The Jade obituary issue just shows how deeply OK! cares
The magazine might have pushed the fake concern too far this time, so even the credulous recognise the naked inhumanity.
Por Marina Hyde / The Guardian, Saturday 21 March 2009
When I worked on this newspaper’s Diary column, we used to have a notional pair of Diary tongs, which we affected to use for the handling of regular missives from Jonathan King, and any other items ruled too odious for epidermal contact.
The tongs were called back into service this week upon the arrival of OK! magazine’s “loving tribute” to Jade Goody – published beneath the cover line “1981-2009”, despite her still being alive – but I’m afraid they felt woefully inadequate as a means of dealing with it. I had assumed I’d never be more depressed than when a magazine published an up-skirt picture of Britney Spears showing menstrual blood on her knickers, under the headline “She’s not pregnant!”. But life has a way of surprising you.
Time was you went to OK! to look at pictures of Bobby Davro in his frescoed snooker room, or WORLD EXCLUSIVE coverage of Phil Neville’s wedding, suggesting the magazine had fought off rival bids from the Washington Post and some Polynesian freesheet. But even the most cynical satirists failed to predict that the logical end of all the births and marriages buy-ups that have characterised this mad decade would be a magazine actually buying up someone’s death.
Despite only forking out for her wedding, OK! now sees Jade as its media property – a point it rammed home by refusing to allow Jade’s close friend and biographer to attend her wedding on the basis that she worked for another magazine. The same demented impulse presumably led OK! to decide that the only way to avoid being scooped on the obituary issue was to publish it while she was still alive.
But let’s hear the justification. “OK!’s tribute issue is a celebration of Jade’s amazing life,” it ran. “Jade’s family have spoken to OK! to reiterate that they understand the tribute issue and view it as being very kind to Jade. They would like to also state that they are extremely grateful for the support that OK! has provided during this distressing period.”
It’s the tone that sends you over the edge, isn’t it? Tone can be the most powerful provocation there is, a fact which will be acknowledged by anyone who finds that richly ironic sign-off beloved of Vodafone customer services – “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” – is little short of an act of war. It’s all down to the tone, of course.
Yet is there a more repulsive, insidious tone in British public life than the fake concern that is the stock in trade of the celebrity magazine? Fake concern is the tiger economy of ghastly tone, and you really haven’t died until you’ve read some monstrous mag hag’s “editor’s letter” expressing concern for Amy Winehouse, say, on a page littered with paid-for paparazzi pictures of said singer weeping half-naked on her doorstep at four in the morning after they’ve been ringing her bell all night.
OK!’s statement turned out to be another of its gutter-bound little lies, because we have since learned that Jade’s mother “wasn’t happy” about the issue. Has the magazine finally pushed the fake concern tone too far, so that even those previously able to suspend disbelief can no longer ignore the naked inhumanity when it next rears its head?
The uproar is encouraging, but it’s hard to call. A trawl through the Guardian’s comment boards confirms that there are plenty who feel personally offended by the manner in which a dying 27-year-old of not overwhelming intellect has chosen to live out her final days. Poor lambs; our sympathies must be with them during this distressing period.
But Jade’s last desperate decisions are irrelevant. If we are to have any semblance of a civilised society the same standards should be applied to all, as long they haven’t broken the law, regardless of whether you approve of their behaviour. To claim that Jade “deserves” her obituary being published while she is still alive because she took OK!’s shilling for her wedding pictures is logically indefensible, and says infinitely more about the intellect and soul of those making the accusation than it ever could about her.
In fact, the issue is now so open and shut that we can expect the Press Complaints Commission to do precisely nothing about it. Which leaves the only hope of formal redress in the hands of the OK! proprietor, Richard Desmond – the real vulgarian in all of this. Will he sack the editor, just as he should have sacked his Daily Express editor Peter Hill for the almost psychotically malevolent coverage of Madeleine McCann’s parents; just as he should have sacked his Scottish Sunday Express editor for the week’s other jaw-droppingly vile “exposé” of the surviving Dunblane kids? That he hasn’t suggests this is exactly how Mr Desmond wishes his employees to behave in the pursuit of profit.
Perhaps our only hope is that the great and the good with whom he likes to swank about at charity functions will begin to find these serial abominations shaming by association, and cast him out of their beau monde with whatever tongs are to hand. Nothing worse than people lowering the tone, after all.