The issue that should be raised by this story isn’t that these women chose to dress like the Twin Towers, it’s that a cabal of newspaper running old men made a conscious decision to expose two members of the public to the full brunt of the worlds scorn for doing nothing more than offending the sensibilities of a demographic of their readership.
This isn’t just the Mail, this is the full spectrum of the UK’s press that either pushed a none-story onto the front page of their papers or endlessly recycled the same judgemental hyperbole across a hundred worldwide news outlets to drum up hits, links, comments and adverts to justify their own existence.
Many commenters have noted that in this digital age it is impossible to guarantee privacy and that people should be more careful – but I don’t think this is the issue at all. This wasn’t a story until our beloved red tops started running with it, the issue is questioning what right they have to arbitrarily force private citizens into the limelight in the first place.
On Halloween I met an Irish woman dressed as an abortion, but did she have journalists running to her Catholic parents to tattle on her? Was her costume shown to people who had had abortions to capture their outrage? Were photos of her house with its exact location published on the world’s most popular news website? Did strangers call her place of study demanding she be expelled?
No, of course not. Because the right journalist didn’t have the right picture to fit the right demographic to fit the right slow news day. But it could have, it so easily could have. It could happen to any of us, because all it requires is one step out of line, one perceived slight to an preferred norm and they’ll hang you out to dry. Toe the line, show respect, think like this – or we’ll tell on you.
Were the ladies costumes offensive? Maybe. Should they have won a prize? Probably. Should they have been more sensitive to their parents history? Most likely. Who knows? Who cares? Who gives a fuck? It wasn’t offensive to the world until the press decided it was offensive to the world; there were no 9/11 widows demanding apologies inside a nightclub in Chester, and if there were there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have worn the costumes.
The whole point of everything is to make fun of everything. Are there limits? Sometimes yes, but they’re contextual, and nothing destroys context like the outrage of a dozen bored journalists. We need to keep our love of bad taste, of risking offence, of being a dick in public sometimes… of spending hours making a totally tasteless Halloween costume and then winning a cash prize for it. Because that’s funny. It is. It’s funny. It’s wrong. But funny.
By the way, the Sun’s front page headline was a fucking pun.
These women will now have this moment of teenage indulgence tattooed on their Google cached permanent records for life. For the next few years, certainly, they’ll be in Turkish internet prison where the simplest search will tell nothing but of that time they pissed off the whole world. And this was done because our gang of self-regulating mouthpieces thought they fucking deserved it.
And the rest of us had better get back in our places or else – watch out – we’ll be next.