The Blog

What Kind Of Week Has It Been? 22 February 2013

The shop-window mannequin, with no personality of its own, of news

First of all, the media interest in the lonely death of Reeva Steenkamp is understandable. Genuinely world-famous, hitherto inspirational 'iconic' figures aren't often implicated in the violent deaths of their romantic partners. So when such a young woman as beautiful as Reeva Steenkamp is found dead at the home she shares with her Olympic and Paralympic trailblazer athlete boyfriend, the world's press is bound to treat this as more than "just" another desperately sad violent death. Pistorius, let's not forget, spent the latter part of the summer receiving much warmer media coverage for his athletic exploits in London, being the first double leg amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics and then, by dint of these exploits, becoming one of the poster boys for the following Paralympics. Those games marked a coming-into the mainstream of athletes with disabilities, due to the awe-inspiring performances of Pistorious and others, married to a savvy marketing campaign that encouraged the public to think of the athletes as not being in anyway inferior to their able-bodied counterparts, just differently brilliant and admirable. The late Ms Steenkamp and Pistorius earned their living from the media, the latter to a lesser but important extent, so it stands to reason that the media would cover the current awfulness. That's not to excuse the prurient interest certain publications took in the deceased. Yes, she was a model, but is what we do all that we are? I'm sure there are many, many photos of Ms Steenkamp available where she looks beautiful, but is clothed. Now why would any newspaper not use these instead of scantily-clad shots? Rhetorical question, obviously.

The current circus around Pistorius's bail hearing (three days and counting? It takes two minutes in every single episode of Law & Order I've ever seen) must not be allowed to obscure the reason for the hearings and cheapen the memory of Ms Steenkamp. This is something that Ireland has only just apologized to the former inmates of the gulag Magdalen for, through the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. Such an apology has been overdue since the first time one of these fetid hell-holes opened its doors to provide some sickening facade of a "shelter for fallen women". The shocking fact that the last of these Fascist institutions closed its doors in 1996 makes me wonder how the hell we can merit being deemed a caring country. Sure, we donated to Live Aid in huge amounts and to "the black babies", but there were labour camps operating under our noses. Nobody of the wretched era can claim ignorance, just like no German of the Nazi period can claim they didn't know what was happening to the Jews, the homosexuals, the disabled. Who did they think were in the many work camps? Quit looking for a fool's pardon on account of being purblind. How many women died behind the walls of the Magdalen Laundries? How many children never met their mother, thanks to their original sin of being born out of wedlock? Did the martyrs of these institutions cry out for God. Where was he, sorry, 'He'?

If I were Hilary Mantel, two-time Booker Prize-winner and regarded as one of the finest writers in the English language today, I'd stick to the day job for a simpler life. Especially if I were to make some accurate comments regarding the Duchess of Cambridgeshire and her role within the Royal Family. The crux of her argument was about the media's treatment of the former Kate Middleton and of others similar to her, which led to predictable point-ignorance on behalf of the fourth estate in order to do the writer down. This media snarl-face generally comes into being when it itself is being criticized, be it when phone-hacking comes to light or there is any suggestion of press regulation to which the newspapers will have to pay heed.

This week also saw the death of the quintessential English comedy actor, Richard Briers. His face and manner brought to mind a pipe and slippers, his voice redolent of biting into a juicy apple. In The Good Life, he and co-star Felicity Kendal made tv hippies likeable. I swear to God, actual hippies. One notes with sadness that one of his last onscreen film role took the princely sum of £747 at the box-office last week. Or it's £602, depending on what you read. I'm sure that had he heard, he'd have laughed, shook his head, said something about "twin imposters" and gone back to sorting out the pig-pen before Tom and Margo come over, talking us through what Roobarb and Custard are up to now or planning his next meeting with meticulous detail in Ever Decreasing Circles. Because that's how we remember the actors who deserve remembering - fondly.

Kevin Ward does not comment on the 'Harlem Shuffle' phenomenon at