Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Daily Paedophile

I know that right-thinking people spend far much time thinking about the Daily Mail and its pernicious behaviour: the racism, the hatred of science, the cynicism, the misogyny, the hypocrisy, the obsession with celebrity and the small-minded suspicion of anything new, foreign or inconvenient to the lives of the selfish, Tory-voting, SUV-driving, golfing bourgeoisie. 

But some things it does require more than a resigned shrug. Like yesterday's illustrated article on a 'leggy beauty' snapped leaving a gymnasium strutting around like 'a model'. 

The 'leggy beauty' was in fact 8 years old. Despite the PCC rules about not featuring children going about their lives simply because their parents are famous (put in place by the PCC Executive, including the Mail's Editor in Chief Paul Dacre) and despite the Mail's long-broken pledge never to use paparazzi photos after the death of Diana, the Mail chose to buy pictures from a man who hid in some bushes outside a gym to snap pictures of an eight-year old girl solely because she has a famous mother. 

Just a quick reminder:

i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

Then a Mail sub-editor dreamed up some words to go along with these unwarranted pictures. 
"It looks like Heidi Klum's daughter might be hoping to become a model just like her mother... Heidi's eldest Leni clearly stole the show with her workout attire..."
"All eyes on me: The eight-year-old showed off her best model walk through the parking lot..." 
There is no 'show'. Just a photographer certain he'll make a sale by going to the Mail. The only 'eyes' are his. What's a 'model walk'? It seems unlikely that this child was strutting along any imaginary catwalk.  

So far, so Mail: while the comment pages constantly decry moral decline and sexual deviance, its celebrity coverage encourages readers to sexualise and eight year old girl. There's a name for this, and it's paedophilia. 

But let's turn to Mr Dacre, and more especially, to his testimony to the Leveson Inquiry. Is he proud of the Mail, and everything that runs under its banner?

any editor who edits a paper, his values, his world view will obviously be relevant
OK, so he's cool with printing drooling copy about a little girl's legs. 

We employ the best writers, the best leader writers, the best reporters, the best executives, the best sub-editors et cetera to produce quality papers to appeal to our market

Yeah. Pics of a kid. 'Leggy beauty'. Top work. Pulitzer stuff. And if it appeals to Mail readers, then they're paedophiles too.   

But perhaps there's a public-interest defence to the 'leggy beauty' story. Has she, in fact, been a naughty girl who deserves public humiliation as a lesson to others?

a lot of celebrities, celebrity chefs, sportspeople make a lot of money by revealing their lives to the public. I believe newspapers should be given some latitude to look into their lives when they err.
A taste for titillation must explain some people's interest in Ryan Giggs' alleged extramarital activities, but for many others, cheap thrills were the last thing in their mind when they rebelled against private injunctions and remote judges. This (inaudible) majority resent public figures who think they can turn publicity on and off. We reserve the right to scrutinise and censure the conduct of people who have grown rich on our wages, or claim authority over our lives. In asserting democratic accountability, we are proclaiming our loyalty to a virtuous principle. Philosophers have developed a concept called the sanction of public opinion. They concluded that popular materiality should not ban infidelity or imprison men for betraying their wives but it could create an incentive to behave responsibly. 
People tempted to stray might be persuaded to think again by the certainty that their friends and neighbours would think less of them. Perversion in society has been with us for a long time 
Let Miss Klum stand as an example of the evils which can befall 8-yr old 'leggy beauties'. 

No. Try as I might, I still can't force this girl into the category of 'people who've made a lot of money by revealing their lives to the public' who deserve exposure 'when they err'. As far as I can she, Klum Jr simply went to the gym while in the possession of a well-known mother (though actually I'd never heard of her). I don't particularly think that Ryan Giggs's private life is a matter for moral majoritarianism, and I certainly don't think Miss Klum needs to have her picture in the paper, associated with lascivious text, to hold her accountable for being, er, related to someone famous in the vicinity of exercise machines. Mr Dacre would like you to believe that his paper is a virtual and virtuous witch-hunt against hypocrites and evil-doers, but in practice it's more usual to find pictures of the famous in their undercrackers, while the reader is invited to ogle their bodies – of legal age or not.

Perhaps there's another principle at work here. Mr Dacre is a doughty defender of Free Speech:
I was clearly trying to express the growing concern by newspapers in this country that certain areas of the jurisprudence were going in an anti-newspaper, anti-democratic direction. All right, yes, and I accused Judge Eady's judgment -- not the man -- of being amoral and arrogant. Arrogant in the sense that I felt it was worrying that one man, one judge, seemed to be handling some of the more contentious privacy cases. One man seemed to be attaching much more weight to the right to privacy in the Human Rights Act rather than the right to freedom of expression…
That's the ticket. If you don't let the Mail publish sexualised pictures of little girls, then before you know it, Freedom of Speech will be murdered and we'll all be locked up in some European Concentration Camp by Marxist Environmentalist Terrorists. Or something.  

But Dacre isn't completely hypocritical. He's a worried man:

There are broader issues that the industry needs to look at. You know, the problem of paparazzi. That worries me. I think we need to try and lookat that.

Oh OK, he is completely hypocritical. He doesn't want us to look at the 'problem' of paparazzi. He wants you to look at the material they provide. 

But perhaps little Miss Klum has attracted the attention of the Mail because she's a shameless publicity hound. After all, that's Dacre's explanation for harassing the mother of Hugh Grant's child to the point an injunction was awarded against his paper:

Mr Grant has spent his life invading his own privacy, exposing every intimate detail of his life
it's legitimate for the press to ask for a photograph or to make enquiries about when someone has a baby by a major international film star, and it worries me that you can't understand this. 

Somehow, I don't think this works with a young child leaving a gym. Her birth might be noted if that kind of thing matters to you, but 'phwoar look at the body of this kid doing something normal' isn't quite the same thing.

Perhaps Mr Dacre would like to distance himself from the Mail Online, which is the world's most popular repository of celebrity nonsense, vicious smears and judgements, and of course pictures of interest only to paedophiles:

I'm very proud of the Mail Online… we employed legitimate and correct journalistic procedures
So let's turn to the testimony of one Martin Clarke, publisher of Mail Online. Did he run these paedophilic pictures as some kind of rogue operator?
Editorially I report to Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief. I speak to Mr Dacre most times -- most days of the week
So it seems unlikely that he'd run stuff like this knowing it would offend the powerful Editor-in-Chief. But it seems that he does think very carefully about how to present stories. 

if there's a story that I as a journalist and an editor think is really important that people should be reading but aren't reading, then it gives me the opportunity to recraft the headline orthe intro or the picture to make sure that people do read it.

Imagine you've paid for pictures of a young girl leaving a gym. It's not a great story really. So you add the detail that her mother is famous. Still no joy: the linkbait isn't working. So you add a classic Mail phrase. Perhaps 'all grown up' (which means 'underage but acquiring secondary sexual characteristics like breasts - it's never applied to males) or 'flaunting her curves' ('look at her breasts') or in this instance, 'leggy beauty'. Bingo. All the paedophile have hit your webpage and might even click on the ads you're running. 

Maybe Miss Klum deserves what she gets for being American and common. After all, Mr Clarke says Mail Online wouldn't run pictures of other people in similar circumstances:
If I can give you a specific example, Pippa Middleton, for instance, British newspapers have a voluntary embargo on pictures of her taken going about her daily business on the basis that she's a private individual, so we don't use pictures of her going to the shops or going to work. 
Everyone's entitled -- everyone is entitled to a degree of privacy, no question. 

If (at the time) the adult partner of a royal is a 'private individual', then surely the 8 year old daughter of a model, 'going about her daily business' is one too? No?

But the real reason for publishing lewd commentary with pictures of a child is simply commercial.

I have to produce a website which makes a profit because profit is the only real way of having any freedom in journalism. The only journalism that's truly free is profitable journalism

The Mail isn't run and written by paedophiles. It just wants to attract paedophiles and their money:

I've worked for the Mail, as you pointed out, on and off for 20 years. It's an ethical decent newspaper run by decent people 
The point I was making is that would be very difficult, a very difficult position to sustain if the highest standard was significantly higher, is what I'm saying. We're already at a competitive disadvantage.

If we stopped the Mail from publishing paedopholic articles about private individuals aged 8, someone else would and we'd lose the Daily Mail for ever. 

if you asked people, "Would you rather have a free Internet and  accept that every now and again somebody's going to behave badly on it, or would you rather live in North Korea where they don't have any Internet?", they would rather live in a free society and I think we have to balance the restrictions that regulation places on individual freedom

And we couldn't have that. 

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