The Philpott Case, and the Media.


There is a theme running through the right winged commentators on the horrendous Mick Philpott case. There has been a tendency to attach a political element to the case. It is a rather curious deviation for the Right. A section of the population that likes to insist on personal responsibility for our actions, now insists on linking the entire collectivity of those on any sort of state assistance, with the Philpott murders. We are all aware that Welfare is under relentless attacks from the Right, mainly based on invented statistics, silly little “strivers and shirkers” slogans, and constant demonisation of anyone claiming anything. But the Philpott case marked a new low for the Right Winged media. Notoriously, The Mail ran with:

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The children are mentioned simply as “being bred“, as if comparable to animals. Perhaps the Mail’s most disgusting headline to date. Though great exposure for their advertisers, which I suspect was their motive.

They subtly hinted that the Philpott case could also lead to thousands more just like him:

“Michael Philpott is a perfect parable for our age: His story shows the pervasiveness of evil born of welfare dependency. The trial spoke volumes about the sheer nastiness of the individuals involved. But it also lifted the lid on the bleak and often grotesque world of the welfare benefit scroungers — of whom there are not dozens, not hundreds, but tens of thousands in our country.“

Apparently Tory Councillors concur entirely with the Daily Mail.

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As does the Chancellor:

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– Interesting, from a Party that agreed to let Sir Philip Green of ‘my-wealth-is-in-Monaco-for-Tax-avoidance-purposes‘ fame have a government position working on ‘efficiency savings‘ within Whitehall departments. When the mega wealthy do not wish to pay back into a system that has afforded them the opportunity to rise to a privileged position, when they cost the taxpayer billions, when they actively seek to pay nothing back into our schools, our hospitals, our fire departments, offering no help on the current crises from their end; the Chancellor rewards them, with government positions and lovely big tax breaks. His buddies. When one or two (0.8% of the Welfare budget is lost to fraud, according to the Government’s own figures; less than a penny in every pound) Welfare claimants do something similar, the entire system is presented as broken and linked to child murders. This is right winged Britain. The people who think the taxpayer owes them something, are the ones who use a public system to work their way up, and then kick away the ladder when they reach the top by claiming their wealth is theirs only, to be locked away in a tax haven. These are the “society owes me something” scroungers.

As Left Foot Forward pointed out, the same treatment is not afforded to those who murder their families, when they come from wealthier backgrounds. When the Shropshire millionaire Hugh McFall murdered his wife and daughter, the Mail said:

“Detectives believe the mild-mannered family man snapped as he struggled to cope with spiralling debts…..Last night his sister Claire Rheade said: ‘It’s unbelievable – he doted on his family, he would never harm them. ‘He was a gentle man who wouldn’t hurt a fly.’ ”

– Note the rhetorical differences. “evil“, “sheer nastiness“, “grotesque“, “scroungers“, “bleak” ……. in the Philpott case, contrasted with…….. “mild-mannered“, “family man“, “doted on his family“, “never harm them“, “gentle man“, “wouldn’t hurt a fly“. They mention his “personal spiralling debts” as a catalyst. Here, they limit responsibility to he alone. They could call the McFall murders a “vile product of Capitalism“. They don’t.

Similarly, when Stephen Seddon murdered his parents for his £230,000 inheritance, the Mail did not suggest this was the ‘vile product‘ of the concept of inheritance. When the Mail editors got hold of the Philpott story, their main objective was to further the demonisation of Welfare. Nothing more. Any tenuous link was going to be drawn.

Mick Philpott himself was himself a man who, by all accounts, treated women like sex objects. He stabbed his ex-partner numerous times when she threatened to leave him. Each of his ex-partners describe his need to control women, and to use women for his sex games. He beat an ex-girlfriend for not giving him a baby boy. He told he that she “wasn’t a real woman“. To Mick Philpott, women were a sex object, to be used, and abused by men. This fact didn’t escape Judge Thirwall, who, at the sentencing, said:

“”Before I turn to what you did next, it is necessary to look at the history of your relationships with other women.
“The first with which I am concerned was a relationship with a girl in her teens. You were in your 20s. The relationship was characterised by violence – there were repeated beatings.
“On one occasion you broke her arm, on another you dislocated her knee with a sledgehammer. You were sure that she was having affairs and would come back from your posting in the army to check on her, repeatedly. Eventually she summoned the courage to bring your relationship to an end. You did not accept her decision.
….it is clear from the evidence that I excluded from the trial that you have used that conviction as a means of controlling women, terrifying them in what you might do.”

– Mick Philpotts attitude and treatment of women, therefore, is an important aspect to the story.
And so, using the logic thrown out by right winged commentators like The Daily Mail, what social ‘institution’, other than Welfare, can be linked to Mick Philpott’s way of thinking when it comes to women? The Sun, and the Mail make up a huge section of the readership of news in this country, so their influence cannot be overlooked when it comes to social issues, including the representation of women.

Here is the Daily Mail website home page this morning:

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– Under the stories of Philpott, is a story about kim kardashian’s breasts. This is one of many stories in today’s Mail focusing on half naked women. In fact, in any edition of the Mail. In 2009, the Mail revealed a poll of the World’s most beautiful female politicians. Their male political counterparts, are covered with stories relating to politics, ideas, statements, World affairs; men, are getting on with trying to fix the World. Female politicians; how attractive they are. Daily Mail commentator Quentin Letts speaks of the “youthful” look of some of the female politicians who made the pointless list. Harriet Harman, Letts refers to as “very butch” simply for wearing a suit. He also goes to great lengths to hide the obvious misogyny and his delusions of patriarchy behind more creative language, but the effect is still the same.

“Miss Harman, while undoubtedly feminine, goes to great lengths to appear non-sexy. She would regard it as fatal to play up that side of things – it would undermine her credibility. That is true of many of our Westminster women. They have drunk deep at the feminist well. Most of them used to read Spare Rib long before they looked at Hansard.
Theresa May, Tory pensions spokesman, does have her kittenish moments. She has made something of a name for herself not only as a bright parliamentarian but also as a buyer of leopard-print shoes. They are not necessarily the most practical of footwear, but they helped to create a public persona for Mrs May. ”

– The whole piece is accompanied by half naked women. But it isn’t just misogyny that Letts propagates so flippantly, it is a sense of the “masculine” as a whole. He says of gay MP Alan Duncan:

“easily the poutiest, most fragrant figure on the Tory benches”

Today’s Mail online also contains the following stories:
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As noted in a previous article on a similar subject, a couple of days back:
The overtly misogynistic approach to tabloid journalism cannot possibly be spun to suggest a positive outcome. Go to the Sun’s website and count the amount of times it refers to female body image, or presents candid and intrusive photos of a female celebrity. Here, i’ll help:

  • “Spanks a lot wind!” – A story showing an upskirt shot of Khloe Kardashian. The story also includes a close up shot, zoomed into her crotch. The story is about how she tried to pull her dress back down. News!
  • “There’s no-thin flabby about fabby Abbey Clancy” – Apart from crimes against headlines, this is a story about how Abbey Clancy isn’t fat. News!
  • “Jessie J has a body to match The Voice” – A story about how Jessie J looks relaxed in a bikini, leaning against a tree. News!
  • “Pussycat Ashley’s got the cream” – A story about a woman’s tanned legs. News!
    And here’s some more. (Remember, there are all from the Sun website’s first page):
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    In 2011, the Daily Mail asked:

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    – They could have answered it with simply “editorial policies of papers like this”:

  • Here is an article about how great Britney looks.
  • Here is an article about how fat Britney looks.
  • Here is an article about how great Megan Fox looks.
  • Here is an article about how ‘unkempt’ and ‘skeletel’ Megan Fox looks.

    Why not take a break, by looking up Venus Williams skirt?

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    Or maybe an upskirt frontpage shot of Kate?

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    Interestingly, the Star recently ran with this:

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    – Man kills his children (for new house? really?). But mainly, look at these breasts. Advertising a Channel 5 show. A channel, coincidentally, owned by the same man who owns the Star.

    Or maybe you wish to salivate at the posing, half naked body, of a dead woman:

    The Sun: Oscar Pistorius front page

    Or looking at the ‘womanly curves’ of a 14 year old girl:

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    Or let’s just look on in disgust at Leona Lewis’s ‘chubby’ arms:

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    – The Right Winged tabloid media creates that culture, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite obviously. It is a part of the model of the tabloid media, it is in its fabric. Women are to be viewed primarily as sexual objects. Feminists are to be made out to be prudes, unattractive, too manly. Gay people are to be made out to be too feminine. It creates this atmosphere, and then it blames everything and everyone else for the resulting product.
    Leveson noted that the representation of women in the tabloid press raised:

    “important and sensitive issues which merit further consideration by any new regulator.”

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think Mick Philpott is the result of Welfare dependency (do we really believe ripping apart the foundation of the Welfare State, underfunding mental health services, and stripping child services to their minimum, is going to help anyone at all?), nor the horrifically misogynistic tabloid press. His crimes show a clear lack of compassion, lack of empathy, lack of every trait of common human decency, especially toward children and women. Whether he was on Welfare, or a successful businessman, I cannot imagine it would make much difference. It is too simple to claim one aspect of the social, economic or media culture in the UK is wholly responsible for the psychology of one man willing to set fire to the home of his children. His case is completely non-representative of those who are on Welfare, as well as those who read the Mail.

    The point is, if the Right Winged media is going to attempt to divert all eyes toward the Welfare State, by making a terribly weak link between those who commit horrendous crimes like the crimes committed by Mick Philpott, and the Welfare system; then by using a similar formula, we can also link Philpott’s apparent use of women as sex objects to be owned, and controlled by men; to the inherently misogynistic right winged media constantly bombarding the country with its regressive machine of female denigration, patriarchal view of the World.

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