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    Friday, 13 April 2007

    Media narcissism - or worse: two thoughts on the ongoing (!) sailors row

    Two interesting comments on the sailors' payments row, one from Libby Purves, the other from Polly Toynbee (and plenty of comment thereon - mostly critical). The former suggests that media navel-gazing has blown the story out of all proportion. The latter goes to town on the perceived hypocrisy of the tabloid press. It makes good, if not entirely surprising, reading for its lambast of cheque-book journalism:

    ... the Daily Mail emailed an offer of "a very substantial sum". The Mail on Sunday combined its bid with the Sunday Mirror and jointly offered £100,000 in another email. The News of the World offered to outbid all others. Sky made an offer but the BBC did not. The Daily Express offered £30,000. Throughout the sailors' captivity, the press laid siege to their desperately anxious parents and friends. Entry to front doors was gained by delivering huge bunches of flowers with envelopes attached offering fabulous sums...
    ... this episode is in a realm of its own for heart-stopping hypocrisy. Here is the Mail's thundering leader headlined, Selling Out Britain's National Honour: "It is clearly wrong that those who are in the forces should be able to sell their stories. And it is an insult to those who are fighting." The Mail called it "repugnant to see Faye Turney cashing in ... it sticks in the craw of all right-thinking people". Here is the same flabbergasting shamelessness in the Express: "How repulsive must be this spectacle for those who have suffered serious injuries and are now disabled. There will be no six-figure sums for any of them." Why not? Because the Mail, Express and the rest will not be offering them any. Why not? Because death and disability are boring.

    None of this, of course, should excuse the government / MoD for its crass attempt to use the sailors for propaganda ends, but at least it offers light relief - or another side of the story - from the clarion calls for resignations left, right and centre.

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