Tuesday, 31 May 2011

This just in - something was on TV a month ago...

Today, the Daily Mail reports with outrage that "a young mother has dismissed concerns that the 3,500 cigarettes she smoked while pregnant affected her daughter and bizarrely insists it actually made the baby stronger." This apparently "has caused outrage among health professionals." But it also raises several questions.

Firstly, although this is of course an absurd and utterly wrong point of view, why has it caused "outrage"? After all, the woman in question - 20-year-old Charlie Wilcox - made the comments whilst appearing on the BBC 3 show Mums Behaving Badly. The whole point of the show was to highlight the harmful behaviour exhibited by some mums to be and offer remedies. In fact, I remember watching the show and seeing the midwife demonstrate not only why her view was wrong but also how much smoking actually harms babies.

If the aim is to raise awareness, then surely the programme did that. In fact, Wilcox being something of a wilful idiot will only have helped the case. Claiming that smoking is "making the baby use its heart on its own in the first place, so that when it comes out, it's going to be able to do them (sic) things by itself" after being told that you're choking your unborn child pretty much marks you out as wrong.

If this had been a celebrity uttering such views, without context, then sure. I could understand the outrage. But Charlie Wilcox was expressly put on television as a demonstration of what not to do, rather than as a role model for the kids. As such the outrage is very much misplaced.

Not that its outrage at all, if we're honest. The Mail have quoted the midwife's words from the television show, plus a spokesman for the charity No Smoking Day. Hardly a cavalcade of moral outrage, especially since the latter is quite literally only quoted on the risks of smoking whilst pregnant. No comment whatsoever is offered upon the views of one rather dim 20-year-old. But then, this fits perfectly with the newspaper's long history of claiming a single quote - often out of context - as a storm of righteous indignation.

More importantly, though, is the question of why this is news. Is the Mail really so desperate in filling its pages that it will quite literally churn a basic outline of a TV show - last aired almost a month ago - into a "story"? The answer, it seems, is yes.