Tabloid language that doesn’t fit the crime

REGULAR readers will know that I’m no apologist for abusive or cruel parents.

But when I heard the investigating officer in the Shannon Matthews kidnap case describe her mother, Karen Matthews, as “pure evil”, it did give me pause for thought. Clearly this pathetic woman is unfit to look after a dog, let alone a child, and Shannon will surely be better off away from her influence. Matthews and her disgusting accomplice, Michael Donovan, deserve every minute of the jail sentences they will undoubtedly be given.

But “pure evil”? A gift to newspaper sub-editors, I concede.

That evil exists in some people, I have no doubt. But isn’t there a risk that by describing someone like Karen Matthews – a pathetic, stupid, cruel, greedy individual – as “pure evil”, we run the risk of devaluing the term? For if Matthews is evil, how do we then describe the sadistic child murderers who brought Baby P’s life to an end?

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13 Comments

Filed under Media, Society

13 responses to “Tabloid language that doesn’t fit the crime

  1. Bob Jones

    True, if we use this language for her then what for those behind genocides? Hitler? I suppose even with evil, we do maintain some sort of ranking system. Perhaps she doesn’t deserve that sort of language.

    Clearly she’s a terrible person, but she can’t be pure evil – there is no suggestion either her or her partner in crime abused the girl, and they obviously did not kill her, there was something in her largely morality-devoid body that stopped her doing that, so I would say she isn’t ‘pure’ evil.

  2. Chris' Wills

    As you say it devalues the term.

    Amoral and evil probably sums her up.

    Thinking of Baby P do you happen to know if the report will be published soon?

  3. Anthony

    I too felt compelled to write on the subject and agree that the tabloid press has not failed us with its eternal pursuit of trashy headlines however I believe it was actually Detective Superintendent Andy Brennan who was quoted on the steps of court when giving a statement infront of court this morning.

    I often think on how society, nationally and globally, reacts to such crimes. We lock up mass murderer’s in their own homes with Sky TV, meals cooked and clothes sent for whilst on the other hand, we call women ‘evil’ who’s fragile psyhcological state drives them to act outside public tollerance.

    I do not support the guilty of their crimes although I do critise a system that allows such a drain on police resources and see public money go to waste. The same critical eye that scrutinises the failing system that led to baby P’s unfortunate death.

    Yes, ultimatley people are to blame but if we continue to look no further than the end of our nose, we will never find the root cause of these devastating crimes.

  4. Yep, a listener was reported to have said much the same to Radio 4’s PM show today too. I bet there were more than one who winced when they heard that description too.

  5. Will Stobart

    I paused at that description too. She’s not evil, she’s symptomatic of an attitude in the underclass (I won’t say “working” class because they don’t work) in this country. We don’t help by using strong terms such as this. We need to end the idea of being able to get something for nothing in society. And Labour needs to address those members of its party who support the upholding of this attitude.

  6. Johnny Norfolk

    But Tom this is what happens when a government lets the police do what they want. You should not be suprissed about this. The police are being given more and more power. Just like Labour it has gone to their heads.

  7. Jay

    I seem to remember that a police officer described the Darwins in similar terms, presumably not because of their insurance scam but the distress caused to their sons.

    Many people in Britain today seem to live in a heightened state of emotion in which a disappointment is ‘devastating’ and an inconvenience, ‘horrendous’, witness, for example, the reports of the goings on at the New Forest ‘Lapland’. I blame Jeremy Kyle, Jerry Springer et al! It’s worrying though when ‘pillars of the community’ adopt the mindset….

  8. Madasafish

    Kirklees Council runs Dewsbury ward where Matthews was.
    It’s a sign of desperation that the voters are voting : BNP.

    Which basically says all main parties have failed there..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/aug/15/thefarright.uk

    Please do not take this as partisan point scoring, it is not intended as that.

  9. Paul Williams

    Completely agree, Tom, Karen Matthews maybe lots of things but ‘pure evil’? There was a far better example this week where that phrase could apply – that of Peter Tobin.

    As an aside, watching the Panorama programme last night, one Policeman noted that Karen had never had a job, but as she had 7 children, she could live quite comfortably on benefits and there was no incentive to find work.

    Nice to hear that when I’m struggling to keep my business going during these ‘difficult times’.

  10. The Daily Mail really didn’t need any encouragement in this case but it sounds like they got some from this individual.

  11. Zorro

    Wow, this post http://lastditch.typepad.com/lastditch/2008/12/no-country-for-young-children-by-theodore-dalrymple-city-journal-4-december-2008.html explains /exactly/ why I said what I did. (Just to save any false outrage on your part.)

  12. Jim Baxter

    Apart from the hyperbole, a problem is that the police are not there to pass public judgement. That’s for the courts.

  13. Tacitus

    This is evil though, and totally down to New Labour’s obsession with box ticking. Haringey lied to Ofsted. Baby P died. And actually Tom, someone who deliberately gets their child addicted to Diazepam is to my mind evil.

    May I remind you that Haringey Social Services receive £100,000,000 per annum. 1/10th of a BILLION pounds.

    Read on…

    We failed over Haringey – Ofsted head
    • Inspections to be reviewed after council supplied false information

    The head of Ofsted has acknowledged that local councils whose child protection agencies have been rated “good” by the agency could in fact be systematically failing children because the assessment method used by inspectors was open to manipulation.

    In her first major interview since the verdict on Baby P’s death was returned, Christine Gilbert admitted to failings in Ofsted’s oversight of Haringey council, acknowledging that officials in the local authority where Baby P died were able to “hide behind” false data last year to earn themselves a good rating from inspectors just weeks after his death

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