Today, I'm torn. Not like Natalie Imbruglia. I'm not cold and ashamed and lying naked anywhere or anything. (Okay, I'll admit to being one of those things, but I'm not telling which). I just can't decide whether to be cock-a-hoop over the news that all Richard Desmond's hate rags have to print front page apologies and pay half a million to the McCanns over printing more than a hundred untrue stories about them since their daughter went missing, or just cocked off.
On the one hand, there's the deep satisfaction that comes from seeing the paper forced to apologise for printing false stories and lose cash, but on the other hand - well, the other hand is illustrated by the front page of the Star (above).
Shunted in small letters at the top right hand corner is the apology - which despite being on the front page is pretty limp, and it's still possible to interpret its headline as saying that Kate and Gerry McCann say sorry.
Taking up the bulk of the front page is a headline about a parent of another previously missing child. A much poorer parent who could never afford to pay for lawyers to force anyone to print any kind of apology at all.
There has been some talk about this development being unprecedented, and some have asked questions about how this will affect journalism in general - the papers involved in particular. I don't think there'll be much of a difference at all. The scream sheets will still attack people less able to defend themselves and will be more careful about attacking people who can afford to sue them. That's all. Poor people will still be fair game.
I can't help but wonder what would happen if the papers could be subjected to a similar case about their treatment of minorities. It's painfully obvious that the PCC will shrug off the recent complaint by the Federation of Polish People in Great Britain, since it's unlikely the Federation have the resources to go elsewhere. If not - if the FPGB could give a detailed list of each misleading story and afford to sic Schillings on the paper, I wonder how quick it would be before the paper was forced to capitulate.
That won't happen though - and not just because the FPGB can't afford a libel case. The papers already bend the rules as efficiently as possible when it comes to attacking minority groups. That's why they choose groups that aren't covered by the Race Relations Act - Poles, Muslims and asylum seekers. Their treatment of gypsies to get around the Act - simply changing the spelling to 'gipsy', is an illustration of how the papers will go to any lengths to vilify one group or another. So we'll see just as many misleading anti-immigrant stories, if not more. Remember that some of the McCann stories were also used by the Express to push its anti-Muslim agenda, with spurious sightings of Maddie being dragged away by swarthy people in Muslim countries, some of whom wore veils.
So, as nice as it is to see the Express and Star squirmm it gives only as much satisfaction as cutting off the head of a hydra. There'll always be more to replace it. And since the McCann story is something fleeting - actually driven by an actual specific event - it's something that would have withered away by itself in time. Hatred of minority groups - including the poor, bizarrely for papers that are supposed to cater for them - is something that will always be there. And they can't get hold of expensive lawyers.