Philpott and the cautionary tale: why crime has always fuelled the media

ROLL up, roll up. The incredible cautionary tale of Mick Philpott is hitting all media, everywhere, at the same time.

He’s the degenerate grubby man who somehow managed to father 17 lovely  children and then kill six of them in a botched attempt to look a hero and exploit the people around him.

The latest in a long line of criminals who have enraptured our media, this one has it all. He’s also a rapist, who was on the telly with Anne Widdecombe off Strictly Come Dancing and Jeremy Kyle, and worst of all be did it all while SINGING KARAEOKE.

Philpottexclusive

But he is just the latest of a long line of media villains. From child murderers to dictators and devil children, many ‘wrong uns’ have become fleeting tales of our age.

And there’s nothing new in that. Doctor Crippen became a symbol of the fears of expanding world in 1880s the same way the Lindbergh baby summed up US fears around immigration in the 1930s. The latter – heightened by Charlies Lindbergh’s celebrity – was described as “the biggest story ever” by a US newspaper at the time.

To give you an idea of the magnitude, imagine if  Beckham –  the media’s golden example of hard work and dedication to family – had a child who was kidnapped and killed.

Like Karen Matthews before him Mick Philpott was one-off chancer in a tiny struggling part of the world who somehow has come to represent everyone who lives in social housing and claims benefits.

When on Dewsbury Moor what struck me most was not the terrible crime of which Karen Matthews was guilty, but the decent people who were caught up in the wake.

Bewildered local people who had journalists from London waiving money at them and beleaguered local reporters trying to explain to their community that the nationals would hit and run.

I felt sorry for them all and knew inevitably the circus would be wheeling into another community and representing the worst behaviour as the norm. The Sunday People’s front page today is understandable. While they are doing good with their Bedroom Tax campaign, they still know the bottom line; this story will sell.

But in the same way expense excess by politicians was embodied by duck houses, swapping houses and bath plugs and all journalists are seen as willing to do anything to get a story, now those on benefits are embodied by a violent, abusive karaoke singing child killer.

And that just makes it harder  for ordinary people everywhere to say they need financial help in case someone thinks they are a scrounger. Have we learned nothing people? …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. THE Mick Pilpott  front page hit twitter at about 9pm Sunday night on the Sunday People’s irreverent and interesting twitter feed which is sometimes hijacked by great journalists like Former Sunday Mirror stalwart Susie Boniface  (@fleetstreetfox) and fellow Mackem Andy Dawson (@ProfanitySwan). After seeing it I nodded earnestly at Owen Jones tweets for a while, before writing this blog. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

SUNDAY will be spent listening to Bowie’s The Next Day while looking through the book you get with the vinyl.  A bargain at £22. Here’s a picture of the back sleeve so you can see where you’d turn over the record. If you’re into that kind of thing.

TheNextDay

OUR DAVID: Love him, me…

I’m now going to chill with the middle bits from The Guardian. Is anyone else wondering whether they’ll ever just make it a Saturday weekly?  I can’t be the only one who only every looks at it online the rest of the week. I shall muse again soon…..

One thought on “Philpott and the cautionary tale: why crime has always fuelled the media

  1. I think this started even earlier, with the `Jack the Ripper’ stories in 1888 published by the|Daily Star (not that one), and I think there’s an obvious reason for it. It’s a human foible to be interested in the dark side, in gossip, and of feeling `I’m glad that’s not me’. Philpott was vile and violent and an ignorant, nasty man. Unfortunately, the story is fascinating and has many contexts (including the obscene way the Daily Mail chose to focus on it). I think sometimes the media morality tale can ring true, if it’s written as an honest, well researched piece that seeks to enlighten readers.

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