I’d like to open this by saying that I don’t make a habit of complaining to newspapers. In fact, I can’t remember ever doing so, other than on inconsequential sporting facts when I was a kid. Equally, I wouldn’t bother complaining to newspapers that are only in it for the aggro. Such as those based in Kensington, for instance. I mention that in the hope that this won’t get filed with the “another Twitter mob” pile which I am fairly sure will exist in all national media organisations, just next to the Recycle Bin.
Another thing I try not to do is get involved in “my minority is better than yours” arguments. People who are persecuted/oppressed/bullied, for whatever reason, shouldn’t be. I didn’t have much of an opinion on Suzanne Moore’s throwaway line earlier in the week, nor the slanging match it caused.
With all that in mind, I think the best word for Julie Burchill’s piece in today’s Observer is “reprehensible” (although “disgusting” isn’t far off). To be specific, it’s not the language, nor the outrage at her friend’s treatment, nor even really the underlying debate as to whether women’s issues and transgender issues “intersect” to a greater or lesser degree. The damage, to my eyes, is caused by the viciousness of the contempt for a particular group of people, as a direct result of their membership of that group. I don’t need to point out the many historical examples of where that leads.
I’m aware that some people will cry “freedom of speech” when complaints are raised about opinion pieces. But as I understand it, one of the qualifications to freedom of speech is that it shouldn’t really be used to incite hatred, and even if that was not the intention, this piece could quite clearly have that effect.
Finally – and this is probably the weakest part of my complaint – it’s just disappointing to read something like that from the Guardian group. It’s difficult enough to find a sober, inclusive voice in the British media, without this kind of “tabloid plus long words” rant.
On reflection, although that last paragraph may be the weakest part of the complaint, it’s also what prompted me to make it. The fact is, if the piece had been in the Mail, I wouldn’t have bothered. The only thing I can think is that it’s about relative levels of trust. That probably says more about me than it does about the media, but there you go.