'Mourning sickness is a religion'

by Limbic on February 23, 2004

Civitas have delivered a classic. It is fundamentally a restatement of what is obvious: Those people at the back of the church wailing and weeping, the ones who did not know the deceased (his daughters acquaintances or colleagues he never knew), they are wailing for sport. A friend labelled it “emotional masturbation” and whilst it is something I have railed against it, it was Mick Hume who was the first person to identify the pox and systematically analyse its workings. From the BBC:

Britons are feeding their own egos by indulging in “recreational grief” for murdered children and dead celebrities they have never met, claims a report.Think-tank Civitas said wearing charity ribbons, holding silences and joining protest marches all indicated the country was in emotional crisis.

The author said “mourning sickness” was a substitute for religion.

Rather than “piling up damp teddies and rotting flowers” people should go out and do some real good, he urged.

In his report, Conspicuous Compassion, author Patrick West said people were trying to feel better about themselves by taking part in “manufactured emotion”.

Describing extravagant public displays of grief for strangers as ‘grief-lite’ Mr West said these activities were, “undertaken as an enjoyable event, much like going to a football match or the last night of the proms”.

“Mourning sickness is a religion for the lonely crowd that no longer subscribes to orthodox churches. Its flowers and teddies are its rites, its collective minutes’ silences its liturgy and mass.

Was pop band Hear’Say jumping on the bandwagon or lending support?

“But these new bonds are phoney, ephemeral and cynical,” he said.

For the sake of completeness, here is a quotation frpm Mike Hume’s 1998 pamphlet. Mick Hume, former editor of LM Magazine (before it was shut down after losing the libel case brought against it) wrote two particularly good essays called ‘Televictims – emotional correctness in the media’ and the ‘Whose war is it anyway? – The dangers of he Journalism of Attachment’. The theme is loosely ‘Stop the weeping and sober up’.

When Hume broached this topic back in 1998 this sort hysterical hand wringing, flower mountains, weepy politicians and media sorrow mongering
were just starting. The media reaction if by now a formula deployed over a long series of events starting with Diana, and continuing though Dunblane, Omagh, Josie and Damiola.

“The media preachers of emotional correctness issued two commandments in the aftermath of Diana’s death. First, thou shalt weep and wail. The word from the editorial offices was that everybody from the Queen downwards had to soften that stiff upper lip and show their emotions in public; as Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair put it, the obligation was to ‘hug strangers, wear a ribbon, light a candle or do something, for heaven’s sake’,” so turning the world into one big Oprah studio where audience participation was obligatory.Second, thou shalt weep together to keep together. Only one kind of emotion was to be allowed, in order for the nation to be seen to be united on its
collective knees. For all the talk of the media reflecting the People’s ‘real feelings’ about Princess Diana, the clear message was that if you were
not grieving the way the editorial-writers said we all were, then you should put on a front of ersatz emotion and play the part anyway. The end result
was described by Christopher Hitchens’ brother Peter, of the Express, as a ‘tyranny of grief’.

This coercive side of emotional correctness was never far behind the flowers and the touchy-feely stuff. In the week between the crash and the funeral,
much of the media gave up hard news reporting in favour of hardline sermons. The tabloid newspapers were only the bluntest instruments beating us over
the head……

In seeking to impose their code of emotional correctness from the top of society downwards, much of the media abandoned reporting in favour of
preaching, replacing any notion of public debate with a demand for national unity. You do not have to be a fan of the House of Windsor to worry at the
implications of the assumption of such moral authority by the media. After all, if newspapers and broadcasters can successfully intervene in this
authoritarian fashion in the affairs of Britain’s most prestigious family, what chance do those whom the Sun calls ‘ordinary people’ stand? On the
morning of Diana’s funeral, at least one man was reportedly beaten up outside his home for showing disrespect by daring to wash his car. Don’t
they read the papers these people?” [From pages 10,11 and 12 of ‘Televictims – emotional correctness in the media’ by Mick Hume]

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment