A remarkable amount of coverage has been given today not just to yesterday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela, but also one incident among the visiting dignitaries: a phone “selfie” taken by Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt which included Barack Obama and Young Dave. The indignation of the Fourth Estate was as severe as it was utterly synthetic.
Four pages dedicated to THAT?
“Twitter fury over Dave's selfie with Obama and a flirty Dane: Backlash over leaders' picture at Mandela memorial service that left Michelle VERY unamused” thundered the Daily Mail, making sure readers knew that Ms Thorning-Schmidt “is married to Neil Kinnock's son, Stephen, who did not appear to be at the event”. The Super Soaraway Currant Bun was equally unimpressed.
“Mandela memorial gaffe ... NO SELFIE RESPECT ... Cam and Obama in cheesy pic” it howled. This was reinforced by the likes of Iain Martin, one of the inhabitants of the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, who registered his exasperation at the whole business with “Selfie-gate: Why do Cameron and Obama feel the need to behave like idiots?”, showing that none of them really got it.
Indeed, the Mail went off in search of the “fury” that it had already proclaimed, but found just three Twitter users who were not supportive of the scene. The Mirror, after starting off with the outrage, conceded “Others argued it was in keeping with the event at the FNB Stadium in Soweto where tens of thousands of South Africans danced and sang in celebration of the man they called Madiba”.
And the deeply subversive Guardian referenced a Tweet from Esquire magazine’s online deputy editor Sam Parker, where he noted “From everything I've read about Mandela this week, sounds like he'd have found the Obama selfie / Michelle Twitter gags pretty funny”. It wasn’t a memorial service designed to be taken overly seriously, otherwise there would not have been dancing and singing.
Indeed, this was more a celebration of the man who helped his country to move from the oppression of Apartheid to democracy and freedom. Had it been otherwise, there would not have been the booing that current South African President Jacob Zuma experienced when he gave his address. It’s synthetic rage stoked up for the sake of it. But at least most papers gave the event front page coverage.
What a surprise ... NOT
To no surprise at all, Richard “Dirty” Desmond’s supposedly flagship Daily Express made no mention of the memorial service on its front page, just as it did not report Mandela’s death there last week. This is not a coincidence: someone in Dirty Des’ empire has a problem with the former leader. The Mail and Sun do not, provided all behave with appropriate decorum.
Do as we say, not as we do, say the press. You may have heard that one before.