The Wright Stuff get it Wrong

I have spent the morning trying to talk myself out of writing this post. I am never keen on wading into an issue that only affects me peripherally… and I get frustrated when I read a ranty post from a blogger and it seems like they are just jumping on an already crowded bandwagon.

And yet, today, I feel myself genuinely angry and upset at something in the news. And I don’t know how else to process it other than by writing about it.

A fortnight ago, a 16 year old boy in the Western Isles was reported missing. Last week, his body was found in a derelict building, and this week the investigation was upgraded to a murder investigation.

I don’t know Liam Aitchison. I’d never heard the lad’s name until two weeks ago. But I too am from the Western Isles. Members of my family did know him. He went to school with my niece. Over the past two weeks I have been following the story on news websites, on Facebook, and through text messages with people who called Liam as a friend. They have been hurting in a way I can’t even begin to imagine.

On yesterday’s Matthew Wright show, on Channel 5, a cutting about Liam’s death was included in a panel chat about the day’s newspapers. “There’s been another murder,” growled Wright in a fake Scottish accent. “The first in the Western Isles for forty years.” And then Charlie Baker chips in: “That’s the longest ever episode of Taggart… with a lot of down time.” The panel laughs as a headline about Liam is shown on screen, and then they start asking each other what you can do in the Western Isles. “Can you go fishing? What can you fish for in the Western Isles?”

Wow. Way to trivialise an incident that has devastated a family and a community.

That island community – the likes of which I have never encountered elsewhere – came together yesterday and last night, and responded strongly.  Nearly 700 people have joined a Facebook group called Report the Wright Stuff to Ofcom. The local press have run articles calling for an apology, and now even the local Council, MP and MSP have got involved.

This morning, Matthew Wright apologised for causing offence, but immediately followed that apology with a call for those people who had reported the show to Ofcom to ‘grow up’, which renders it pretty meaningless, in my view.

I am sure that Matthew Wright and Charlie Baker are not monsters. I am sure they are both pretty decent people, who don’t actually find it funny that a teenager has been murdered. But that begs the question of why they were idiotic enough to include the piece on their show.

Here, I think, is why it has been troubling me. It was disrespectful. Deeply, deeply disrespectful; to a boy who lost his life; to the grieving family who have had to go through the horror of identifying his body, and to a community in absolute shock.

Wright and Baker may only see the Western Isles as a place where you go for fishing holidays. But for thousands of people it is home. It is a place where the community is tight-knit; where everyone knows everyone else (and their Granny), and where young children are safe to wander the streets in the evenings because it’s so safe.

The fact that there has been no-one brought to trial for murder on the islands in forty years is something to be proud of, not something to mock. And the fact that the forty year spell has now been broken is something to mourn, not to crack jokes about.

God knows, islanders can laugh at themselves. We are well used to having others laugh at us too; for our strange accents, our signposts in Gaelic, and our quaint observance of the Sabbath that means all those tourists on their fishing holidays can’t get a pint or a paper on Sundays. That is all fine. We’ll have a chuckle along with you.

But when you get it wrong, and laugh at us in a way that hurts, don’t tell us to grow up. Don’t disrespect us. Just say sorry, and leave it at that.

34 responses

  1. totally agree Ruth – it is so sad that people poke fun at something as horrid as this.
    Wright’s apology, as you point out, is meaningless after stating that people who complained about his comments need to ‘Grow Up’ – making it look as though those that complained are in the wrong?!
    My thoughts go out to Liam’s friends and family x

  2. Very interesting – but let’s not forget that this is from a man who RUINED the career of another TV presenter (John Leslie) for incorrectly naming him for commiting some horrible crimes which were later found to be proven incorrect. I’ve yet to see him apologise for that, so I hold little hope for you, Ruth.

    As an aside (and because I actually want to see the context in which this occurred), do you know if the clip is online?

    • Yes, true enough Jordan.

      Channel 5 have pulled the episode off their website, along with the 400+ comments that were posted below it. I believe there is still a clip of the relevant piece on Youtube, but obviously it doesn’t provide the context of the articles that were discussed before and after.

  3. I totally sympathise. It must be awful to have personal connections to such a tragic situation, and then to have it mocked and belittled on air. The odious MW has long been shown up for what he is – a media-hungry little shock-monger, sitting rubbing his hands together in glee when something like happens, cos it boosts his ratings on his grubby show.

    I am truly sorry to hear of poor Liam, and I hope his family and friends can retain their dignity and move on from the disgraceful behaviour of a few idiots.

  4. Coming from a relatively remote part of Scotland myself (albeit not as remote as Harris!) I completely agree. I remember the rumour and innuendo that surrounded the disappearance of Arlene Fraser, and the subsequent trial and conviction of her husband Nat. My younger sister is friends with their son, one of her best friends was his girlfriend, and I remember thinking how awful it must be to have so much, rumour, innuendo, and speculation flying around in the media about your family – especially when you live in such a close-knit community.

    I can only imagine how much worse it must have been for such a mainstream broadcast to actually make light of the situation.

    • Thanks for your comment Stuart – gosh, the media around that case was just crazy. The great thing about small communities – that offsets the negatives – is that hard times like this people will really come together to look after the family and close friends. There will be a lot of support, which won’t make it any easier but perhaps slightly more bearable.

  5. I’m saddened for the loss of this young man to your community. May I extend my sincere condolences to his family & friends. Try to forgive Mr. Wright for his insensitive, thoughtless comment which, perhaps, he regretted later. Sometimes, people get ‘ foot in the mouth’ condition. They speak BEFORE thinking. One of my favorite quotations that can evoke thought is: ” The tongue is the only edged tool that grows SHARPER with use.” ( author unknown)

  6. I have stayed in the Hebrides for the past 7 years, and was completely flabbergasted at such insensitivity, condescension and insulting behaviour. I am pleased the parliamentary representatives have joined the calls for sanctions against C5 and M. Wright.
    More to the point, how would people feel it was their son that had been murdered, and the incident discussed in such a way?

  7. Mathew wright hates scots and hates the fact that the majority of us voted for the SNP he has said “now that we have taken all their oil they have nothing else to offer ” that may not be verbatim but it’s pretty dam close. Thing that puzzles me though if we scots are such a bunch of burdemsome losers , (expecially to the people of London who as we all know have the sun rising and setting in their backsides) then why all the resentment ? you would think Mathew and all the rest of the hate inciting journalists who never seem to tire of spouting their venom in the direction of Scotland would be encouraging us towards independence not throwing their toys out of their prams . It may seem that I am forgetting young Liam here but I’m not , the fact that Wright made these remarks just show how low the nasty little racist has sunk ! that he would use this tragedy to get another dig in at Scotland is indeed disgusting. But he has been given so much rope over the last few years that I believe he will eventually hang himself and all I hope is that I am here to enjoy his self made downfall.

  8. I’m not in the habit of moderating comments on here, but I tried my best to be level-headed and avoid descending into overly critical language in my post. A gentle reminder to everyone else to do the same, please.

    Thank you all for reading and taking the time to comment.

  9. Matthew Wright…did he go to the same school as Jeremy Clarkson by any chance?

    Some people’s only way of getting the media spotlight is to say controversial crap.

    As my mother would say – ‘it’s not big and it’s not clever’

  10. Well done for writing this and I hope you feel better for having written it. That is such unacceptable behaviour, especially from people who should really know better and are in the public eye. I hope the apology is made again with the respect the family deserve.

  11. I don’t keep up to date with current affairs and haven’t seen the Wright Stuff in a very long time but I couldn’t not comment after reading your beautifully written post. It is sad that maybe the only way they will understand the impact of their words is if their lives are touched by something similar. It is a sorry state of affairs when those who we rely on to tell us what is happening in our communities and the wider world are unable to show any compassion. What sort of message is that giving to people? Not one that I care to have my children learn.

  12. complaint to Ofcom about the nature of his apology. Really do.
    I’ve been watching the Levison enquiry with horror and fascination. The disrespect ‘journalists’ show to grieving families is horrific and this is another example.
    His is not a show I watch. Thankfully. It’s crap.

  13. All of us here have been in some way affected by this. The teenagers of his age who knew him or those close to him,and all over the wider community, we have had to deal with the repercussions of a missing teenager and subsequently his death and the murder inquiry. For Mathew Wright to trivialise and mock is more than a step too far. I totally share your views Ruth. To be a part of a place, either geographically or genetically, you feel its life, its breath or its pain.

  14. It’s like you wrote what was going on in my head! My sentiments exactly. Well said. Us Islanders are a funny lot, but we stick together!

  15. Im glad you wrote this down. I agree with everything you said. I too am from lewis and this really has shocked everyone. That idiot wright should be sacked!

  16. I am also one of those who need to grow up, as I complained to Ofcom. I am a Scot by birth and feel that the Lack of respect shown by Wright and the panel was a disgrace. I was brought up if you can’t say anything nice say nothing. Well my manners flew out the window yesterday and I had NOTHING nice to say, and find their poor excuse for an apology a disgrace. I have nothing nice to say about the episode or the people involved in the incident . I agree with you Dorkymum. well written and well said .

  17. I was horrified when I saw this on the Wright Stuff, it was completely inappropriate & disrespectful! I could not believe that there was joking and laughter from the panel and audience while showing the headline of a young boys murder! I certainly will not be watching this programme again as his pathetic apology has just upset me further. I live in a small village in the north west of Scotland and know that this terrible headline has touched alot of people, so to see the Wright Stuff be so insensitive about such a shocking event disgusts me!

  18. I was looking this up as he made another apology this am and i was wondering what he had done this time. I never watch the show, it happened to be on when i switched back on after my son had been watching milkshake, however, oddly, the last time i made the mistake to turn on i also saw him make the john leslie ‘slip’. the man is a moron and my heart goes the family and friends who shouldn’t have to deal with some lowlife trivialising their sons tragic death. it makes my blood boil.

  19. I heard about this over here in Amsterdam, that’s how far the news travelled. I do get BBC here, but none of the UK’s other channels. These presenters in the spotlight need to have more respect when on telly over delicate issues, if they don’t and make jokes without realising it then ‘they’ need to grow up and be taken off air until they do. Absolutely disgusting behaviour.

  20. I am not familiar with the case myself, but judging from your post, I’m glad you take a stand and speak up! I’m a small-town-girl myself and know how much a tragedy like that affects the entire community. How horrible of someone to make fun of it!

  21. It has quietened on over here now, but just a wee note to say thank you so much to everyone who read and commented on this, and to those who shared it on Facebook and Twiiter – I know there were a lot of you because my stats went through the roof for two days!

    RIP Liam. xx

  22. Pingback: A Scot in the South | dorkymum

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