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The mother of all headlines

05 June 2015

Maternal instinct: the news report in the Daily Mail on Monday

Maternal instinct: the news report in the Daily Mail on Monday

THERE IS an awful lot of serious stuff this week; so let's start with some Daily Mail headlines.

First, an example of how to do it: "Drunk mother sparks holiday camp catfight when she asked teenage couple if they want a threesome but tells another woman she's too fat to join in".

But, while it is important for the Mail to remind its readers of their superiority to lesser breeds without chalets, it's also important not to go too far. Earlier this week the paper's online splash showed just how not to do it: "How many more can Kos take? Holidaymakers' misery as boat people from Syria and Afghanistan seeking asylum set up migrant camps to turn popular Greek island into 'disgusting' hellhole".

This was illustrated with a shot of two middle-aged white women striding bravely past a cluster of sinister refugees: an old man, women, children, and similar threats to decency.

Within hours this had been replaced by another version of the same story: "Chaos on Kos: 300 asylum seekers arrive EVERY DAY . . . and now migrants are blaming 'incompetent' Greek officials for holidaymakers' misery."

Note that it is still the misery of the holidaymakers that makes the headline, but there is, in the copy below, some faint suggestion that it's not wholly the migrants' fault. There's even a reason offered for why they have taken their holiday in Kos: "many of whom have fled ISIS in war-torn Syria and Afghanistan".

Some of them might even be Christians, in which case they might actually have an excuse for wrecking with their obnoxious misery others' attempts to enjoy a package holiday.


THE Mail, too, grew steadily more excited about the prospect that God might be a woman. It's always a pleasure to watch Damian Thompson wrestling with his conscience, especially when the conscience wins, and his piece on the whole imbroglio was a masterclass in clarity and balance.

"So let us clear up some misconceptions. WATCH do not claim that God is a woman. They believe the deity is neither male nor female - which is what the Church has always taught.

"God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, but even Ian Paisley wouldn't have said that God the Father was a man.

"Nor do the WATCH campaigners think the deity is a goddess. That would be making God a woman - which they think is just as wrong-headed as making God a man. . .

"Every Christian denomination is propped up by women, who make up around 60 per cent of worshippers in Britain and the US.

"Yet before the ordination of women priests in 1994, they were never admitted to the officer class.

"The Roman Catholic Church has its own theological reasons for not ordaining women - but, even if you accept those teachings, there is no excuse for the way devout female parishioners have been patronised and bossed around by priests over the years."

Just when you're wondering whether this hasn't been written for The Guardian, he goes on to say that, if the move were widely adopted, calling God "mother" would drive off worshippers in droves, but this also is true. I await with interest his commentary on the global-warming encyclical due soon.


AND, since this seems to be the week for praising people whose ideas I often find absurd, let's celebrate Melanie Phillips in The Times, dialling back the outrage to produce a cogent case against the Falconer Bill: "If assisted suicide is permitted for the terminally ill, it will inevitably be argued, why not for those with chronic or progressive conditions? And if for them, why not for disabled people?

"This slide is already on display in Britain. Terminal illness is defined as an incurable disease that will cause death within a relatively short time. Yet this didn't apply to those whose plight has been used to try to get the law changed - people such as Tony Nicklinson, who suffered from locked-in syndrome, Dr Anne Turner, who had an incurable degenerative disease, or Jeffrey Spector.

"No one has the right to expect others to become accomplices to ending a life. No one has the right to turn doctors into killers. Yet that is precisely the right that has now been asserted through the manipulation of the language."

This is the nub of my argument with Charlie Falconer himself, who believes, so far as I can tell, entirely sincerely that he has framed a law that cannot be used to force doctors or patients to do anything they do not want to do.

Yet the power of self-determination which he wants to give to patients must involve the compulsion of others, just as the present law does. The question is only the same one as Lenin asked: who compels whom?

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