As I have blogged before, my husband's 24-year-old nephew was also killed in Helmand only a couple of months ago. I was witness to the devastation of his family and friends as he was buried by the Black Watch in Dundee. I understand what grief can do to people and feel nothing but empathy towards Mrs Janes' outrage. She has every right to be finding any spelling mistakes in Brown's letter annoying. She'd have been forgiven if she had complained about the colour of the ink he'd used. As a grieving mum, who just lost a 20-year-old son in a horrific manner, who can blame her for needing an outlet for the anger that is eating her from within.
Brown may have had the best intention in the world, but nothing he could have done would have been able to soothe this woman's pain.
Vested interest speaks louder than decency
What is not right is for The Sun to exploit Janes' anger to a) humiliate Brown and make him look like a dunce; b) magnify the story of a mum in mourning into scandalous proportions, with a political agenda behind it.
I am NOT pro-Brown's policies on the war. Quite on the contrary. My husband's family and I want the UK troops out of Afghanistan as much as any other family who lost their next of kin there. But promoting a hate wave against an already defeated Prime Minister by attacking his handwriting and spelling mistakes, is as displaced a criticism as Ms Janes' anger is.
Mr Brown's letter, handwritten or not, did not kill James Janes. A perfectly spelled letter in beautiful calligraphy would still not stop the war, nor save lives...and it would certainly not bring young James back from the dead.
I am not saying don't write about it. If you're press, you will, and you should. Of course if you are a red top who has turned its back on New Labour you may also have a strong interest in demoralising anyone in government.
Not the BBC too...
But what is the BBC's excuse for running a tabloid-like piece, by employing a graphologist to analyse Brown's handwriting (with the knowledge that it was Brown's), along with Tony Blair's and Margaret Thatcher's, and conclude:
"The right-hand-side of the letters signify one's connections with other people and the future. The way they are cut off suggests he can't empathise because it's not part of his make-up."No bias of course.... It made me wonder how much of my licence fee to the BBC goes into paying for graphologist to tell the public exactly what they want to hear about the handwriting analysis of well-known politicians.
Lack of equipment or not, the fact is every war is futile and senseless. Every soldier knows when they go to war, they go to kill people. They also know they risk getting killed. Why don't papers run more stories with headlines screaming "Stop the killing!" "Bring the troops back", instead of counting how many Es or Ss a partially sighted PM dropped in his letter? Or is a politician's spelling more important than lives?
Petty and small
In order to see lasting change we need to start thinking big, acting big.
The Sun's article reminds me of small talk of petty people round the office's water cooler because they are unhappy with the boss but no one has the courage to confront him. Instead of tackling issues that really matter by creating dialogue, by building a progressive, coordinated campaign for the end of Britain's involvement in the war, it chooses to use a mother's moment of extreme grief to sell more papers, bully Brown and incite its 3m readers to also behave like small-minded people.
The Sun has definitely set for me.
- Charlie Beckett defends The Sun in Comment is Free: It's not just The Sun who'll be nasty (Guardian)
- Roy Greenslade says Rupert Murdoch let The Sun's wolves loose to savage Brown: Backlash against the Sun over its shameful coverage of Brown's letter (Guardian)
- Malcolm Cole counted The Sun's readers' responses and analysed them: Sun readers pro PM over letter of condolence (The Media Blog)