The story of Caroline flack taking her own life has been dominating the headlines this week. Between thousands of news headlines, celebrity tributes and a general conversation around mental health,this is one story that everyone has been talking about in some way or another.
In this blog post I do not want to focus so much on Caroline’s suicide but the tabloid culture that a lot of people are blaming for her death. Caroline’s death sparked a national debate about the media and tabloid culture, and their place within our society. Many people drew examples from horrendous headlines that had constantly been smeared over tabloid newspapers since the news broke that Caroline and her boyfriend had a physical altercation late last year.
Caroline’s death has rightly drawn attention to this problem, however tabloid hounding is in no way a new problem. The same few newspapers have been spiting out hate speech and marketing it as the “opinion of the people” for decades.
Another aspect that has somewhat been ignored in this debate is that celebrities are not the only people that are targeted in these newspapers. Tabloids often prey on the most marginalised and vulnerable members of society for their stories.
It was absolutely wrong how far the newspapers went to hound Caroline Flack. It was wrong when they stalked and slated musicians like Amy Winehouse.
It was also wrong when these same newspapers, hacked into the phones of murder victims and give their families false hope they were still alive. It was wrong when these newspapers lied about Liverpool fans and blamed them for the Hillsborough disaster. These newspapers are wrong everyday when they deliberately sensationalise stories on immigrants and people on benefits to whip up hate and create a false narrative. The lack of compassion and ethical reporting in these newspapers is and always has been wrong.
It seems to me however, even when faced with one scandal after another, these newspapers are still published and bought by a large majority of people. Why are people so accepting? Is it that these tabloids have been ingrained as a part of the UKs national identity? A reminder of “the good old days”? I mean it is easy to see how British identity could become so interlinked with these papers, they have had significant influence over the UK public and politicians for years. Little illustrates this influence more than a certain outlet claiming it was them ‘wot won’ the 1992 election for the Conservatives. Whatever the reason, the UK clearly finds it hard to let go of these organisations even in light of their wrong doings.
I am happy that at least out of such a tragedy, issues have been raised about the ethics of the tabloid media in the UK. I am less hopeful however that anything will actually be done about it. Year after year, scandal after scandal, the British public seem to forgive and forget all too easily, allowing us to face the toxicity of the tabloids once again.