I never imagined a world where I'd end up writing an article that wasn’t wholly 100% vitriolic toward the Daily Mail. But after the latest debacle in the press, I don't feel I can let the moment pass without adding my own point of view.
(For those of you not familiar with the recent events, in December 2012 the Daily Mail published an article criticising the decision of a transgender teacher to return to school as a female after undergoing a gender realignment process. After the “outing” by the Daily Mail and the subsequent invasion of privacy, the lady in question chose to take her own life.)
Now you know my thoughts on this kind of thing. I detest bigotry. My own live and let live attitude is frequently at odds with most contributors to the Mail (and certainly the idiots who write in to their letters page). But I equally dislike sanctimonious uproar and thats what (as usual) this whole business has turned into. Witch hunting the author of the article....witch hunting the Daily Mail, online petitions.... The usual uproar.
And while I'm happy to point the finger of blame when its needed, I like to make sure I'm pointing the damn thing in the right place.
I'm going to introduce you to someone. This is Mr Jones. Mr Jones lives in a smart semi detached house with a conservatory in the better part of town. He drives a sensible car that he washes once a week without fail. He has a wife, two children, a socially acceptable breed of dog, sex on Saturday nights, football Sunday afternoons and the odd pint at the pub when his wife is at bingo. He reads the Daily Mail.
Now Mr Jones doesn't think hes a bigot, obviously he wouldn't have made the mistakes that would result in bringing his children up gay and he'd prefer if all the non British went back to where they came from (Not that he's a racist, he's always perfectly polite to Mr Patel in the corner shop. Wouldn't invite him for Sunday lunch of course, but that's ok, his wife only cooks English dishes anyway.) If you press him, he'll admit that he thinks the world was probably a better place fifty years ago.
Mr Jones thinks he's the backbone of what our society should be founded on. He embodies the spirit that built the Empire. He grits his teeth and gets on with it. He's not really all that sure what goes on beyond his own front door and if he's honest, he doesn't really want to know. Ok, he glances out of the window occasionally to make sure nobody from the local council estate has come and vandalised his car (Take their benefits off them, they'll get a job quickly enough then!). But thats as far as it goes. He likes his own four walls.
But what Mr Jones doesn't know is that every time he walks to his corner shop and hands over his 45p (I’ve no idea how much it actually costs, the Degu Witch wouldn't be seen dead with a copy) in exchange for a copy of the Daily Mail, he is contributing to a national conscience of narrow minded discrimination and hatred. He is endorsing a world view of bigotry.
He doesn't see it like that of course... he thinks he's just buying a newspaper.
But its very much at the door of Mr Jones where I place the blame for this current tragedy. I blame him for buying the rubbish the Daily Mail publishes. If he stopped buying it, they’d stop writing it. I don't really blame the Daily Mail. Essentially they are running a business. Yes it’s a bloody terrible paper but its really only following the market conditions of supply and demand. I guarantee you that if everyone boycotted it for a week and wrote to the editor saying they don't want to read such right wing extremism the paper would become the epitome of liberalism within the space of a week. They write what people want to read, people like Mr Jones.
The underlying problem is that we live in a society chock a block full of Mr Joneses. A society where scandal fills the papers and the pockets of Newspaper editors. A society where we allow the press to mock and sensationalise the innocent. And then we turn and blame anybody else to get the stench of blood off our hands. It started out with the cult of celebrity but as the boundaries of who actually is a celebrity becomes blurred, anybody at all has become fair game for exposure, censure and the cruellest of personal criticisms.
Mr Jones doesn't understand why a man would ever want to become a woman. Its all a bit new age in his opinion. Wouldn't have happened fifty years ago. Government wants to get a grip on using NHS funding for that kind of thing. Mr Jones refuses to prise his door open a crack and imagine for a moment how terrible it must be for someone born into the wrong body. He can't empathise because its outside his comfort zone. The Daily Mail suggests its all a bit unnecessary, possibly even a little dirty and he's happy to go along with that. Empathy requires too much effort for Mr Jones. He's a sheep and he'll baaa along quite happily with his fellow Daily Mail readers.
The answer doesn't lie in blaming a paper that gives its readers what it wants, the answer lies in changing the very fundamentals of society. The more gay, transgender, bdsm, pagan, (whatever) people speak out, the more we slowly educate the bigoted and move our world into a more tolerant place. I've spoken a lot recently about jumping out of my own personal closets and this is why I do I it. Because every time I stand up and say - Look at me, I'm not following the crowd, I’m striking out on my own and being true to myself - its one in the eye for the Daily Mail and a little more education for their charmingly limited readers.
On the subject of transgender. I doubt anyone has ever woken up and thought, I fancy a change today, I think I'll swap gender. Being born into a body you have no emotional connection to is a deeply traumatic burden to carry. It makes me very angry that someone who has found the courage inside them to tackle and overcome that burden should then be subjected to ridicule.
So RIP Miss Lucy Meadows. I sincerely admire your courage and frankly I am ashamed to live in a society that has contributed to hounding you into taking your own life.
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