Tuesday 12 April 2011

Lawson: 'Journalists dehumanise public figures'

The torrent of invective unleashed by pundits on Nick Clegg, following his New Statesman interview, shows the way journalists "dehumanise" public figures, Dominic Lawson argues in the Independent today.

The deputy Prime Minister was accused of self-pity after telling Jemima Khan in the New Statesman interview: "I'm a human being, I'm not a punch bag - I've of course got feelings."

Lawson claims Clegg's treatment shows the way journalists are guilty of dehumanising public figures. He adds: "The saga of the News of the World's hacking into the telephone messages of politicians and film stars is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

"I'm sure that one reason – if only subconsciously – why those reporters thought they could get away with it, is that they imagined that the public would not feel strongly about the loss of privacy endured by the "celebrities", even though the readers of the News of the World would have been scandalised if they or their neighbours had been snooped on in the same way."

Clegg said in his interview: "The more you become a subject of admiration or loathing, the more you're examined under a microscope, the distance seems to open up between who you really are and the portrayal that people impose on you."

Lawson says: "It is in fact an essential part of remaining sane as a figure in the public eye to do what Clegg appears to be saying, and decide that this portrayal is not really about you. My sister, Nigella, copes with her occasionally grotesque coverage in the press ("Getting much fatter!" "Going bald!" "High Calorie Killer!") by deciding that the person being written about, though sharing her name, is nothing to do with her, at all.

"That acquired imperviousness is clearly a much better approach than to cry out: "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" These days, any politician who attempts such an appeal to a common humanity will muster as much sympathy as the demonised Jew could expect from a nation of anti-Semites."

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