Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Enright, the McCanns , the media... propaganda surrounding Annes article that was written before...BUT PR made it current.. - Posted: October 19, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

Shane Hegarty

You can almost imagine the whoop of delight on Wednesday, when a journalist somewhere realised that Anne Enright had written a piece about the McCanns and, bingo, solved a couple of the media’s problems in one go:

1. How to turn a dry literary story into something exciting
2. How to keep the McCanns on the front page

So, having first run in the Evening Standard, on Thursday morning it was picked up elsewhere, with the Daily Telegraph running a piece saying:
Booker prize winner Anne Enright has launched an astonishing attack on Kate and Gerry McCann, describing in detail why she does not like the couple.
(Her piece has been public for two weeks, so the headline “Booker Winner Attacks McCanns” should have read “We’ve Just Realised that Booker Winner Attacked McCanns Two Weeks Ago But Need To Make It Seem Current”.)

Now, the first thing you should do is read the essay in the London Review of Books.
It is not, in my opinion, an “attack” on the McCanns. Instead, it is an honest piece about her obsession with the case, the forensic examination of rumours, details, and the words uttered by the McCanns. It is about the insidiousness of semantics. It is about maternal fears and impulses as well as parents’ guilty strategies. It is about a couple who have transformed themselves into a media machine. And it is about the mob – something about which Enright may be becoming a little more familiar with.

But that’s too complex to get in a front page splash. So lazy journalism is compounded by a lazy headline and then other lazy journalists pick up on the story and pretty quickly Sky’s website offers readers the chance to have their say and you have 42 pages of comments (and counting) by people on an article few of them have actually read.

The Telegraph’s website followed its report up with quotes from the McCann family who were reported to be “astonished” by the remarks. And yet, even Kate and Gerry McCann’s PR person admits that “I’m not even sure Kate and Gerry are aware of what has been written.”

The piece then went on to detail new rumours as printed by the Portuguese press.
It should be surprising that an intelligent, “quality” paper such as the Telegraph could be so crass, but instead it shows how easily even a broadsheet can succumb to the promise of a row. It was not alone. The Irish Independent ran with the story, cut and pasted without credit to the Telegraph, and added only a headline which described the “mystery” of Enright’s remarks.

What mystery? It’s all in the essay.

On Friday, it follows with a report on Enright’s apparent “regret” at the “timing” of the remarks (although, she should not feel the need for an expedient apology on this). Books Editor John Spain concludes:
At that point, someone dug up the most controversial quotes and put them together out of context into a report that would be as damaging as possible for Enright.
Yes, and the Irish Independent picked up that piece and ran it on its front page.
As an idea of how a dispassionate observer might view all of this, it’s worth looking at the New York Times book blog, where Enright’s essay is used not as an opportunity for calculated hysteria but as an example of her talent:
Enright’s first-person pieces appeared frequently in the London Review of Books, and there was something about them – their clarity and strangeness and humor – that made you want to march straight to the bookstore to see where this woman’s fiction would take you.
And finally, on a lighter note, there were more subtle ways of expressing distaste at the essay. Here’s a letter sent to the most recent edition of the LRB:
I disliked Anne Enright almost as much as the McCanns after reading her article (LRB , 4 October), almost as much as I dislike myself for disliking the McCanns, for disliking Anne Enright, you for publishing Anne Enright’s article, and me for reading it (I didn’t have to do that). Where will it all end?
UPDATE: There’s been a good discussion on this topic over at Sinéad Gleeson’s blog.