Editorial – Feeding the troll

Has our world truly become one where sensationalism, and the condoning of criminal behaviour, passes as news? Does it say more about those writing it, or those who read it? ESM’s editor discusses.Some keys, yesterdayI didn’t particularly want to write this article as, at some level, it plays entirely into the hands of the person responsible for its inspiration. I’m sorry. However, the context to it is fairly simple to explain. In a recent piece, The Herald journalist Catriona Stewart proffers the following statement:

‘I often feel like keying swanky cars. I particularly feel like keying high-performance cars’

This is in response to the recent event of an Aston Martin being keyed outside a Tesco in Hackney. Stewart believes the man responsible, Gary Brissett, deserves a medal – not a prison sentence – for the admitted act of criminal damage that caused thousands of pounds worth of destruction. Her justification being that it’s societies fault for people owning a car worth more than a house, and that all those who drive fast cars do so aggressively and antisocially. As such, it’s karma.

The last time I checked we still lived in a modern, capitalist, democratic country that allowed people to earn and spend money as they wished. In addition, that all performance car owners drive with little regard for anyone else, is a horrible stereotyped generalisation. It’s almost as bad as the implication that only men drive performance cars. Spoiler alert Catriona – this is 2015. Women own fast cars too.

At its core, this terrible article suggests two things. Firstly, that our media attention span has sunk to a level shorter than an X-Factor contestants career, and secondly that our respect for the property of others is at some kind of sub-human level.

The former is quite a depressing concept in itself. Social media, the internet, 24/7 communication, has pushed us to the point where some journalists feel the only way to stand out is by making controversial statements to garner attention. This isn’t a new thing, but it has certainly come to prominence recently. You can probably call it the ‘Katie Hopkins effect’ after its chief proponent.

I have no doubt that it is difficult to stand out in a world where there is constant competition to be heard. But peddling such crap on the basis of being edgy and opionated is insulting to your readership. If your talent is at the limit where people aren’t reading your work, then maybe that should question whether you’re really doing something right.

Quite frankly if you need to take to Twitter, or other social media, to explain what you’ve written then you probably didn’t do a good enough job in the first place. If you’re a paid professional writer, that pretty much insinuates you should know what you’re doing. Or at least be in a position where some harassed sub-editor will try to cobble your vomit of words into something that resembles an article. As a minimum you might want to check your facts before throwing stones. It saves making a faux pax such as creating cars that don’t exist: Aston Martin V8 Vanquish, anyone?

Helpfully, Aston Martin has actually written the model name on the numberplate of this one.

As for whether we truly have no respect for what belongs to other people is a harder point. There  always has been, and probably always will be, someone who is envious or unhappy at what someone else owns. It’s part of the reason dash cams, like that fitted to the Aston Martin in question, exist. But you can’t bundle that into some kind of socialist lecture about morality and inequality, on the basis that the victim ‘asked for it’ purely by owning something expensive.

Ultimately, I pity Ms Stewart. If she genuinely believes that damaging the property of others is justified, then I feel sorry for whatever has happened in her life to lead her to that conclusion. However, if this is just the kind of badly written, poorly explained, sensationalist, clickbait rubbish that she is paid to write then that is truly even more sad.

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