NOTE: The Times have now taken down all digital versions of this article and I have therefore edited out the vast majority of the screenshot to avoid giving it any more unnecessary publicity.
We’ve had a strange relationship over the years, haven’t we, you and I? Our politics are miles apart, yet I’ve never really been without you. I learned long ago that so long as I remembered to apply my political bias filter to everything you wrote, we mostly got on okay.
Between you and me, your main attraction is the weekend magazines. ‘At least the journalism is of a decent standard even if I don’t often agree with it,’ I’d say to myself whilst queuing in Tesco with a kilo-weight of Sunday supplements. ‘How right wing can an article about harem pants be‘ I’d murmur whilst drinking coffee and perusing the latest edition of Style. We muddled through together, even if I took joy in using the news section as litter tray liner from time to time.
That is until today, when you printed that ^^ article. A shockingly insensitive, muckraking (even though there was actually no muck to rake), red top-standard piece of churnalism aimed, at seems, at causing as much offence and upset as possible.
A young boy dies tragically at a point in his life when all that matters is how big the world is and what opportunities he has and oh! the things he might see – and the only thing you can come up with is that maybe it was inevitable because, y’know, his dad’s well known for being a bit morbid.
Full disclosure here – I am a massive Nick Cave fan. Massive. But my current fury with you, one of my favourite newspapers, is absolutely nothing to do with fandom and entirely to do with having sympathy and empathy and feeling utter abject horror at the thought of anyone losing a child. Yes, it undoubtedly resonates more because I have an emotional attachment to the public persona of that child’s father, but I am still seeing things through the eyes of a parent.
Do you have boys of your own, Mr Times? I do, and so do many of my friends. And let me tell you something – teenage boys are goddamn idiots. Even the lovely, funny, well-adjusted ones sometimes do things of such heartstopping stupidity that when you find out about it (invariably after the event, when they’re recounting the tale with great glee), for a brief moment all you can see is blackness and panic, a tight sick churning horror for what might have been.
Maybe we could look at it from another angle. I write erotica – my boys know about it and if anything, they just think it’s funny. It’s certainly helped us to be open about sex and sexuality and I’m pretty sure that that is a Good Thing. But imagine for a moment that I had girls instead of boys – if one of them was unfortunate enough to be the victim of a sexual assault, would people say ‘well what do you expect when her mum writes about sex for a living?’
I would bloody well hope not. But then I’m not news fodder, am I – does that mean I get special dispensation? That my kids are somehow safer even though I am at least as morbid of mind (and probably more so) as Nick Cave?
Ironically I subscribed to your newspaper two weeks ago. It’s taken me until forty five years old to commit to a newspaper and I chose yours. And THAT is how you repay me. Enough, Mr Times. To paraphrase grannies everywhere through time immemorial – you’ve let me down, you’ve let your other journalists down, but most of all you’ve let yourself down.