I wonder how the young Mary Shelley would have reacted to the knowledge that her novel Frankenstein would still be attracting interest two centuries after its first appearance. Would she have been amused or bemused to see a report like this?
You will remember the social media frenzy after The Sun accused students sympathising with Frankenstein’s Creature as ‘snowflakes’. The paper was rightly ridiculed for its anti-intellectual stance and apparent misunderstanding of Mary Shelley’s intentions. The story refused to be a 24-hour flash in the pan, however, as the paper tried to mount an indefensible rearguard action.
First the paper’s Head of PR (and occasional leader writer) pretended they were only following the lead of The Times, which had run with the story the day before:
The statement ran
Of course this spiel is completely disingenuous, refusing to acknowledge that the paper’s brief item had painted millennials as wimps for sympathising with what Andy Silvester persists in calling (and therefore prejudging) ‘the Monster’. The Times had merely reported factually that students were prepared to consider and understand the feelings of a being being treated abysmally badly.
Silvester’s tweet however showed none of the partial nuance that the statement had expounded, and still proclaimed the paper’s victimhood. And had the nerve to blame the same social media on which it had tweeted its inflammatory story. (That tweet, curiously, had been deleted, perhaps because it had showed The Sun as hoist by its own petard.)
You’ll note, of course, that he’s reverted to conflating Frankenstein with his creation. Maybe this is for the benefit of the paper’s regular readers, who mayn’t be expected to remember the difference. Or perhaps he’s revealing where his instincts really are: misrepresenting facts.
Andy Silvester then tried humour:
Now this is typical fake news (in the truest sense of the term). The ‘monster’ hadn’t been offended, of course, or any of his ilk. But what about those students who’d been insulted for demonstrating sympathy? They’ve been given the heave-ho and still branded snowflakes.
Secondly, this page 2 space is usually given over to proper mealy-mouthed Apologies — you know the kind: loud front page headlines screaming falsehoods being countered by a quiet ‘clarification’ in small type at the bottom of an inside page.
Eagle-eyed tweeters were soon (and quite rightly) snapping at the Silvester’s heels:
To paraphrase a certain somebody, the whole episode is of course Another day in The Sun‘s crazy world of fake news dot com
There’s a really serious aspect to this bit of verbal argey-bargey I believe, and it’s this wider issue of bullying and abuse, insidious or otherwise. And it’s not just a question of the abuser saying sorry after a fashion, as here.
There are stages in the process of Reconciliation which have to be gone through assiduously. First, the abuser has to show Recognition that they’ve caused hurt, and for that they have to have a degree of genuine empathy, something that The Sun by its own admission thinks is an admission of snowflakery.
Secondly there has to be real Regret for the abusive behaviour, expressed in words, body language or other. The paper’s jokey ‘apology’ isn’t this at all.
Thirdly there has to be some form of Recompense, not necessarily monetary (though that may come into it) and it may need to be ongoing (a bunch of flowers won’t cut the mustard). Because recompense has to show both effort and commitment and maybe even mental pain on the part of the abuser.
Even with all these concomitant provisos in place the abused person doesn’t have to be reconciled to their abuser. In the case of The Sun, which hasn’t even paid proper lip service to these stages, no one need ever feel they should be reconciled to their perpetual harassment.
The sooner this paper is shut down the better, by advertisers refusing to feature in it and readers refusing to buy it.
And it’s not the only such perpetrator:
Chart from Another Angry Voice