Monday, July 25, 2011 at 17:15
I have just received this response to 'Snipergate', as I'm sure it will be called.
As it happens, it reflects my own views.
GUEST POST BY GRUMPYBUTTERFLY
As I live, and smoke, in one of the areas where the Luton and Dunstable Herald and Post is distributed and sold I suppose I am one of those who should be placed in the sights of Alan Dee’s licensed snipers.
It’s a local paper and only locals usually see it. And, who knows, one warped local mind might feel that such views, in print, legitimise extreme and irrational thoughts.
Unlikely, I know, and besides it was only written as a joke. Presumably, therefore, I or anyone else similarly inclined could write an article advocating council sponsored snipers for any other minority group you care to name. As a joke of course. It would not, quite rightly, be allowed. The article, if written, would be ditched.
From architects to zookeepers all would be protected. But smokers are different, they are not people, they are what they do not what they are. They are the easy, and in these sensitive times, only target. Literally so in Mr Dee’s view, if only as a joke.
So I rang the editor, Lynn Hughes, and requested that she publicly retract any support for the article and apologise to that persecuted minority who still enjoy a cigarette.
It wasn’t easy doing this. I am by nature instinctively against bans and overregulation and sorry handwringing at past misdeeds. And in spite of getting old I still have a sense of humour.
But increasingly I feel myself getting more and more militant at the constant hounding of those who enjoy a perfectly legal, and highly taxed, product. I have never knowingly broken the law but fear that day will arrive when smokers are driven off the streets.
It was against this background that Mr Dee’s lazy journalism, and his papers tacit support of it, seriously irked me and made me call.
It was a very polite conversation. I formed the impression that Lynn Hughes had returned to her office to be greeted with an unusual number of protests regarding Mr Dee’s article.
It was clearly high on her morning agenda even before I phoned. We naturally discussed the timing but, terrible as those events in Norway were, they are not relevant to the basic issue. She did not say that an apology would be issued in the next copy of the paper but she is clearly considering the position and sounded a little contrite.
Whether that is for the sensitivities of smokers or the crassness of the article I do not know. We both agreed that people should be allowed opinions in a healthy society.
I used to write a theatre column for The Herald’s sister paper and my opinions used to get me into lots of trouble. But, as far as I can remember, I never advocated the shooting of any of the actors. Even as a joke.
There are certain rules one obeys. Unless your target is smokers, and then you can say anything. It is that underlying presumption rather than Mr Dee’s specific article that needs challenging.