Friday, November 28, 2008

The British press and the British Fritzl

All those British papers who were ridiculing Austria during the Josep Fritzl case. "It could only happen there", was the order of the day. Except, now a man in Sheffield has been given life for exactly the same stuff.

There are times the world of British journalism really makes you wince. Last May, possibly for the first time in history, the UK press decided to dedicate full coverage to a story that wasn't related to Britain or America. It was the Josep Fritzl scandal, Austria's own version of a nightmare.

Nothing wrong, obviously. The story was absolutely shocking. A man who turned out to be commander-in-chief of incestuous monsters had segregated his daughter for two decades and fathered her several children, keeping most of them in a perfectly engineered underground bunker.

Except, the British press had to take it one step forward. Their morbid obsession with anything remotely Nazi was just gagging to come out. Josep Fritzl was Austrian, wasn't he? Now, can our cultured British journalists name at least another famous Austrian chap, possibly an evil one too?Adolfo, I hear you saying...Yeah, that one. The equation was just so tempting for our simple editors to keep it at bay.

But I say 'the British press' because this time there's no shaking your head at the 'bad' tabloids and seeking consolation in the 'good' broadsheets. They all did the same. Within days, all papers (with, and I'm not even sure, the possible exception of The Guardian) started writing all sorts of sophisticated analyses about Austria's deep rooted patterns of behaviour. A country, no question, obsessed with holding people captive (concentration camps, anyone?) and all the rest. For the whole month, no-one remembered Britain's own pride and joy, did they? Fred and Rosemary West, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, the Yorkshire Ripper, Denis Neilsen and friends. No, it could have only happened in Austria.

And so The Independent talked about Austria's typical "look-away society", the Daily Mail dubbed it "secrecy shameland" and The Times openly talked about Austria's "cirles of secrecy" where dark things took place, in line with their very own "Nazi past". The Mirror sported the headline 'Evil dungeon dad Josef Fritzl blames the Nazis for his actions'.

All those columnists and professional opinionators. Where are they now? Where's all the gobbing about instrinsically Nazi Austria now that a 56-year-old Englishman from Sheffield has just been convicted of raping his two daughters and fathering their children over a period of twenty years? Yet more evidence that ignorant chauvinism is a very, very British syndrome.


Prestonshire said...

At last some stuff about this.
Reading all those cliches about Austria when the Fritzl brouhaha happened was cringeworthy.

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