Vicious, bullying, hate-filled rag

It’s pretty much the perfect Daily Mail story, with opportunities for its readers to express snorting derision and hatred for gay people, left wing politicians, the ‘nanny state’, political correctness, and social workers.  It’s only really foreigners and malingering dole scroungers missing, isn’t it?  If only the adoptive parents could have been disabled asylum seekers too…

The basic facts of the story, shorn of sensationalism, are these.  Two young children, aged 3 and 2 at the time the whole two-year process began, were unable to continue living with their mother because of her addiction to heroin.  The children’s maternal grandparents, aged 57 and 44 at the time, stepped in to look after them.  Social services were concerned that this could not be a permanent solution, because of the age and health of the grandparents.  The grandfather, now aged 59, suffers from angina, and his wife, 46, has diabetes.  The children had initially been placed in foster care, but are now due to be adopted, and social workers have taken the decision to place them with a male homosexual couple.

The Daily Mail’s objections centre on two main points.  Firstly, they are unhappy that the children have been removed from their grandparents at all.  Secondly they are concerned that the children have been placed with a homosexual couple.  Let’s look at these points in turn.

First up, the age of the grandparents.  This story is playing out in Edinburgh, where the average age of death for men is as low as 69 years.  In other words, if the children’s grandfather died at the average age, the two children would be just 15 and 14 years old when he died.  It is worth bearing in mind that the grandfather had already, at the age of 57, required treatment for a heart condition, and this would seem to be legitimate grounds to fear that he might die earlier than average.  When Peter Harris questions why the grandparents are considered too old to raise the children, I can only assume he has not taken into account the fact that the children’s grandfather is very likely to be dead before they’ve even left secondary school.

Simple life expectancy is not the only issue when it comes to older people caring for children, of course.  Would a sick and elderly father-figure really be able to provide the sort of firm and unwavering discipline that the Daily Mail feels is such an important and undervalued part of child rearing?  Then there are the issues surrounding finance.  Would the family be able to cope financially when the grandfather retires in only 6 years time?  (Surely the Daily Mail can’t be saying that it’s OK to set aside these concerns on the basis that the state will provide?  Aren’t they usually strongly opposed to such ‘irresponsibility’?)  Questions are also frequently raised as to the extent to which children being looked after by older people who are not in the best of health will be able to enjoy a full range of activities.  Strangely enough, none of these issues seem to be being discussed in this case.

The Daily Mail’s outrage is based on the assumption that, just because they have a biological connection to the children, the grandparents would make exemplary parents.  We have, of course, very little information on which to reach a judgement on this matter, and certainly a whole lot less than the social workers involved in the case will have had.  One salient fact does nag at me, however.

The couple’s own daughter is a heroin addict.  Given the evidence that one child entrusted to their care has emerged with serious substance-abuse issues, would it really be wise for social services to trust to luck that the grandparents would do better second time around?  What, I wonder, would the reaction of the Daily Mail have been if there were no homosexual angle to the story?  I can’t imagine a story about Edinburgh social services handing the care of vulnerable children to a late-middle-aged man in poor health who had already raised one drug addict daughter would have been particularly positive.

But of course there is a homosexual angle.  The implication of the main story appears to be that placing children with same-sex couples may be acceptable, if there is no ‘better’ option available, but that it should always be a last resort.  The paper seems especially exercised by the fact that heterosexual couples who had been approved for adoption were not automatically given ‘first dibs’ on the children.

They seem not to have taken into account that the social workers in this case, had they prioritised heterosexuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, would have been breaking the law.  If the Mail wishes to object to this (and it would seem they do) then they should be directing their anger at the Scottish parliament (which ducked the issue, and asked Westminster to legislate on it) and the UK government.  It is unlike the Daily Mail to miss an opportunity to kick the government, so this oversight seems surprising, unless the paper didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that many Conservative MPs (including their leader, David Cameron) also voted in favour of allowing gay adoption.

This ‘oversight’ is at least corrected by Melanie Phillips.  Some of you may be familiar with Melanie Phillips’ work, in which case you will be aware that she is not known for a measured and conciliatory approach in her writing.  If others of you are not, the sub-heading to her opinion piece on this issue may provide some clues: ‘To place children with two gay men when an adoptive mother and father are available, just to uphold a brutal dogma, is a sickening assault on family life.’

Ms Phillips takes the opportunity to rehearse once again her oft-stated opposition to anything more than the most grudging tolerance for those who practise the homosexual ‘lifestyle’.  She also raises again the issue of research which ‘proves’ that children do best when they are raised by two heterosexual parents.  To her credit, she explicitly acknowledges that the data is too sparse, and the flaws in the research too great, to allow any firm conclusions to be drawn from it, although it is my understanding she has only begun to do this since being heavily criticised for placing too great an emphasis upon it previously.  The point is largely irrelevant, anyway, since outside the paragraphs detailing the limitations of the research, she proceeds on the assumption that the unsuitability of homosexuals to be parents is a matter of established fact.

It should be noted that Ms Phillips ire is not reserved for homosexual parents, since she regards single parents and other unorthodox parenting arrangements as just as bad:

children need to be brought up by the two people ‘who made me’ – or, in adoptive households, in a family which closely replicates that arrangement.

Where that does not happen, the child’s deepest sense of his or her identity as a human being is at some level damaged.

So children raised by single parents and same-sex couples don’t think they’re human?  What do they think they are?  A designer poodle?  A camping stove?  A small plastic model of the Eiffel Tower?

Taking the piss out of Melanie Phillips is an amusing occupation, although she makes it too easy – it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.  But underneath the barely coherent venom-spewing, there is a small glimmer of a valid point.  I’d agree that children are better off for having strong, positive role-models from both genders.  Not because I think they won’t be human if they don’t get them (or because they’ll ‘turn gay’), but because they’ll end up finding it difficult to interact socially and professionally with a gender they know little about.  I’m very far from being an expert on the subject, but as I understand it, same-sex couples who want to adopt have to demonstrate to social services how they will ensure the presence of opposite sex role models in their children’s lives before they’re approved for adoption.  That seems like a sensible precaution to me.

The truth of it is there will have been all kinds of sensible precautions involved in social services’ handling of the case.  They won’t have placed the children with a gay couple because of some ‘brutal dogma’, or because they’re more concerned with ‘political correctness’ than they are the welfare of the children.  They’ll have chosen them because a whole range of factors indicate that the gay couple were the most appropriate match for these particular children.  The hysteria displayed by the Daily Mail really is breathtaking.  Amanda Platell’s description of ‘the Stasi-like approach of modern social services’ might actually be funny, if it didn’t betray a shocking lack of familiarity with what the Stasi actually did.

The question has to be asked: what would the media have social services do?  If they intervene when they fear children may be at risk of harm, they’re brutal agents of a repressive state.  But, as the hysteria surrounding Baby P shows, if they err on the side of caution and don’t intervene, they’re worse than the actual perpetrators of murder and child abuse are.  It might be nice if the Daily Mail occasionally kept its attack-dogs kennelled long enough to print an editorial explaining in detail their suggestions for putting everything right – but, of course, that will never happen.

In my opinion, the Daily Mail is a truly loathsome little rag.  Like its tabloid fellow-travellers, it disfigures our national discourse with its ceaseless outpouring of venomous bile and naked hatred for everything and everyone that’s even the slightest bit different or unusual.  It deliberately targets people who can’t answer back (like social workers who are pledged to uphold client confidentiality), or people who are on the margins of society and are vulnerable to attack.  It’s a narrow-minded, nasty-minded bully.

It’s very easy to get discouraged or disheartened by the popularity of the Mail, but the truth is, it’s dying.  Like all the print media, in 20-30 years time (if it takes that long…) it won’t exist, except possibly as an internet site.  And at that point, what it says won’t matter anymore.  Only people who already share its opinions will seek it out.  This is what happens on the web – communities of like-minded individuals form around sites, but nobody else has even heard of them.  Websites may be huge, they may attract a few million hits a day, but they will never have the ability to dominate national (and international) discourse in the way that the print media does.

At the moment, the print media is dangerous, not because of the numbers of readers it has – only a tiny, tiny fraction of the population as a whole read the Daily Mail – but because of the exaggerated attention that’s paid to it.  Politicians and broadcasters allow the print editors and their proprietors to set the news agenda, but someday soon, that’s going to change.  Someday soon people will realise that the aggressive, vitriolic, change-phobic media have always been out of step with genuine popular opinion, and that they directly speak for only the tiniest of tiny minorities.  And when that happens, and the press barons are no longer able to over-emphasise minority hatreds, we’ll finally be able to see that actually we’re lucky enough to live in a country where most people are decent, and caring, and tolerant, and are repelled and appalled by vicious, bullying hatred.

This entry was posted in Media commentary, Social commentary, Stuff I've read. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Vicious, bullying, hate-filled rag

  1. cb says:

    I’ve tried to stay away from this story because so many aspects of the reporting of it make me really angry and I don’t think it’s good for my blood pressure.
    Firstly, noone knows all the facts because Edinburgh Social Services can’t disclose. Secondly, for an adoption order to be granted it has to pass by a judge.
    Thirdly, the grandparents agreed to the adoption BEFORE they knew it was a homosexual couple that would be adopting. It was only when they found out that the approved couple were gay that they became so distressed.
    Of course, I can’t know too many of the details myself but I have been approved as a foster carer (completely separate from my work, incidently) and I know how much my own attitudes, background and history have been explored and examined over a period of 18 months before getting that approval.
    One of the things that social workers are very careful about when placing children that are to be adopted is to ensure that a permanent solution is permanent. A child who is experiencing loss already would be likely more damaged by the death or loss of an adoptive parent. That is why prospective adoptors who smoke or who are obese are being rejected by some councils.
    No child though, is ever taken from a blood relative without EXTREMELY good grounds. It is actually not possible legally, despite what some journalists would have the general public believe. They would have to be something more than what is presented by the Mail I would think.
    The thing that sickens me more than anything is the comments that are attached to those Daily Mail articles.

  2. Alex says:

    I was wondering which of us would get to this story first, Aethelread. =D
    I did have a big long rant prepared, but I ended up deleting it after advocating firebombing a Young Conservatives meeting (in jest, Mr. Special Branch Man). Regardless. You’re dead right about everything in this post; heroin addicts (current or ex) are not the best-equipped for giving child-rearing advice, and the Daily Mail can go fuck themselves sideways into a minefield with a rusty pickaxe handle.
    I’d also add that single-parent families can work out fine. I was raised in a one-parent household for most of my youth (still live in one, actually), and it never did me any harm.

  3. abysmalmusings says:

    Having been raised by grandparents, single-parents, single-step parent, anyone who would put a roof over my head, the stars in the night sky…

    Ok, I’ll stop.

    But just a small point, a kind of lateral and very minor diabolicus avocado :-) – not knowing the facts makes this irrelevant to the case in question, but in general, people are too quick to raise the banner of “biological parents” – but on the other hand there is something more important than mere biology, – there is family traditions, stories, sense of belonging, roots, etc. For some, these can be the answers that help, or not as the case may be. (On the obverse of this example, some family ‘traditions’ can be a bloody great red-flashing fire alarm screaming “GET THE KIDS OUT OF THERE” etc.)

    Not my most lucid point, but I’d end up writing an essay, and I’m supposed to be sorting out a cd for a friend whose just broken various bones, poor fellow!

    Anyway, I certainly am feeling very uncomfortable not putting the boot into Melanie immediately, but as they say, business before pleasure… *kick*

    atb D

  4. This article is very well written and is a great attack on the Dail Heil. I’ll be linking to it…

  5. Pingback: Media Spins, Private Fostering and a Prayer « Fighting Monsters

  6. Robert says:

    I’m disabled and my wife has spina bifida, me I in a mess right now with a spinal injury. My daughter is a full blown drug addict, my three grandsons are struggling with school and with life. Four years ago we stepped in told social service we had serious problem with the way our grandkids were living, in the end we called the police she and her boy friend were arrested for child abuse . The father claimed and this is not a joke he had sex with a girl she was the cause of the problems because men had to have sex, I then started court action and social service turned up and said my daughter was a good mother, and the father although well known to the Police was a good father. The Judge said he wanted to see us all in court to see for himself, my grand kids turned up in such a mess and my daughter and her boy friend was in such a state drunk and drugged, the judge turned to social services and said, of course you will now go away and make out a report which is factual and not a fantasy.

    We then went back a month later and the judge made a report about the social service needing to remember it’s not the parents but the children they had a duty to protect, and we were granted full care, and they refused to give both parents any contact at all.

    The school head master reported that the children had turned up for school on a number of occasions wearing Pajamas, yet social service believed that was acceptable.

    The Judge also said that social services should work with us to help the children, I’ve not seem them in four years.
    God help us.

  7. lsnduck says:

    The in-laws visited this weekend, and my wife and I were debating exactly this report with them (and the transvestites in Liphook story). I don’t think that there is much more to be said than you have, or as well.

    Although Melanie Phillips may be correct; I was brought up by a single parent and I think I am a duck. Quack!

  8. The Chuckle says:

    Great post as usual A; it’s ironic that a “fine, upstanding guardian of morality and national values” should see fit to vomit hatred and fan the flames of right-wing lunacy with little or no evidence or fact. I’d love to say I had faith that the readership of said rag would have the decency and common sense to dismiss the vitriolic tirade of the DM, but their readership are fast becoming known for a herd-like mentality when it comes to headlines in their fantasy read of choice. What they’ve also failed to say is that the long term well being (physical and mental) of children placed with adoptive parents is the main aim. Anything else is a plus, including ongoing biological family connections. Speaking from personal experience, if the kids are happy and well looked after then it’s a job well done – and the bio family needs to accept that.

  9. cb says:

    Oh yes, and for the record. I and my sisters were brought up by a single male parent. We are all remarkably well-adjusted if i do say so myself!

  10. Mandy says:

    I thought your posting was going to be about “Heat” magazine…and I was only half joking when I wrote that.

    In amongst a plethera of spite mongering gloss rags for those really concerned about who has recently lost 3 stones, gained 3 stones, bagged a footballer or been shagged and dumped by a footballer etc etc etc.

    The media is foul…be it the right or left wing tabloids/magazines. Is all brain washing propoganda. I wouldn’t mind so much if there was any real choice or balance to be had but there is none. The left wing (such as they are) papers are full of “ok ya” propoganda airing a middle class (trying to be all nice and concerned) view on social engineering of the poor and disabled.

    I think your posting shows the only real relevance for people in regards to reading such fodder and that is the opportunities to challenge these stories. Problem is the media has become very powerful…and their view of ‘freedom of speech’ is about dictating to the masses what is in their best interests.

    Perhaps blogging in the last bastion of free speech. At least in blogland…there is variety of experiences and views and not a couple of central conglomerates pumping crap out. Hmmmm

  11. Zoe says:

    Only having briefly speed-read this post A I share your instinctive loathing of everything the Daily Mail stands for. I would just add my two-penn’orth. The daily Mail simply lives in order to fuel people’s fear. Fear fuels hatred. If you defuse fear you defuse hatred. The best way to do that is to try and make the bastards laugh!

    The day the Daily Mail starts to get in on the joke will be the day I will pick up the dirty rag without feeling I am soiling my fingers. It’s way worse than my old enemies the Sun and the Telegraph. Frankly tho’, as enemies go, I’m not feeling too threatened right now, and as usual Aethelread, have other fish to fry.

    Hate to name and shame but there’s a certain character called Melanie Phillips who once wrote for the illlustrious Guardian and then switched sides to the Mail. She appears on The Moral Maze on the sainted BBC Radio Four and I swear to God she is having a laugh!

    Melanie, if you are out there reading this, (as if), tell me I’m right!!! Also Julie Burchill, the renowned iconoclast has been known to infiltrate the Mail with her eloquent and occasionally hilarious rants. How bad can it really be, Aethelread, how bad can it really be?

    Like a castrated rapist, I would suggest, NOT THAT BAD!!!

  12. Nile says:

    I regret to say that it is all too easy to encounter people whose opinions are formulated by the Daily Mail, and I see no sign of it dying out.

    People *like* having their prejudices pandered to.

  13. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for all the comments.

    cb – i would normally be with you on the whole ‘better to avoid’ approach to the Daily Mail. It’s rare that i dip into it, but i became aware of the story via a couple of gay websites, and it made me so cross on so many levels that i felt i had to get into it. For what it’s worth, one of the reasons it annoyed me so much was because of the way its descriptions of social workers and social work practice are so totally at odds with the thoughtful, measured, compassionate approach that’s so obvious from your blog. I think of you as one of my blog-friends, and i really don’t like seeing my freinds being attacked for something they haven’t done! :o)

    Thanks for the extra info about the hoops social services would have had to jump through to place the children – i knew it would have to be more complicated than the Daily Mail were alleging.

    Alex – i think the young conservatives are calling themselves conservative future these days. Which is pretty much the perfect definition of an oxymoron – conservatism (certainly as the Daily Mail thinks about it) is all about preserving the past, not looking to the future. But i’m with you on the sentiment… ;o)

    I was raised in a one-parent household for most of my youth (still live in one, actually), and it never did me any harm.


    absymalmusings – i think you’re right about background. I’ll repeat my disclaimer about not being an expert again, but as far as i know things like trying to find an appropriate cultural background factor into decisions about where to place adoptive children.

    Oh, and just so’s i know for the future – what’s a diabolicus avocado…? :o)

    DeeDee Ramona – Thanks! :o)

    Robert – I’m really sorry to hear about the problems you’ve had and are having, and i’m really pleased that, even if they are still having problems, your grandchildren are now safe and cared for. I guess what you say reinforces what cb said above – there must be more to it than just health and age for social services to have taken the decision to remove the children from their grandparents in the Edinburgh case.

    lsnduck – thank you! Oh, and i’m sure your duck thing is an inate gift, not because of your upbringing… ;o)

    The Chuckle – Speaking from personal experience, if the kids are happy and well looked after then it’s a job well done.


    One of the things that annoys me most about the Dail Mail is the assumption that it must – always, inescapably – be right, and there’s no possibility of an alternative opinion. Quite a few of the comment pieces were headed by the word ‘Debate’ – but if all they do is present one side of the argument, where’s the debate? At least papers like the Times and the Telegraph will make a point of giving a diseenting view the chance to be heard. I’ve heard rumours that the Daily Mail won’t even allow users’ comments that fail to back up their attitudes to appear on their website, which really does make a mockery of the whole notion of ‘Debate’.

    Mandy – i can honestly say i’ve never even opened a copy of Heat, or any of those types of celeb mag. I’m worried what little faith in the future of humanity i have might just leak away if i did… ;o)

    I sort-of agree about the left-wing media – they can be very patronising, and i find the relentless (and uneccesary) pessimism of papers like The Guardian very depressing – but at least they will actually talk about the problems there are. The Guardian or The Independent are really the only papers that will give space to printing a profile explaining what life is actually like for some of the groups you mention. But, again, I do take your point about the way they can be very patronising with it.

    Definitely one of the great things about blogs is that it doesn’t take money to publish one (technically you could post from the free PC in your local library), and that makes it one of the few channels for saying something without it having been filtered by someone. I guess the downside is that they often end up being forums where only the people who shout the loudest get heard. That’s one of the things that i really like about MH blogs – for the most part, we don’t shout at each other! :o)

    Zoe – thanks for contributing – your comments are always a joy to read! :o)

    Nile – oh, i know Daily Mail groupies are out there, and you’re right, they like having their prejudices confirmed. I’m going to try and cling on to my optimism for the future for a little bit longer, though. :o) But there’s every chance you may be right, sadly.

  14. loopykate says:

    Oh not again! Last time I took an ill-judged glance at the Daily Reich, someone was commenting on how single-parents should ‘be shipped out to Afganistan while their vile children are made to clean the pavements for working people to walk on’.
    You’re right. Far too much attention is directed toward this offensive, hate and fear mongering piece of infected shit of a rag.
    My brother was adopted by 2 straight parents. He is homosexual and prefers the company of men. I’m not sure what point I am making here other than – things can turn out any which way, no matter the blood-relationship or orientation of the family. And my daughter is a wonderful, balanced and open-minded child who relates in an easy, mature manner with individuals of all genders and persuasions.
    There are a great many people I do not regard as ‘fit’ to raise children (not that it’s my business to point them out). I imagine rather alot of them read and possibly contribute to the Daily Mail.

  15. loopykate says:

    P.S. I should have pointed out that I am a single parent, neither straight nor gay and probably the least qualified and equipped to bring up a healthy, well-adjusted child (by DM standards. What f**king standards?)

  16. The Chuckle says:

    Perhaps an en-masse commenting on the DM website may be in order, it would be interesting to see if anybody got published on there!?

  17. lsnduck says:

    They probably wouldn’t The Chuckle. The DM moderates every comment and they are well known for only allowing comments that agree with their view point.

    Well, they do allow dissenting comments but only absurd ones that are easy to dismiss.

    I think it is a good corollary to A’s point on debate.

  18. cb says:

    I’ve tried to leave messages any number of times. Obviously none have ever been published but sometimes it just makes me feel a bit better knowing that someone is reading it somewhere (probably some work experience guy who couldn’t give a toss.. but still.. )

    And thanks Aethelread. I really do appreciate what you said :)

  19. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the extra comments.

    loopykate – things can turn out any which way, no matter the blood-relationship or orientation of the family.

    Exactly. I had two heterosexual parents myself, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a poof. :o) And having two gay parents will have no impact on whether the two Edinburgh children prefer their own gender, or the opposite, or both, or neither.

    The Chuckle, lsnduck, cb – interesting to get some confirmation of the rumour i’d heard about the Daily Mail not allowing contradictory opinions to appear. I wonder why that is? Could it be because they get overwhelmingly more comments from people who disagree with them than they do from people who agree? Or because they feel very threatened by the idea that people might start to realise there’s a debate to be had? I mean, even The Sun’s website allows dissenting comments to appear, for god’s sake!

  20. Lucy McGough says:

    This blog post is made of complete and utter WIN.

  21. Clive says:

    I see your WIN and raise a DOUBLE WIN. Superb blogpost which I’ve Tweeted and linked to elsewhere. This should be tattooed on the eyelids of every ranting Sieg Mailer in the country.

  22. Lucy McGough says:

    The Daily Fail getting their knickers in a twist is always a glorious sight, but more so is such an intelligent, well thought out response.

  23. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Lucy McGough & Clive – Thank you both! :o)

  24. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Pole to Polar – Thank you. Coming from you, that’s high praise, indeed. :o)

Comments are closed.