05 April 2007


Fact and Fiction, Conscience and Prejudice

I've recently sent two letters to the Leicester Mercury that were not published. The advantage of having a blog is that I can publish them here.

26 March
Dear Editor,

Surely it shows a serious lack of judgment to devote a large part of your "World View" page of international news to the goings on in Coronation Street? You do realise, I hope, that this is Fiction? You give more space to it than the Real murder of Bob Woolmer in the next column! On what basis does the TV story rate greater importance than the servicemen kidnapped by Iran?

(Although the above letter wasn't published I received a typewritten letter in response from the Deputy Editor, Richard Bettsworth, trying to justify the decision, but I remain unmoved. This is just dumbing down in action. There are other pages in the paper for entertainment news.)

29 March
Dear Editor,

Francisca Martinez (Mailbox 27 March) like many other people who have spoken against the Sexual Orientation Regulations, including the Archbishop of York, confuses "conscience" with "prejudice". Many people with religious convictions, including bishops, were supporters of slavery. Wilberforce and his colleagues were moved to reform because they became aware of the true facts about the conditions of the slave trade. Conscience based on outdated ideas is just prejudice.

Francisca asks what William Wilberforce would make of it all. If his views have not changed he would undoubtedly be appalled, since he was the Mary Whitehouse of his day, having founded a "Society for the Suppression of Vice", However, what he interpreted as "Vice" to others often meant free speech, and led to persecution of people such as Tom Paine, who called for the "Rights of Man", and Richard Carlile whose "What is Love?" promoted sexual education.

But times have moved on and society is now more enlightened. Thanks to reformers like Wilberforce, Paine and Carlile.

(I thought this was a balanced view, not too much anti-Wilberforce, after all his work against slavery was praise-worthy, despite the less worthy effects of his evangelicalism.)

I think this one has been published now.
Thanks "mustbcrackers". The letter was published on 6th April. Perhaps I'm becoming too impatient with the old media. There was also a letter on 7th April by John Lawrence drawing attention to Thomas Paine's antislavery writings, decades before the 1807 reform.
Regarding the letter on Corrie, are you able (and willing) to give us more detail of the explanation you were given?

I would be very interested to know.
I don't think I should quote the whole thing, for reasons of boredom as much as politeness. But a short extract: "We try to give readers a mixture of serious news stories and lighter items on this page to make it a varied and interesting read." He then compares the Coronation Street story to the shooting of JR in Dallas (I think he means not the real place but a soap-opera of that title). "I do not think its inclusion detracted from the more serious news stories on the page."..."... it would have been a very heavy page for readers without the inclusion of a lighter item." Except that the picture took up most of the page!

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