers who were murdered at Massareene, what did ‘Mickybo’s mother supposedly say? Can’t say I heard anything about that, where did you hear about it if not in the media?

  18. 18 sshishi 26/01/2011 at 2:49 pm

    Great post…

    I do feel that the comments were terrible, and it did boil my blood to read them, but a few minutes later I got over it!! The media coverage has now led to a very dangerous and possible detrimental bullying campaign on facebook against the young Susanne Morrison. How I ask will this help Michaela’s family who have been shattered to pieces by her murder… IT WONT SO SHUT UP about it. If anything it will make them feel worse.

    It makes me laugh to see people sharing their religious status here, while, in the same paragraph isolating and vindicating a young girl.

  19. 19 anon 26/01/2011 at 3:56 pm

    @Verbrannt of corse you heard nothing about the comments, its double standards yet again, the comments where made on a bebo page, if the shoe was on the other froot like it is now she would have had her life ruained by gutter press. But alias it was swept under the carpet.

  20. 20 SickOfItAll 26/01/2011 at 4:15 pm

    The sad news of Michaela’s death made my heart churn, so heartbreaking.

    Then once again the media show a total lack of respect by flaunting this story on the front page. The family are still in mourning for goodness sake. Causing more upset which could have been avoided.

    Think this girl Susanne has went too far in what she has said and on Facebook was rather foolish. She is only 19 though and the media have in effect ensured her view has ruined her life.

    Then again we have terrorists running the country so things like this do not surprise me sadly.

  21. 21 Verbrannt 26/01/2011 at 4:50 pm

    By not having heard it, I mean I live in the Ballymena area and it’s the sort of thing that would be ‘gossiped’ about… Do you mean these comments were on her own (Michael Mcilveen’s mother) Bebo page? What did she say? I’m asking as I just find it hard to believe that someone who lost her son in a sectarian murder would make negatives comment on the sectarian murder of two other young men.

  22. 22 jack johnson 27/01/2011 at 12:46 am

    @anon The supremacist/loyalist community did celebrate micky bo’s murder by burning his name in effigy at their nazi bonfires. One less future taig voter I guess. It’s tough to blame his mother even if your unsubstantiated allegation is accurate.

    In terms of freedom of speech in Northern Ireland, why not mention britain’s draconian restrictions on nationalist free speech during the “troubles” (as well as their intimidation of the media).

  23. 23 anon 27/01/2011 at 2:22 am

    The conments where made by her on another persons bebo page, it was pointed out to the press and nothing was done, she made jokes about the 2 soldiers that where murdered and that is Fact.

  24. 24 Verbrannt 27/01/2011 at 4:14 pm

    If that’s true, then perhaps you’re right and it is double standards. Or perhaps the press were disinclined to disparage a woman whose son was murdered in a sectarian attack, whereas Susanne Morrison would have been an easier target for ‘gutter press’. Who knows.
    Here’s my two pennies worth anyway: the Facebook comments about the murder were immature and disgusting, as any decent person would agree. But newsworthy? I’d say no, and probably only serve to compound the grief of Michaela’s family, as one previous poster pointed out.

  25. 25 Ann C Ballintine 27/01/2011 at 8:20 pm

    On the face it and by comparison we’re no different from any other country who have their history steeped in bloodshed and corruption, therefore if having ‘controlled’ terrorists in government then that’s the price I like so many other right thinking Protestants are willing to pay for the peace and prosperity of our children. I with others am resigned to accept it and if it doesn’t depreciate the value of my home or place my family’s safety at risk, they can paint, smash or burn anything they want, because there will undoubtly be someone who’ll argue under the freedom of expression, they’re quite entitled to! I don’t wish to recover the ground of Susanne Morrison because she’s only a nineteen year old girl with little sense and emotional maturity to match perhaps lacking in good parenting, but if she believed what she wrote she should have held true to her expression of thought and kept the comments alive – but she withdrew. And Just to stress, I did not personally know Micheala McReavey or her family but human heart being what it is I identify with the tragedy.

  26. 26 Alan Garvey 27/01/2011 at 10:35 pm

    Susanne Morrison is 19 years of age, not exactly an age renowned for its wisdom, compassion and consideration. She made comments on her FB page for which she has very good cause to regret – but not to be sacked.

    It is absurdly OTT to demonise her as it is to beatify Michaela McAreavey – God help us (whichever foot you dig with or team you support) but reason has left the building.

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