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Insulting her hair? Really?

6th July 2011

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This morning, The Huffington Post asked viewers of its Facebook page whether Rebekah Brooks should stand down as Chief Executive of News International.

The question led to a deluge of comments, the large majority of which pointed out the reasons why, in light of the recent phone hacking revelations, Brooks should be removed from her position. All fair, justified, and related to the ethical issues that are at hand.

And then the personal jibes started rolling in, including disparaging comments on Brooks’ hair. One reader posted, ‘Someone should at least send the fashion police after her, good LORD her hair is a crime against humanity!’ This delightful creature then went on to offer further words of wisdom on the situation, later in the morning: ‘You’d think that with all she makes she could afford a decent hair cut and some sort of anti-frizz product… She is a living breathing example of how ugly on the inside seeps out of your pores and even onto your hair.’

Clearly the state of Rebekah Brooks’ hair was vastly offensive to this Facebook user, much more offensive than the allegation that she hacked into the phone of a murdered teenager and led her parents to believe that there might still be some hope that she was alive. Rebekah Brooks’ hair is SO offensive, in fact, that she spent time considering it in what appears to be great depth… not a word on the actual politics behind the situation, though.

There were also a number of comparisons to the much parodied American comedian and Cartoon Network presenter Scott Thompson, better known as Carrot Top. One Facebook user pointlessly asked, ‘That’s a woman?’ Erm… yes?

Male commentators, if they mention on a female’s appearance, are unlikely to mean anything other than satire. Women, however, seem to view personal attacks on other females as their right. In the case of Rebekah Brooks, who it appears does deserve some virulent criticism, attacks on her character, ethics, the way she runs her newspapers, etc, are fair game.

But seriously attacking her over her looks? Really? Isn’t that a bit… playground?

This woman has potentially done a very, very bad thing. She has either failed in her job as an editor of a major paper by turning a blind eye to where the stories she is publishing have actually come from, which is bad enough, since information has clearly been gained by unethical and illegal means. Or, she has sanctioned an invasion of privacy that has used family tragedy for profit, over and over again. Sarah Payne, Milly Dowler, Holly and Jessica, victims of terrorism… where, and when, will it end?

A better question to pose may be IF it will end. It would be a naïve person who believed that this practice is contained just within News of the World, or even just within Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which also owns The Sun and The Times. The coming to light of Rebekah Brooks’ failings as editor are likely to lead to a storm of revelation that engulfs a large proportion of the newspaper industry in this country. News of the World has today lost major advertising contracts with Vauxhall, Ford, Virgin Holidays, Co-Operative and Halifax. There are calls across Twitter for Rupert Murdoch’s power to be stripped away and for News of the World to be dissolved as a company. These are serious matters, however unreasonable and unlikely the demands of het up tweeters might be.

Yet still, the preoccupation with feminine beauty and grooming rears its head and takes away the very seriousness of the situation.  Doesn’t insulting Rebekah Brooks’ appearance trivialize the very ethically important issues that have come to light over the past two days? Are there really people who have nothing more insightful in their minds than the ability to throw childish insults immediately at a situation?  

I don’t care about Rebekah Brooks’ hair. There are slightly bigger problems at hand.

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