This blog quite frequently takes a pop at the Belfast Telegraph’s inimitable Gail Walker, but it’s only fair to point out that Norn Iron is far from having a monopoly on daft female columnists. One of these, who annoys my brain on a regular basis, is Carole Malone of the Sunday Mirror.
Carole has a couple of strings to her bow. One is the time-honoured resort of female columnists, which is that chest-beating about crime and immigration is all very well, but there’s no substitute for slagging off female celebrities – Carole’s normal justification is that “this little madam needs taken down a peg”. A particularly frequent tack, and I blame the late Lynda Lee Potter for this, is to give off about their weight. Carole isn’t herself what you would call svelte, but that doesn’t hold her back. The most egregious example in recent years was Carole’s rather creepy stalking of Abi Titmuss, which went on for months on end. Although Abi is a perfectly normal size, Carole would still write on an almost weekly basis about her allegedly fat arse. This is the sort of thing that gives teenage girls eating disorders.
The other profoundly irritating tic of Carole’s is her addiction to the construction “the hell”. As in, “what the hell is going on” or “who the hell does this little madam think she is” or “why the hell don’t these uppity Muslims get the hell back to their own country”. Carole seems to think that sprinkling her column liberally with “the hell”, or sometimes “damn” for variation, cements her status as outspoken and forthright. Personally, it always reminds me of the Myles na gCopaleen Catechism of Cliché.
Anyway, this week Carole writes about the widely publicised tarring and feathering incident in Taughmonagh. Now, I’m not squeamish about the odd bit of mild vigilantism, but Carole is positively enthusiastic:
Not that I’m an advocate of vigilantism, but when I saw the picture of a drug dealer who’d been tarred and feathered on the streets of Belfast, tied to a lamp post and then made to wear a sign that said “I’m a drug dealing scumbag”, it occurred to me that while the whole thing looked a bit primitive, I’m fairly sure the man in question won’t be dealing drugs in the near future.
Moreover, this type of punishment – inflicted by locals because police refused to act – is a damn sight more effective than an Asbo and a few hours’ community service.
This drug dealer now knows that if he continues to put people’s lives at risk with drugs, there ARE consequences.
When was the last time any criminal here in England had that to fear?
Now let’s leave aside the actual argument about whether this is the correct way to go about tackling the drugs problem. What interests me is the difference between a journalist who has to investigate stories, and a columnist who can get money for old rope by slagging off Abi Titmuss every week. It seems Carole’s journalistic instincts are atrophied to the point where she actually takes seriously Frankie Gallagher’s version of events.
Now here’s a pop quiz:
1. The UDA controls the Taughmonagh estate, and has done for decades. Which is more likely: that fine, upstanding citizens would carry out a tarring and feathering in defiance of the UDA, or that the UDA would carry it out and prefer not to admit to doing so in case it loses its £1.2m conflict transformation grant?
2. The UDA is up to its oxters in drug dealing. Which is more likely: that it suddenly develops a conscience about what drugs are doing to the people of Taughmonagh, or that it doesn’t want any competition cutting into its profit margins?
Answers on a postcard to Carole Malone.