Outrage shouts at us with mock indignation from the pages of our newspapers.
~OUTRAGE AS THAI WOMAN PAINTS WITH HER BOOBS ON TV
~OUTRAGE OVER EMMANUEL FRIMPONG TWEET
~TIME MAGAZINE COVER SHOWING MOTHER BREASTFEEDING SON, 3, SPARKS OUTRAGE
~NORTH KOREA FIRE SPARKS OUTRAGE
~SYRIA MASSACRE OUTRAGE
~THE SUN’S NAKED HARRY PHOTO DECISION DRAWS OUTRAGE
~OUTRAGE OVER TOPLESS KATE PICTURES
Just a few almost-random samples from recent weeks. Clearly my non-scientific survey concludes that the major cause of outrage in society today is the publication of pictures of women’s breasts. And of course, herein hypocrisy is layered upon hypocrisy. The Sun, outraged at the publication of the topless pictures of Kate Windsor, published pictures itself of the bottomless Harry Windsor. Maybe it is displaying some old-fashioned gallantry? Maybe our biggest selling daily paper is being protective and respectful of female modesty and sensitivities? Turn to Page 3 any day of the week to reveal THE BARE TRUTH.
The truth is that pictures of bare breasts and stories of pictures of bare breasts sell papers. Never let decency or integrity get in the way of a good story. Then add a does of OUTRAGE to the headline so that we all have permission to buy the paper with an air of self-righteousness indignation. And we can tut-tut and shake out heads at the despicable behaviour of those immoral paparazzi photographers who dare to take photos – which we pay them for and then salaciously pour over. We are all complicit in the hypocrisy. Not to mention the objectification and misogyny.
Add in ROYALTY and the sales figures escalate faster than the outrage. Suddenly the media is even more indignant, self-righteous and offended. Outraged that a French paper or a woman at a party in the States with a mobile phone could dare to penetrate the privacy and publish the private bits of our most dearly beloved royal family. How dreadful. Not their fault for undressing in the presence of cameras. Who would expect cameras these days?
This is the same royal family the press obsequiously and fawningly praises for such minor acts as standing on a cold boat or surviving a bladder infection. The same press which hounded and vilified the same family within an inch of their lives and beyond. For the same reason. To sell papers and magazines.
The dysfunctional and mutually shameful tryst between the media, so-called celebrities and we the readers, does none of us any credit whatsoever. It really is more depressing than outrageous.
It is, however, outrageous when the media’s hounding and vilification extends to ordinary people. When it extends to phone-tapping the phone of a murdered young girl. When it extends to blaming football fans for the deaths of other football fans at a football game.
It is even more outrageous that the police forged statements after that dreadful day at Hillsborough in 1989 in order to cover up their own mistakes and failures.
But without for a moment diminishing the disgrace of those who spread lies about that awful tragedy or diminishing the unimaginable hurt and bewilderment this would have layered on those already shocked and bereaved, there is an even greater outrage. And it’s not about the media, or words – hurtful and shameful as these can be. It is about real life and death, about 96 people who lost their lives. And it’s not even about statistics, because tragedy and outrage is not about numbers, it is about individual people, outside the glare of the media, in the privacy of their own lives.
I read it in today’s Guardian and it made me weep. Page 1 has the topless Kate story. Tucked away on page 44 is the simple small headline:-
Phil and Hilda Hammond’s elder son Philip was 14 when he went off to a football match and died. This is their family’s story
I am a parent and I am football supporter. I used to go to football matches when I was 14, and now I take my own sons to football matches. Poignant for me that this boy has the same name as my elder son and had a younger brother too. I can’t even read their family’s story – it is too painful. And yet Phil and Hilda Hammond have lived and survived through the reality of this story every hour for the last 23 years and it will never leave them.
In 1989, this young boy, and 95 other people, went to a football match to a ground without a safety certificate, to be herded into pens where they had their breathe and their life crushed out of them, unable to escape. An unimaginable horror. And yet, half of them would have had a chance of resuscitation surviving had the ambulances arrived in time. As this week’s report concludes “It was basic negligence of people’s safety”.
And that really is an absolute outrage.