When looking back over the Jan Moir / Stephen Gately atrocity, a lot of people have concluded that the outrage over the abysmal and nasty article written by Moir didn't do any good. She's still in a job, and the PCC rejected the complaint - so all that anger on Twitter and elsewhere didn't achieve anything, did it?
I'm not so sure about that, though I can understand why people would like to settle into that narrative like a comfy pair of old slippers. It means there's nothing to worry about. But I would like to hope - hope against hope - that the storm the Daily Mail found itself in after Moir's ill-judged and venomous article made them, in some small way, feel they were a little more vulnerable to the outside world, and their own readers, than they were before. It's easy to dismiss the rantings of a few pointless troublemakers like me, for example, but when it's several thousand people, and several thousand readers, that's a different matter.
It's worth pointing out here that the immediate swipes at Stephen Gately just hours after he had died were not a one-off. The Mail had previously delighted in the disappearance of TV presenter Mark Speight, gleefully poring over his personal life and allowing reader comments to insult him while he was missing and, as it turned out, suicidal. Missing chef Claudia Lawrence has had her personal life intruded into, also, supposedly in the public interest - though I fail to see how. The message has always been 'Don't let the corpse get cold', although it's also important to say that the Mail are by no means the only offender when it comes to this kind of behaviour.
Today, after the death of Kristian Digby, the Mail's article* is was calm and respectful. Now you can imagine this is for all sorts of reasons, none of which are connected to the Jan Moir article, and I'm sure most of them aren't - it shouldn't be a cause for celebration when a newspaper has published a decent article, should it? - but what's important to know is that there is another story here.
The Sun, who I won't link to, have been tipped off as to the cause of death. It is, if true, a fairly embarrassing one - and one which, incidentally, benefits no-one to know about, especially in the hours just after someone has died. I couldn't give a shit how this poor man died and it's largely up to the coroner to decide these things anyway; speculation is unhelpful, possibly distressing to family and friends, and doesn't tell us anything. As ever, some copper with a keen eye for making a fast buck off the back of someone else's death by selling info to the tabs has made the relevant phone call, and the Sun have revelled in the story.
I hope that the Mail, and other papers, don't follow the Sun's line on this. I had hoped this would be the case, but sadly not. And yes, I know. Many will say this information is now 'in the public domain' and that I'm frankly rather naive if I think that everyone else won't follow the Sun's lead and revel in the details. I'm not saying that anyone shouldn't be allowed to reveal these kind of things; just that sometimes it doesn't add anything to a story, other than a kind of prurient hand-rubbing at someone else's unfortunate demise, and that I find it entirely irrelevant. My life is not enriched or improved by knowing the exact way in which this poor man died, and I don't think anyone else's either. And spare me any argument about needing to be accurate and report the facts; funny how these arguments only turn up when it's a matter of intruding into someone's personal life and revealing embarrassing details, and never about real investigations into matters of genuine public interest.
This was a human being, after all, with friends and family who are all grieving right now. How does it benefit anyone, and how is it in the public interest, to speculate over the cause of death? And now answer me this: how the hell is it right to allow these kinds of comments just hours after someone has died?
Hilarious. Look, I may well be wrong, but I hope I'm not. It's just that there appears to be not quite so much appetite over at the Mail to 'not let the corpse get cold' or to come in with the other angle on Kristian Digby's death. I was wrong, unfortunately, but you've got to have hope. You've always got to try and be optimistic about these things, and hope that people will have high standards; I don't like being eternally cynical. I always have hope. So often it's proved wrong, but never mind. You have to have hope.
You have to hope, also, that some columnist doesn't use it as easy fodder for a pointless rant about people's lifestyles. You can hope, anyway, and I always do. You never know: perhaps this man's death can be treated with the dignity and respect it deserves. Not by the Sun, obviously, but perhaps by others.
Incidentally, it could be argued - and may even be argued by someone, somewhere - that it's in the public interest to let people know the details of deaths like this so that others don't have it happen to them. I would believe that a whole lot more if the very newspapers who do this didn't constantly argue that if school-age children are taught about sex education, they will automatically go out and have sex. Funny how other inquests about sudden deaths, not involving celebrities, don't attract that same public service journalism, then.
*updated updated* Apparently there was another story (see comments) with a big headline referring to the alleged manner of Kristian Digby's death, which has apparently disappeared. Maybe it's not too late to hope after all... or is it? Even so, they're still including it in their original story (at the time of writing, though that my change yet again).
* This may of course change, which is one of many reasons why I am often loath to link to Mail stories. They are often updated on the same URL and end up being entirely different. All I can say is, at the time of writing, this was what I found. And, silly me, it did go and change.