I don't talk much about the red-tops, apart from the Sun, so it's probably time for a bit of balance. The Mirror has come up with a disgraceful anti-journalism, anti-reason, anti-truth story exploiting the disappearance of Shannon Matthews and pursuing a bonkers loony nut-nut agenda of specious bullshit.
As with the Mail's evisceration of stroke victim Carol Barnes, there appears to have been no consideration as to the feelings of Matthews' relatives. Let's just pile in with a bit of idle speculation, nonsensical non-science and end-of-the-pier hokum to try and crowbar a new and meaningless 'angle' into an already tragic story. Missing girl? Hmm, not enough. Let's get a 'psychic' in to try and sift through the evidence. Jesus. Wept. This is 2008, not 1919.
On my bookshelf is a lovely dusty old volume called 'When Fleet Street Calls' by JC Cannell, a real old-school journalist in the heyday of the press who covered, among other things, the R101 airship disaster. But his main focus of investigation was in exposing mediums and clairvoyants, popular at that time, who were, he felt, exploiting the vulnerable and weak for monetary gain and fame. A journalist did that. Journalists used to be able to do that. They used to be able to expose conmen, cheats and frauds.
Missing Shannon Matthews' mum Karen has dramatically been told by a psychic: "She was taken by someone you both know."
It appears the distraught mother, who hopefully didn't read Allison Pearson's sewer pipe of class hatred and snobbery the other day in the Hate Mail, has turned to a 'psychic' in desperation.
This 'psychic' should have known better. It's all right having a bit of a laugh with people, telling them their futures and whether they'll be married, how many kids they're going to have etc, because that's all bullshit, but when someone is in a particularly vulnerable state - with a child missing - then only one of two conclusions is possible. Either the poor deluded idiot really believes they're a psychic, in which case newspapers shouldn't have any truck with trying to give credence to their nonsensical ramblings; or they're just deliberately providing false information to someone who is in a desperate, weak state through the use of guesswork, making stuff up and cold-reading techniques.
James Randi has been particularly scathing of 'celebrity psychic' Sylvia Browne, who has failed, failed and failed again to find missing children, occasionally bringing false hope to parents who were told by her their children were alive when in fact they had been killed long ago. The mistakes and guesses are airbrushed out of history, and she still gets a slot on prime-time TV on the Montel Williams show. I see this case as no different, and just as morally bankrupt - when you know there is no way of knowing a child is safe or not, how can you bring yourself to tell her parent that she is alive? How does that sit with you? Can you sleep at night, knowing you've done that, knowing what might happen in a day, or a week, or a month's time?
On we go in the Mirror. My anger is rising as I read:
But the clairvoyant reassured her that her nine-year-old daughter was still alive.
A relative of distraught Karen, 32, revealed last night: "What he said really got to her as he knew a lot of personal information.
She will try anything to get Shannon back."
I imagine she will. It's very sad.
Detectives have examined a tape of Karen's one-hour meeting with the expert. It is thought to have sparked her tearful outburst earlier this week that she feared the culprit came from her circle of friends and relatives.
If only they were examining it in a bid to find evidence of criminal activity. But what this psychic has done is perfectly legal. What's unforgivable is the Mirror giving credence to these charlatans by failing to challenge them. Another example of tabloid churn; here today, forgot tomorrow. But not for Shannon Matthews' parents.