I watch in horror today as the bereaved mother of a dead solider is presented to the media to criticize Gordon Brown's handwriting and question his intention and sincerity. The Sun newspaper banner framing the shot conjures up images of Sun newspaper journalists snickering together, at that very moment, gleefully enjoying the spectacle they have created...
What a despicable thing for a newspaper to do to a woman who has lost their son, a time when a person is desperately trying to come to terms with their suffering and loss, with the blackness of bereavement sinking in, the reality that they will never see their son again and trying to do so with some dignity. The Sun has exploited this woman in her darkest hour citing a clearly well intentioned letter, attempting to humiliate the PM. These are crude, bully boy tactics in a situation requiring great delicacy. Do the Sun think the general public are stupid? They saw that the Sun shifted it's allegiance to the Tories at a moment carefully timed to undermine Gordon Brown after his conference speech, you can be sure that they see this act for what it is, a very cruel abuse of a grieving mother for political ends. The BBC news reports that their emails and texts are mainly in support of Gordon Brown in terms of his good intentions.
But I'm not surprised at their cruelty. In very emotive subjects they like to fuel the fire rather than report a balanced picture - I remember over ten years ago at a time when there was a debate over Japan granting an apology for events in the war decades before, they published a picture of a Japanese person distorted beyond recognition to play to people's stereotypes and fears, and stir the basest and most unhelpful emotions up to the surface. Their level of acceptability has simply not moved on from these tactics.
There is nothing worse than feeling that you have hurt and wronged a grieving person, it is a time when each bereaved person deserves respect and space, and heartfelt sympathy and support. I don't doubt that this mother was offended by a lack of sentiment in the letter or by other means which she has reason to complain about, and this should be heard. However the Sun newspaper lending their ear and making a public spectacle of it is exploiting her for their own ends at this time and unlike GB's gaffe however hurtful, is fully intentioned and politically targeted.
I've started my own blog at http://beckybrady.wordpress.com
and can be followed on Twitter at @beckybradyleeds