I suppose I should be happy that the Express has been clobbered for half a million by Kate 'n' Gerry. After all, it's a terrible, nasty, ugly, wilfully ignorant, badly written, badly subbed, misleading, unpleasant, muckraking, tedious, anti-creative, anti-diversity, witless, extremist rag without any discernible sense of style, journalistic integrity or redeeming features.
But it doesn't make me happy. It makes me angry. And here's why.
So a rich couple have hired hot-shot lawyers to defend themselves against the press - so what? Do you think Schillings will be popping round to Shannon Matthews's mum's house for a bit of pro bono work? Are Carter-Ruck going to offer their services for free to Scarlett Keeling's mum? No. Yet they have suffered disgracefully from the 'mid-market' scum sheets and their horrific columnists - but they're poor, who cares? They don't have the cash to fight back, so let them sink. So the rich have managed to use money to force a newspaper to say sorry - so what? What does it prove - that they're right? That they're innocent? That they have slain the dragon of gutter journalism?
Not a chance. All it's done is given Kate 'n' Gerry some more money to try and find their daughter. All it proves is that the Express said something they couldn't prove about someone who had the money to answer back. Which means more bollocks in the press from Clarence Mitchell and Metodo 3 - oh great, I can't bloody wait. Hasn't everything been said that needs to have been said? Surely it's been done to death now. How many million more 'suspects' are going to come out of the woodwork? How many thousands of 'swarthy men' will have been seen hanging round the villa on 'that fateful night'?
Even on the front page of the Express today, there's a sniping attack on Heather Mills - we've been caught out over Kate 'n' Gerry, the Express is saying, but let's let Lady Mucca have it! We're not going to stop this kind of thing any time soon, is the message. Now as Obsolete points out very articulately, Heather Mills may have her faults, but that surely doesn't mean she deserves both barrels from Fleet Street's finest - does it? It's not like she's done malicious harm to others - indeed, she's tried to do a lot for charity, whatever you think about her startling appearances on telly in a castrati-style voice. Sure, she doesn't help herself by wanting £40k of booze when she doesn't drink and £30k for horses when she doesn't ride, but guess what, the judge saw through it.
Far from being something to celebrate, today's news could send shockwaves through the gutter press. Not financially - who cares about half a million smackers when the Express probably made much more than that in increased sales with its coverage of the McCanns? But the strategy could change because of the front-page climbdown. Why target high-profile people like Kate and Gerry, with money to fight you, when it could end up with a humiliating apology?
There are two options facing the gutter press. Option 1 is to make sure they get their facts right in future and stop talking shit about people in distress. Option 2 is to target the weak, poor and vulnerable, who won't be able to raise the cash to defend themselves. Now I'd love to think that 1's going to happen, but hands up who thinks it is? Anybody? No? No, so we're going to get a change in tack. More attacks on the likes of Shannon Matthews's mum and Scarlett Keeling's mum - too poor to fight back, no good reputation in the public, no fighting fund to help them take on the papers in court, where it really hurts. They'll just have the PCC, run by the newspapers themselves, who might, if it's really serious, allow a letter to be published as a slight complaint, then claim everything's 'resolved'.
Today also isn't a victory because the Express has been targeted for just one campaign against two people, rather than its constant lies, deceit and disgraceful mendacity over immigration. Who's there to defend immigrants when they're targeted en masse? Who's there to defend foreigners and minorities when lie after lie after lie is told about them? I know the Federation of Poles has complained about the Mail, and I would love it if something positive came, but the usual banalities about 'balance' and 'fairness' will be trotted out, with examples of one reader's letter battling against 50 or 100 articles full of half-truths, deception, twisted statistics and lies. Fairness? Balance? Do me a favour.
Of course I'm delighted that the Express has been wounded by someone. But I can't bring myself to be pleased about the result. If anything, it will increase the justice chasm in this country - if you're rich, you can take them on, if you're not, you've got the newspapers' own owners, the PCC, to 'listen'. I can only fear that things, if anything, will get worse. I just hope I'm wrong.