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It was the Summer of 2000, in the middle of the school holidays. Children across the country were relaxing, playing, sun bathing, doing anything but think about school. School was over, they were free. As it turned out, freedom was exactly what was so hotly contested. In Kent, a little girl went missing, 9 year-old Sarah Payne. The Police treated the missing child like any other - getting the parents to do press conferences appealing for their child to return, conducting door-to-door interviews to find out where she was last seen, generally focusing people's attentions on the missing girl. With very little other news in this quiet summer period, Sarah's fate was closely watched by the entire nation. I think everybody was upset to some degree when her dead body was found. Until then, I had every sympathy for the family of Sarah and shared the concern of those following the story.
But then the News of the World (the Sunday version of the Sun, and owned by News International) did something unforgivable. With very little evidence and no concern for the ramifications of their actions, they announced that it was, without a doubt, a paedophile assault and killing. They declared war on paedophiles, "Naming and Shaming" those they could find across the country by posting their pictures, names and full addresses on their website as well as in the pages of their paper. Editor Rebekah Wade would not (I would say could not) defend her actions, and although the Police and Government claimed it was "ill-advised", they would do nothing to stop it. They claimed the list was not an endorsement of vigilante violence, that it was just to let people know where the paedophiles were, becuase they had a right to know if they were in their area.
Of course, that didn't stop the idiots who buy the paper going out and beating paedophiles and those they suspected. In Portsmouth, in the most famous case of mistaken identity, the family of a supposed paedophile were shocked to find that a mob from their estate had destroyed their home. They had also terrorised the house-sitter, a 17 year old girl who had done nothing to anyone. The mob, led by a supposedly concerned mother, protested against the prescence of paedophiles on their estate, and attacked and defaced their homes. In a telling report, the BBC found the son of the leader of this mob, not even school aged, wandering the streets alone after 7pm, completely neglected. The men in the group went along for a laugh, they would get drunk first and then go out and get rowdy. The mothers used their children for publicity, indoctrinating them, telling them what to say to reporters who interviewed them, and then parading them around with banners in front of the waiting cameras the media. Locally, people in Manchester and Chorley were sent death threats and had their homes vandelised. These people were not paedophiles, were not on the list the NotW published, but looked like those who were, shared a name with those who were, or lived on the same street. This was inexcusable, and it was organised and led by the unrepentent NotW.
Here in Blackburn, a man was acting under Police advice to take pictures of youths trespassing in Church grounds because their had been verbal and physical assualts and vandalism by some of the said youths. When he took a picture, the yob went and got his father, who intimidated and threatened the man, suggesting he could be a paedophile selling the pictures on the Internet. This idiot told other members of the local community and even called the Police, an irony that could have been funny if the man's job was not threatened by these unfounded and completely false allegations. Luckily, the Police knew this man was nothing more than a trouble-maker, and he even got verbally warned. But the Church-man should not have had to suffer threats against his person or insinuatinos that were completely repugnant to him. Where is the justice there?
Paedophiles are not a nice bunch of people. Their actions are lead by, we are told, psychological problems. When caught by the Police, these people are punished for their crimes and then watched for the rest of their lives. They have to undergo extensive "rehabilitation", and will never be the same again. Neither will their victims. But the fact remains that we live under rule of law, and the law does not see fit to kill these people, or to incarcerate them for life except under extreme conditions. We live in a democracy where we agree to abide by the rule of law. Sometimes this is broken (sometimes even by me) but their is a difference between crimes against the person and crimes against other people. Crimes against other people, such as paedophilic material ownership and production and assault (of ANYONE!) are not right. If we are expected to respect the rule of law, then newspapers should be expected to too. But the News of the World ignored the system in place, and abused the system to an extent that caused crimes to be comitted against certain people. This is inexcusable, yet they have been excused.
The News of the World disgusted me on two counts. They lead this campaign that ruined the normal lives some paedophiles had been working towards, forced people who had paid their debt to society in prison and been released to go underground and flee their homes to avoid the possibility of violent attacks. But perhaps, on an abstract level, worse than this was the fact that they did it in the name of Sarah Payne. Sarah's parents went along with it, and her image was used to head and justify the campaign. There was no justifiable reason for the actions the paper took, but they used a dead girl as a way to validify something that was nothing more than an attempt to boost sales. We are now living in a world where personal safety, tragedy and the memory of lost souls are nothing more than devices for the tabloid media to use in the persuit of money. What is even more shocking is that only the Guardian would come right out and condemn the actions of the paper and those papers that supported the action. It took time for them to do it, and even more for other Media companies to join them. The Government, the body we elect to represent us and our interests still haven't, and indeed never will condemn the actions of the paper.
I will never buy a tabloid paper. Ever. When I wanted to see what they were doing, I got a discarded copy a friend had bought. They live and die off money. I will not give my money to a company so perverse, so inhuman that they will feed off the death of a child, fuel themselves with fear and anger, use people's worst instincts just to make a quick pound. Some people found the reports silly, laughed at the rediculousness of what they were doing. I saw how it affected people. I will not laugh. Ever. If you are even half as disgusted as I was at this inhuman action, I urge you not to give them your money and therefore approval either.
I agree completely. Rebekah Wade is a very scary person. No wonder she is maried to Grant Mitchell! Cheers.
crustypaul 31.01.2001 22:16
These assholes will stop at nothing to sell more papers but it is just as much the fault of the cretins who buy it. If you're gonna believe anything you find written in the News of the World then you might as well go and shoot yourself right now.