Friday, 28 May 2010

A tawdry frenzy

The arrest and charging of Stephen Griffiths led to a predictably hysterical outburst from the media. For example:

And it wasn't just the tabloids.

On both the BBC News Channel and Sky News this morning, we had at least 15 minutes of 'reporting' from outside a Bradford court, which involved their on-the-scene reporters saying nothing new over live pictures of the back of police van. When the van moved slightly, the camera crews ran to find a better position, before moving back to where they started when the van moved again.

And all this for a completely unrevealing two second (at most) glimpse of a person in a hoodie who could have been absolutely anyone.

It was dismal stuff - a prime example of what Charlie Brooker called 'boring live nothing'.

Once in court, Griffiths was asked to confirm his name:

Mr Griffiths told the court he was "the crossbow cannibal".

'Crossbow cannibal'? Now where have we heard that before?


The overwhelming feeling from all this coverage is almost that we don't need to have a trial. Some sections of the media have already decided Griffiths is guilty.

There seems to be no thought of Barry George, or Robert Murat, or laws on contempt.

Much of it is pure speculation. The articles are peppered with such tell-tale phrases as 'it is understood that...' and 'a source revealed that...' and 'it is not known if...'

We are told - apparently - how he once swallowed a live rat, his mum liked to dress provacatively, he sent 'heavy items' down the communal rubbish chute in the early hours, his family were 'odd', he was a 'weirdo'.

And what about that 'cannibal' claim? The Sun admit:

Police are probing the possibility the killer may have eaten some of her flesh.

But they are still trying to find corroborating evidence.

The Express goes further:

Allegations of cannibalism were last night refuted by senior investigators who said there was "absolutely no evidence" of such an act in any of the cases.

So why did the Sun splash 'cannibal' all over the front page? Do we really need sensationalism in such a story?

Every paper was trying to find their own angle. The Star's was particularly notable:

'I survived the Ripper'. The obvious impression the Star's front page was trying to give was that Griffiths is the 'Ripper', he's guilty and they have spoken to someone who had a narrow escape from him.

But as ever with Star headlines, the story says no such thing:

A former vice girl last night told how a weirdo “with demon eyes” tried to pick her up just days before her prostitute pal was brutally murdered.

Anna Kennedy said she was approached at a petrol station in Bradford’s red light district.

The man seemed fascinated by her conversation with the cashier about the disappearance of two hookers within the past year.

She told the Daily Star the man “made my hairs stand on end” – and was even more terrified when she heard this week about the murder of her hooker friend Suzanne Blamires.

In fact, the Star makes no attempt to claim the 'weirdo with demon eyes' was Griffiths. Or even someone you needed to 'run for your life' from:

“I didn’t like the look of him,” she said.

“There was something about his eyes, demon eyes. Something about him made the hairs stand up on the back of my arms.”

Anna, 36, said she used to see the man “nearly every day’’ for 10 years while she was walking the streets but never felt threatened by him.

Hmm. So man goes up to till in petrol station and woman thinks he's creepy for joining the cashier's conversation. Despite never thinking him creepy for ten years before that.

The tabloids wallow in this stuff and there will be plenty more frenzied coverage over the weekend. It's all rather tawdry, but it is no real surprise - after all, it happens all too regularly.


  1. I see from the top right of the "Daily Express" that they are claiming "victory" as "Magistrate in "Scum" case gets his job back".

    That will be the magistrate who was allowed to remain on the bench throughout the inquiry, although he chose not to sit as chairman pending the decision, then? The Express regards it as their victory when a man retains his job?

  2. While all the other papers were talking about "man charged" or "criminology student charged", The Independent scraped the barrel and went for "ex public schoolboy charged". Not that they have any sort of agenda.

    -- random passing Firedrake

  3. Anonymous - The Indy wasn't the only one - the Mail ran the headline 'privately educated loner studying phD is charged'.


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