Sunday, 10 July 2011

Vigilante Journalism

I seem to have written a lot on both this blog and Twitter recently about the media, but in my defence it has been one of the biggest media scandal's of a generation. I just want to post once more on this, the last day of the News of the World.

A lot has been written about how the News of the World closing will be a loss to journalism, and about how it was apparently the top of its field in investigative journalism. I personally think this is sentimental rubbish. I've looked through the 'famous' front pages that News of the World claims as its successes and see little to write home about. Many of the 'exclusives' are just celebrity tittle tattle, with no real benefit to the public.

On one issue, a great deal of people seem keen to praise News of the World, the naming and shaming of paedophiles and their campaign for Sarah's law. A great deal of people that does not include myself.

Although it may seem bizarre for me to apparently disapprove of their crusade against paedophiles, I hope you'll bear with me and see why. It reminds me of a particularly brilliant episode of Brasseye, paedogeddon. If you haven't seen it you really should, it's hilarious. It's a mockumentary about the whipped up hysteria of the press and the unforeseen circumstances.

No-one is going to condone paedophilia, but when that same whipped up hysteria is responsible for innocent people being attacked by vigilantes then you have to question whether it truly was a 'force for good'. For example,  there was a case in Wales of a paediatrician having her home attacked because someone mistook this job title for 'paedophile'. The stupidity of such people really is beyond my grasp.

In fact, if you look back at the same time period, around July/August 2000, you see a spate of similar attacks. All on innocent people, all because of the whipped up hysteria coming from News of the World. One man had letters sent to 500 nearby homes informing them (mistakenly as it turned out) that he was one of the men 'named and shamed' by News of the World as a child abuser. Another had his home damaged and a mob form outside his house for the same reason.

There is a reason we have a police force in this country, and why we don't simply let the public police itself. Vigilante revenge is not the way to behave in a modern society. Last time I checked, paedophilia was against the law, and so should be dealt with by the police. There is no need to whip up the mob, simply to sell more newspapers.

News of the World was reprehensible the majority of the time, and when it claimed to do good, it was often at its worst. Other than the cricket match-fixing scandal I struggle to think of many modern day exposes which really were of public interest. There is nothing I can see that News of the World did, which cannot be done better by other organisations.

Of course, I feel for the 200 journalists who have lost their jobs to save the skin of Rebekah Brooks. I feel for them as they were callously disposed of by Murdoch in an attempt to save his business. But I for one, will not be sad to see the end of a misogynistic, homophobic, benefit bashing, xenophobic newspaper.

Goodbye News of the World, we're better off without you.

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