Hardly had Carrie Symonds shared via her private Instagram account the news that she and alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson were to be married, and that she was expecting a baby in the early Summer, than by complete coincidence the entire media establishment knew about it. And nobody within that establishment knew more about it than the Lady Macbeth-like figure of Sarah “Vain” Vine.
Ms Vine, perhaps better known as Mrs Michael “Oiky” Gove, knew so much about Ms Symonds’ news that she was quite certain in her assessment that lots of people were going to be less than totally welcoming of the upcoming happy event. So she decided to intervene, but purely out of the goodness of her heart, you understand.
“Would just like to remind everyone that this is [Carrie Symonds’] first baby, regardless of anything else. Let's be kind to the pregnant lady, shall we?” she declared grandly on Twitter, the medium she flounced out of with such lack of style, only to come crawling back later. And how archaic is that? “Lady”? Very Home Counties Conservative Association.
But the result of her intervention was not to generate a more favourable mood towards Ms Symonds, but instead to focus on Ms Vine’s, shall we say, lack of kindness towards other women. Author and pundit Bonnie Greer summed that up: “#SarahVine, a rather unkind lady in relation to those she deems unworthy of her own #kindness, asks you, now, to be #kind.” So what form has the lack of kindness taken in the past?
Well, for campaigner and food blogger Jack Monroe, it meant her sneering “To readers wondering how, as a lesbian, she got pregnant in the first place, her son was the result of a relationship with a man, shortly after which she realised she was attracted to women … No one forced her to have a child. Indeed, if she was in anyway uncertain of her sexual orientation, arguably she should have taken greater precautions. But it seems that Ms Monroe isn’t one for assuming responsibility for her actions”. Kindness? Not as such.
And when it came to the Duchess of Sussex, well, where do we start? Let’s cut straight to the main event: the Daily Mail’s front page of 22 December 2017, and the teaser for her article. “Yes, they’re joyfully in love. So why do I have a niggling worry about this engagement picture?” it read. Now, what does that sound like?
Raw Story had some views on that. “The word ‘niggling’ in and of itself is not racist, as it’s defined as a persistent discomfort or concern. However, it is also very close to the word ‘nigling,’ a slur used by white supremacists to disparage black children”. So close as to be what the late John Arlott might have called “Very Adjacent”.
Also, using a term beginning NIGG in an article about a woman who is not white is just about as loaded as the Mail could have got. As Raw Story continued, “Given that headline writers are often very careful and deliberate in the words they choose - especially if those words could provoke strong reactions, and thus help sell more papers - some critics believe that the Daily Mail intentionally used the word ‘niggling’ as a racist dog whistle.”
And whatever the intent, kindness was not part of it. But then, being Sarah Vine means you not only never say sorry, you also get to display that brass neck for money.
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