Sketchy Round the Edges…

…or why I need to check my tweets before hitting send.

I do a thing every night Sunday – Thursday. I carry out “NatOnal #HandWatch”. It’s not mean-spirited, I don’t think. It’s a bit off fun. It’s an establishing meme of Scottish Politics along with Soleros being the lolly of choice and things being in Alex Salmond’s pocket, the the front cover of ‘The National’ will have hands on it. Somewhere. There will be hands. They may be badly photo-shopped hands, but there will be hands nonetheless.

Some of my personal favourites so far are:

I accept its silly and pointless. I didn’t start the whole “Hands on The National” (or NatOnal – because the map of Scotland does not look like an ‘i’) idea, I just picked it up and ran with it. I don’t agree with The National’s political outlook, but it serves a market and good on them.

But today this cartoon was included in the paper, and I saw this preview on twitter last night and it made me uneasy. CAtqW4SWcAAxdmm

I’ll start by saying I genuinely love Greg Moodie’s art style. I don’t know why, but I love it. The stuff from before the #IndyRef, even attacking my own side, I love it. But my issue with the cartoon was the inclusion of Charles Kennedy sweating over a pint. The man’s issues with alcohol are well known and he doesn’t try to hide them. I said that I felt this cartoon was in poor taste (which may or may not be the right word in this situation).
Let’s get my complaint down here. I’m not complaining he’s making fun of alcoholism generally. Nor am I complaining about the political viewpoint – that’s not relevant. I’m asking what having Kennedy staring and sweating over a pint is adding to this frame.

The some of the responses to my (I promise, genuine) concerns were not ones I can agree with:

I disagree. Satire can be in good taste (if indeed taste is the right word). Private Eye’s ‘Royal Baby’ cover was a great example of that – indeed, most of Private Eye is. And besides, unnecessarily mocking somebody’s struggle with alcohol is difficult to justify.

The Lib Dems are rightly going to suffer for being in coalition with the Tories for the last 5 years. I think everyone should be reminded of their broken promises and u-turns. They are a party, I feel, that has no political credibility. However, I don’t see what that has to do with a man’s alcohol issues. The two are not connected in any way. The political vapidness of the Lib Dem platform can’t be used to justify unrelated personal criticisms.

No. It’s probably not worse than the Sun’s ridiculous Wrecking-Ball spread from a few weeks ago, which was sexist. It’s definitely not worse that David Coburn’s “Humza Yousaf, or as I call him Abu Humza” comment (for which he still hasn’t resigned). I think both examples are ridiculous. We can argue about whether its worse than Steve Bell’s cartoon (which I think was a classic Guardian “I’ll use a reference only about 5% of the population will get first time round”). But we have a deep-rooted problem facing addiction issues, and mental health issues more generally, in this country. Making fun of someone for it isn’t a great way to help open up the discussion.

I don’t object to Nigel Farage being pictured with pint – primarily because he isn’t an alcoholic. His constant use of pubs for photo-calls is a cultivation of his “man-of-the-people” image, not a chronic dependency. The point being made here is a fair one, but in my mind, the two are of a different class.

There was then this comment:

I include this (borderline defamatory) comment only so I can show one of the best things I’ve ever created…Referendum Dogs (based on a picture a friend took after the 2012 Local Elections. You can take it as “Labour are criminals”, or just that it’s a cool picture.

ref dogs twitter

I don’t think Greg Moodie should resign or be fired. I don’t thing he should be abused or harassed online (some of the comments he’s received on twitter are well out of order). But I do wish that The National had exercised a bit more discretion. The Lib Dems as an entity, are fair targets – as are all political groups. But there is a point where you cross from criticising the politics of a person to criticising the person themselves.
Some have attempted to justify this as satire – and generally I’d agree with them. But in what way does Kennedy hold a pint improve the satire? I don’t think it does. “But”, say others (including Mr. Moodie), “in other frames of the comic, other people are drinking the pint”. That’s absolutely accurate. But I’m not sure that this completely expunges the issue. Why…look at Kennedy’s eyes in this frame:


To my mind, and it may well just be my mind, they seem to be following the pint. And, a picture of the paper itself suggests this is common to each frame:


I don’t know if this pattern is repeated in all the frames, but 3’s generally enough to establish something more than a coincidence.
To make clear, I’m not offended. I’m not hurt. I’m not harmed. But I am of the opinion that perhaps, just perhaps, a national newspaper should show a bit more awareness of what it publishes and how it can be seen.


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