Today’s radio news headlined with the supposed “outrage” that the 15 sailors and marines detained by the Iranians were being allowed to be paid for for their press reviews. Apparently The Sun newspaper (no, I will not post a URL to them…) has offered them a “six figure sum” [*] for their stories. From the breakfast radio news, this has caused outrage. People like Bob Stewart, Tim Collins and numerous other people were being mentioned as “outraged” over this decision by the MOD. The BBC news website had a lead article titled “Iran stories sale criticism grows” which explained the Head of the Army has banned all Soldiers from selling their stories following the Navy personnel being allowed to make some money off the story. Different media outlets have similar stories — all pretty much saying the same thing. The TV news had vox pop interviews with people in the street, mostly saying they “thought it was wrong for them to sell their story.”
The sheer barefaced hypocrisy, tinged with basic madness, of all this amazes me. I am (almost) at a loss for which parts of the nonsense to start with…
As the BBC bit is online, that seems a fair starting point. It begins:
The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannat, is understood to have banned all soldiers from selling their stories to the media.
It comes as criticism mounts over the decision to allow the 15 Royal Navy personnel held in Iran to sell stories.
Harsh sound stuff. If Gen Sir Dannat is getting heavy handed with this, I assume he is ensuring all soldiers stick to the party line and only have contact with the media via the MOD press office. I wonder which member of the Press Office released this information, as there is no official MOD comment on the matter at this time. Reading on makes it clear:
Former Army commander Major General Patrick Cordingley told the BBC of the alleged ban, which the Ministry of Defence is yet to comment on. … Maj Gen Cordingley, commander of the Desert Rats during the 1991 Gulf War, said it was “unfortunate” that the MoD was “using” the Royal Navy personnel as “a propaganda tool”
Oh the irony. I suppose in Maj Gen Cordingley’s defence, he is now ex-Army so that makes it OK. I can only assume that him leaking information to the media is appropriate, but the currently serving personnel talking about their experiences (which are truly in the public interest now) is not. How silly of me to not have realised that.
Swiftly moving on, the BBC addresses another strange line of thinking which is going on:
Meanwhile, Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son Gordon was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra, said the timing of the stories was insensitive.
She said: “I don’t think they should actually sell their stories just now, because there are families waiting on the release of their loved ones’ bodies that have just been killed in Iraq.
Sadly, the media will only be interested while it is newsworthy. That is now. It is not the sailors and marines who are being insensitive here.
I will be brief in commenting on the irony of Bob Stewart complaining about people selling their story to the media (Bosnia was never as “exciting” as the Gulf, but Bob certainly made a packet out of selling his story… You can still buy the book on Amazon — I dislike him, so I am not going to link to any of his things) and simply ask: is this a case that Officers, and the British “upper classes” are allowed to make money from their traumatic experiences, while the other ranks are denied the same?
The most ironic aspects of this, is the apparent blame being placed on the service men (and woman) for “selling their story.” The media seem to be going out of their way to demonise them — which is odd. If the media really were so against them selling their stories, they would not be able to sell them… The people in the street saying it is “disgusting” are the same ones who rush out to buy this sort of thing.
I don’t for one second think the Sun will make anything other than a massive profit out of these service personnel. The sums of money they are paid will be insignificant compared to what the Sun will get from “outraged” people in the street.
Collections of almost-senile senior officers may be unhappy, but that is just because they are still preparing their own memoirs (even the head of the spies does this) and are worried they may lose punters as a result. For two weeks, the lives of these 15 has been “in the public interest,” so now they are released how can (or even why should!) they be expected to keep quiet.
Given the massive media interest, why on Earth should they not get paid for their story. If you really do object, then do not buy, watch or listen to any media outlet which has paid for it. Market economics are great, aren’t they?
Personally, I am a bit jealous. Obviously I don’t want to be kidnapped and tortured, but I would love to have so much interest in something I could write that I get a six figure sum.
[*]Yes, I am aware that a “six figure sum” wont even buy any of them a house, let alone make them rich for life. Seems like a small reimbursement for 15 days of illegal detention, mistreatment and avoiding a war…. If they had been American sailors we would either be in WWIII now or they would sue every man and his dog for much larger sums of money! 🙂