Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Amanda Knox appeal case- tabloid attitudes to women

I've been a bit shocked by some of the coverage of this and was pleased when Graham Linehan (writer of Father Ted) tweeted a link to a very well written article from Rolling Stone magazine which explained the whole story in clear unsensationalised terms. You need to read the whole story there as it gives a very different perspective from the one that has dominated the press since the murder.

Even before reading that article, I found so much of the coverage of the case distasteful and vicious. It is clear from the Rolling Stone article that there was a massive bungle on the part of the Italian police in terms of gathering evidence, followed by outrageous assertions from a prosecutor who was already known to be obsessed with the idea of satanist conspiracy. Added to this was the intense bullying of Amanda and her fellow suspect while in custody to force a confession and the desire of the press to wallow in lurid speculation. 'Foxy Knoxy' became her nickname and, is often the case with stories of women accused of crime, allusions to witchcraft and sexual excess were made.

The British tabloids, especially The Daily Mail were particularly keen to view her as guilty, partly because the victim Meredith Kircher was a British student, but also partly because it reinforces their misogynstic world view that a woman who doesn't conform to their expectations must be guilty.

A look at the tabloid front pages for the past two days is quite interesting. Here are today's (Oct 5)

Most feature the same picture of Knox arriving back in the USA, but the headlines are striking. The Mirror and The Mail both take the angle of lack of justice for the victim 'Meredith who?' and 'Give our girl justice too' (even though it seems pretty certain from the evidence that the actual killer is behind bars). The Star tries to suggest that Knox is both greedy and has more to hide by its 'Secret £20m diary' whilst 'The Sun' brings back the sex angle, presumably with classic stereotypical overtones of lesbian aggression: 'Knox's prison sex ordeal'.

The day before, the image captured on so many front pages was of her sobbing on her release:

These front pages come from a very useful site where you can get readership info and front pages from all major UK papers dating back several months.

Again The Mail suggests that she will be making loads of money out of selling her story, with the implication that she is somehow guilty anyway "four years jail for Meredith's murder, now conviction is quashed". Interestingly, the Mail made a massive mistake on the paper's website when the announcement of the appeal verdict was made. In an attempt to get the story up quickly, the paper mistook the verdict on a slander charge as a verdict on the murder charge and put this up on the site:

(screengrab from

Paidcontent report:
"The Mail Online not only mistook the Italian court’s guilty verdict for slander as guilty of everything, it posted a story under the byline Nick Pisa purporting to detail the return journey of Knox and her ex-boyfriend to separate prisons where they would be put on suicide watch. The story also quotes “delighted” prosecutors who said “justice has been done.”

Which just shows how much of a story is written in advance! All made up!

Finally, the way in which media coverage simply seems to have wanted her to be guilty so that the lurid cocktail of sex, murder and satanism could be used in stories is well illustrated by the loathsome low of Tuesday's Channel 5 show 'the Wright Stuff'

Under the headline: 'Foxy Knoxy: would ya?' the panel, bizarrely comprising Christopher Biggins, interior designer Kelly Hoppen and Liz McClarnon of Atomic Kitten, discussed whether anyone would risk a sexual relationship with Knox now that she is out of jail. On the C5 web page, the segment was previewed with:

"She's innocent. She's also undeniably fit and loves wild sex. Or did. So if you were a guy who'd met her in a bar and she invited you back to hers, would you go?"

Wright pointed out on the show that she had been declared innocent but insisted she is "foxy as hell". He later defended the discussion as 'serious'.

Would coverage like this occur for a man accused and acquitted of murder? I think not. As Graham Linehan noted- hunches, misogyny, puritanism, guesswork- the loathsome tabloid attitudes which they use to sell their papers.

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