Moral guidance from the Page 3 mob? Really?

Posted on July 12, 2023

When it comes to dating apps, I’m not qualified to comment. In my clunky dating days, you took a very deep breath and actually asked someone out – unsure about what that taking out really entailed. On occasion, liaisons were brokered by leering mates, pretending to be helpful but with the popcorn at the ready. Outcomes varied from shrugged indifference, through amused interest to occasional smiling acceptance. An exchange of body-part images from a polaroid camera was never considered to be a necessary part of the procedure.

Such ventures, particularly unsuccessful ones, might be seared into your memory, but nothing that occurred was digitally stored to be made available in the public domain. I know he lives and tries to love in an unrecognisably different world, but how that BBC presenter must long for that more analogue age. He has probably behaved unwisely, he may have acted unkindly and it is possible that his actions are criminal. As I write, nobody knows. Wherever the truth is, he’s found himself in the crosshairs of two big media beasts.

The BBC, in a show of overt transparency, ensures that it doesn’t shy away from reporting his potential misdemeanours. It is still properly raw from the dangerous and dithering incompetence that allowed it to harbour and venerate abusers. Competing news media revel in their discomfort. They clamour for this predatory beast to be publicly exposed. They are joined by a prominent BBC employee, irritated that, despite his insistence, his name recurs in the reporting of the story. Let’s be done with these pesky old procedures and legal protocols, they shriek. This man is an abusive monster. Let’s drag him into the street immediately.

And, just for clarity, the presenter may be all the things that The Sun newspaper hints at – and that the BBC fears. But he may not. What’s important is to try to find out – and to do so in a fair and thorough way. It is proper procedure in a well-ordered workplace for an employee accused of a serious misdemeanour to be suspended without prejudice pending a full investigation of potential wrongdoing. Such full investigations need to be thorough and conducted with rigour by knowledgeable, competent people. And to be done while maintaining the confidentiality that will protect all parties – and that may well include an accuser.

All of which must sound dull, pedestrian and obstructive to an impatiently prurient media clamouring for scandal – while sniggeringly claiming the moral high ground. In the race to the bottom, away from any notion of public service and accurate news coverage, these fusty old notions of procedure and propriety are all so much old-world nonsense. And who can blame humble news editors? If the Prime Minister of the land recently set the standard for adherence to rules and protocols, what’s a simple old newshound to do?

And it’s no surprise that it’s The Sun leading the charge in this moral crusade, this standard-bearing for decency. When it comes to historical child abuse, it has plenty of first-hand experience, what with topless teenagers being one of its principal features. What’s that you say? Different times, different mores? I think you’ll find that particular legal horse bolted some time ago.

Sitting like the spectre at the feast, beyond claims of one in five British Muslims supporting jihad, of prisoners living a life of flat-screen, iPhone luxury or of immigrants gorging on the Queen’s swans, is The Sun’s deep-seated deceitfulness. The paper’s moral compass was forever demagnetized with its litany of life-changing lies about Hillsborough. It’s sister paper, the now defunct News of the World, hacked the phones of murdered children and British soldiers. It’s a vile, revolting catalogue of dishonesty.

Our man at the BBC may well turn out to be a fool, a villain or a predator. Or maybe a mixture – or maybe none of the above. Whatever the situation, it may be as well for the braying media types to remind themselves that properly applied rules protect everyone. And, just for clarity, the next time I’m in need of any ethical guidance, I’ll probably swerve the paper that got teenage girls to get their tits out.

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