Don’t feed the trolls, even if they are John Cleese
I’ll get to John Cleese in a bit but now for something completely different. Last night I watched the Netflix documentary: Amanda Knox. It is a film full of villains none of whom are the eponymous hero.
It’s a close call but the person who comes across worst is Nick Pisa, a Daily Mail hack who seems perpetually on the verge of ejaculation as he talks about having the good fortune to have covered such a goldmine of a story. It had everything, a stunning romantic setting, a bloody murder and a duplicitous sex craved, twisted femme fatale.
These are the things we think of when we look back at that story but the truth was more run of the mill. A known burglar broke in, raped and killed a young woman, left his DNA all over the crime scene, took a dump he failed to flush before proceeding to flee the country.
This wasn’t good enough for the Italian justice system. They, like Nick Pisa, were dancing in the spotlight of their own sordid creation.
They concocted a myth of a ravishing, manipulative, sexually deviant young female killer to extend their exposure. They were also dancing on the grave of a dead English girl, but let’s face it, if it wasn’t for Foxy Knoxy, few would remember Meredith Kercher nowadays. After all, being raped and murdered by a man is so humdrum.
In the film Nick Pisa gushes with excitement as he reminisces about printing every salacious detail verbatim. He is proud that he didn’t fact check, as if he had done he would have lost the story to a competitor. He had hit the big time, name on the front page, a vampire feeding off the spilt blood of Kercher. The case against Knox may well have been paper thin, the Italian system may well have been blatantly corrupt, but it is not the job of the journalist to ask difficult questions of the establishment.
John Cleese hates the type of journalism that Pisa represents. A salacious, sensationalist press with no morality or greater purpose.
Cleese is an old fashioned traditionalist who believes in the fifth estate. This explains why he is a long term backer of the pressure group Hacked Off, an organisation who campaign to more heavily regulate the UK press.
Why do we let half-educated tenement Scots run our English press ? Because their craving for social status makes them obedient retainers ? https://t.co/uCXEvbZssE
— John Cleese (@JohnCleese) October 2, 2016
The ‘half educated tenement Scot’ tweet sent by John Cleese needs to be seen in this context. He was responding to an article written by Fraser Nelson who was arguing that many of the recent scandals that have been unearthed by the Press would not have been possible if pressure groups like Hacked Off had had their way.
A lot of people seem to have been offended by what Cleese has said and this is a phenomenon I will never be able to get my head around.
I seldom get offended, once in a blue moon it happens when someone picks me up on something about my personality that is harsh but true. It’s a weird uncomfortable feeling, and usually one that I am thankful for after a few days of reflection and wound licking. Perhaps that is why I’m astonished every day by the multitudes who seem to have taken up offence as a hobby.
Cleese, to his credit, is a big backer of free speech and a consistent mocker of political correctness. As he says himself:
British Newspapers offend me every day with their lazyness, nastiness inaccuracy. but I’m not going to expect someone to stop that happening, I should simply just speak out about it.
What I would say is that in his tweet he being a hypocrite in that he was doing exactly what he condones the press for. He was also doing what the recreationally offended social justice warriors do.
He shat out a sensationalist, attention seeking, low brow, poorly reasoned, factually inaccurate embarrassment of a tweet.
The whole point of the tweet was to counter Fraser Nelson’s argument justifying press self regulation, and Cleese ripostes by stooping to the level of the thing he wants to prevent. The papers he campaigns against and the virtue signallers of social media are brimming with this ill thought out casual bigotry.
They are because this is what gets them attention, it is what the public want. It is why this blog would get more hits if I just posted a video of myself molesting a black forest gateaux.
Cleese is servicing our base instincts in the same way Nick Pisa does.
We didn’t want Pisa to tell us that Amanda Knox had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. We wanted to see the list of men she had slept with. The list she made in her prison diary when the Italian authorities told her she had HIV. The list that Pisa is still creaming his pants over as he boasts about the time he obtained and published it.
Like most things, the issue of press freedom is complex and nuanced. Cleese could have gone through the Fraser Nelson article and compiled a thoughtful response. Instead he just did something lurid, lazy and stupid because, sadly, it’s a waste of time constructing an argument if its going to garner you zero attention.