Daily Archives: July 3, 2011

Kia Abdullah is not a Guardian columnist

Paul Dacre, and therefore the Mail, seems to hold a special contempt for the Guardian. Dacre’s speech to the Society of Editors back in 2008 had lots to say about the criticism that newspapers received – largely because Dacre:

passionately believe[s] that Britain has the best newspapers in the world and – indeed, our papers today are as good as they’ve ever been.

He therefore seems to hold any newspaper that dare have a media section with a special contempt normally only reserved for the BBC:

Why does not a week go by that the media supplements and their columnists do not denigrate our industry as a whole?…

the problem, of course, is that it’s only leftish and liberal media outlets – who, almost by definition lose millions of pounds a year – that have media sections. With such a monopoly, they exert a huge and disproportionate influence on what people – particularly, I suspect, the judiciary – think of the British media.

In regards to his first rhetorical question: not a week goes without criticism because not a week goes by without exceptionally poor journalism being printed in the Mail, let alone all of the other tabloid newspapers. Secondly, Dacre seems to be in sync with the Mail outlook that somehow – even though the Sun and the Daily Mail are the top two selling newspapers in the UK – the ‘leftish and liberal media outlets’ have some kind of ‘monopoly’ going on. Presumably, Dacre – with sales of the Mail trouncing the sales of the Guardian – could easily break that monopoly by simply having their own media section.

Except, of course, tabloid editors rarely dish the dirt on other tabloids because they’re all waist deep in sewage and any ensuing shit-fight would see them all go under.

Anyway, this is a bit of context behind this headline today: ‘Guardian columnist Kia Abdullah Tweets cruel taunts death gap year boys‘ [istyosty.com link].

Kia Abdullah has indeed been stirring up a bit of controversy on Twitter with her comments about the death of three boys on a gap year. She isn’t however a Guardian columnist – even though the Mail describes her in the first two paragraphs as both  a ‘newspaper journalist’ and ‘Guardian columnist’. At the end of the article the Mail has to come clean (the article, as usual is attributed only to ‘The Daily Mail Reporter’) by quoting two Guardian statements. The first is pretty clear:

‘Kia Abdullah is an occasional freelance contributor to the Guardian’s Comment is Free website.

‘She has never been on contract, is not on the staff of the Guardian and has not written for any part of the Guardian since May 2010.

‘The Guardian is not responsible for what occasional contributors write on Twitter.’

The second even clearer:

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, said: ‘Kia Abdullah is not, as has been reported, a Guardian journalist or a Guardian columnist. She is a novelist freelance writer who, in common with thousands of others, has written occasional pieces for our comment website. The last of these was 14 months ago.

‘Her grossly insensitive remarks were on her own personal Twitter feed, for which the Guardian has no responsibility and over which it has no control. Of course we deplore her comments and the distress they have caused the relatives and friends of Max, Bruno and Conrad. The Guardian would never have published such offensive comments.’

Indeed, the last comment is interesting because what kind of newspaper would publish offensive comments about the death of fellow human beings? Well, the Mail certainly don’t mind publishing offensive articles about the dead – indeed they pay columnists an awful lot of money to do just that.

In 2005 the highly-paid Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn thought he’d discuss the murders of five women who worked as prostitutes and the Mail published the following:

It might not be fashionable, or even acceptable in some quarters, to say so, but in their chosen field of “work”, death by strangulation is an occupational hazard.

That doesn’t make it justifiable homicide, but in the scheme of things the deaths of these five women is no great loss.

They weren’t going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur. The only kind of missionary position they undertook was in the back seat of a car…

These five women were on the streets because even the filthiest, most disreputable back-alley “sauna” above a kebab shop wouldn’t give them house room.

The men who used them were either too mean to fork out whatever a massage parlour charges, or simply weren’t fussy. Some men are actually turned on by disgusting, drug-addled street whores.

Or what about the newspaper that published that article by Jan Moir in which she claimed in her title that ‘there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death’. Of course, Jan Moir is another highly-paid Mail columnist and her article – in which she maintained that: ‘Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered’ – holds the records for the most complained about article in British newspaper history and the Press Complaints Commission website broke under the strain of it all.

Only this week the Daily Mail have used the hugely unlucky accidental death of a 13-year-old girl as a tool to attack the teacher’s strike, disgracefully forcing the shocked and upset parents to issue a request that newspapers stop using their dead daughter to pursue their own agendas. Yet here the Mail is, calling for someone to be hunted down for their comments on Twitter – comments which were made to a tiny following of 862 and are now only becoming well known thanks to their repeated publication in the press.

Two main things strike me about this Mail article:

  1. It’s insulting that the Mail have the balls to fain outrage over the kind of stuff they print every other day in unattributed ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ articles and what they pay huge sums of money to columnists to write.
  2. If the Daily Mail wants to use these Twitter comments as a way of attacking the Guardian for unfairly criticising other newspapers – including the Mail – it probably doesn’t help that the article smugly attacking the Guardian is just another example of the sort of dishonest agenda-driven drivel that the Guardian’s media section frequently points out.