What would you do?
Abby OReilly // 13 September 2008
What would you do if you saw someone being brutally beaten on the side of the road as you walked past? Would you stop, intervene, call the police, ask the bloodied victim if they are OK? As a lone woman, would you just walk on by and pretend it wasn’t happening? Or would you still feel compelled to say something, do something, the desire to help overwhelming, far greater than the yearning for self-preservation and the need to flee? What if, then, you saw a woman who had been punched/pushed to the ground being repeatedly tugged at, pulled, and more than likely beaten by one man, as another looked on with a barking pit-bull as you glided past in the back seat of a car, driven by a male ex-doorman? Would you do anything then? And would the decision be so instantaneous that you wouldn’t even have to consider offering some form of assistance in broad daylight as someone (helpless and in obvious trouble) lay on the ground?
Well, not if you are Lowri Turner, who, while being chaperoned to a “job in TV” yesterday, happened to witness this exact scene, managing to get featured on the front-page of the Western Mail for not only displaying highly offensive classism, an inflated sense of her own self-importance, and a depressingly lacklustre style of writing, but for also being a strong proponent of the idea that “sometimes it’s best to just look after yourself.” Who’s Lowri Turner? You might ask. Having read the article in question you could be forgiven for thinking she’s a celebrity A-lister, or an important social commentator, but she’s the deplorable antithesis. She lacks the wit and turn-of-phrase of Julie Burchill and (dare I say it) the conviction of Dr Pam Spurr. While Spurr is nothing short of a female misogynist, at least you cannot doubt that she truly believes what she writes. Turner, however, is a woman who has made a career from criticising and casting judgement on others. She has no talent and offers no fresh, interesting perspective on any topic she happens to sink her sharp, bitter incisors into. Sadly, someone at the Western Mail saw fit to give her a column to spew-out her critiques of the world, much to the detriment of the Welsh reader who now, more than any other reader in the world, is acutely aware that verbal diarrhoea and dysentery can be messily communicated through a keyboard. She courts controversy like a teenager with a crush, hoping that the more acerbic her pieces are the more possible it will be to develop a long-term commitment with the public, although, once the initial impact of her pieces have cooled, the vast majority are left wondering who she is, and she’s left to skulk home, laptop in hand, wondering what other vulnerable facet of society she can target next in the pursuit of self-aggrandisement.
I’m reluctant to call Turner a journalist because apart from a few clichéd pieces and some presenting work on a couple of forgettable shows I’ve not seen much of her writing elsewhere, and while she is a regular panellist on Channel Five’s The Wright Stuff, she’s rarely anything more than a cynical bad vibe machine, shipped in to make up the numbers. Her previous published work includes ‘However much I love my gay friends, I don’t want them running the country,’ and ‘I love my mixed race baby – but why does she feel so alien?’ (In which she admits she can’t help “examining my daughter for signs that her skin is becoming a deeper shade of brown and being perturbed when I do find them.”) It’s also worth noting here that the “job in TV” she refers to was probably that on The Wright Stuff, (as she’s not doing anything else), where yesterday she sat, purse-lipped, barking out disparaging comments about teenage mothers, denigrating and undermining the achievements and happiness of any who seemed to be enjoying a contented existence in opposition to the Vicky-Pollard stereotypical assumptions most young mums have to counter everyday. Can’t we celebrate successful teenage mums? Asked Matthew Wright, to which Turner effectively blue a raspberry, sniping, nah!
The piece in question is not offensive solely because of the degree of selfishness it displays, but mainly because Turner tries to position herself as some sort of victim in the whole debacle; this is something that happened to her, the woman on the ground nothing more than an inconvenience, disrupting her journey to work and forcing her to think of someone else existing in the world external to her own:
As the car continued, I was frozen. I tried to make sense of the scene, at least that’s what I thought I was doing. Now, I wonder if I was actually trying to decide whether she was deserving of my help or not? She looked, the only word for it is rough, as did the men These are the kind of people most of us would give a wide berth to if they were sat on a bench drinking larger.
But, they weren’t sat on a bench drinking larger. The woman was on the floor being attacked as one man abused her and another looked on. She continues, making sure to state that her driver also happened to share her very blinkered view by apparently exclaiming “People don’t want to get involved, do they?” I don’t know what to believe. I’d be very surprised considering the general tone of the piece if Turner would, in reality, fraternise with her driver. It reads like self-justification, Turner attempting to validate her own self-centredness by trying to demonstrate the extent to which others consolidate and share her view. It seems as if she feels she should be commended for her ‘honesty,’ when in actual fact the effect of the piece is to demonstrate the extent to which such attitudes are actually perpetuating less cohesive and unsupportive communities, as the idea that I’m-alright-so-what-if-you’re-not attitude becomes further embedded in society. She switches between representing her opinions through first-person pronouns, to use of the collective “we” and “us,” but unfortunately Turner’s attempt at trying to convince me that this is what I should and do think are not very successful. Take responsibility, you can’t get forgiveness or acceptance for disregarding the circumstances of another by trying to type your way out of it! The driver decided to turn the car around and investigate the situation, (The. Driver.), something Turner tries to take partial credit for: “we turned the car around.” Umm No, you didn’t. You sat there contemplating how you could use this woman’s bad experiences as material for a column you had a deadline for. But, before we can commend her gallant driver, she’s careful to explain that he just “hung back and observed.” She continues (relieved that she wasn’t immediately exposed as the heartless coward she is):
The woman staggered out of the park and walked towards me. She looked even rougher close up. She was in her forties, with tight jeans and a pinched face. She was obviously distressed. I watched her approach and I was faced with another chance to help her. Should I get out of the car and ask if she was OK? Had she been wearing a designer suit and carrying a suitcase would I have intervened? Probably. I’d have decided that she was worthy of my help. But it wasn’t simply a judgement about her I was making. It was about myself and my safety. I looked again at her face and her slightly glazed eyes Even so, part of it wasn’t fear. It was cynicism and resignation. Even if she was lucid, I knew I’d have to call the police and make a statement and maybe take her to casualty and would it end up in court and even if it did wouldn’t the magistrate just let the man off anyway? It all felt like an awful lot of time and trouble for someone who probably went through similar things every day. So, I looked away from her tears and waited for her to pass by.
What a repulsive attitude, especially owing to the fact Turner got her sour-faced visage splashed across the front-page of the Western Mail for this tripe, looking so bedraggled that you’d think she was the woman who had suffered this ordeal, and not just a spectator who profited from it. The reason I make reference to her appearance is because of the disproportionate time she seems to spend on making moral judgements about this woman on the basis of the way she looked. Turner has serious problems with materialism if she thinks just because someone is wearing designer clothes they have more of a right not to be the victim of anti-social behaviour than someone who is wearing rags and a potato sack. She observed all this from the car, so I am sceptical about her ability to determine if the woman’s eyes were actually “glazed.” Why? Because Turner has already shown herself to easily take recourse to social stereotypes to bolster her own insensitive and uncaring behaviour, and so this sentence was probably motivated by the driver’s claim that the woman was actually a “working girl,” with her attacker trying to get money out of her pocket. And, everyone knows, of course, “working girl” equals “hardened junkie” – Err, no, Lowri, but ailing TV wannabe and talentless writer does equal a desperate hack trying to make headlines to the detriment of others, no matter how irresponsible, don’t you think? Turner continues to explain why she was also reluctant to help – she probably wouldn’t get any thanks anyway! What would she be expecting? An OBE, the Victoria Cross, all for displaying a modicum of human decency How depressing.
By Turner’s logic anyone who is attacked or witnesses an attack should not bother to contact the authorities or attempt to get justice; they should just accept it as part of their life. They should also not expect anyone else to help them, or facilitate their transportation to those who can help them. After all, nothing is likely to happen; if you are the victim you won’t get anything, and if you were the spectator then you will just be wasting time on trying to help someone you don’t know, without any personal benefits, so why should you care anyway? Well, because most of us are not made of asbestos, Lowri. Why does she think that the frequency with which a woman may be attacked would somehow reduce the severity and impact of the crime? And why does she relate this all with a sense of pride – shouldn’t she be ashamed of her irresponsible treatment of another person, not only in the actual act of ignoring this woman in her time of need, but in using her observation (what she claims to have lasted no more than two or three minutes, although we have no idea how long the woman suffered) of what happened to line her own pockets, denigrate this woman on the basis of her clothing, and imply that the woman was deserving of it due to her lifestyle? She ends by saying that “I now know I am like everybody else,” but she’s not. Keep telling yourself that, Lowri, maybe then you can be vindicated for what, in the extreme, you would have been willing to do – leave a woman to die on the side of the road. I am not like Lowri Turner. I would be so ashamed. My parents would be so ashamed. I would be reptilian. Decent people would not write about comparable events with such self-righteousness, and she did not convince me otherwise.
Yes, situations like this are intimidating. It’s hard to know what to do, and to pre-empt the reactions of the people guilty of transgressive behaviour. We do have to be careful, but surely if we want to live in a society where we can walk safely as women (or men, for that matter), then we each need to accept a certain degree of social responsibility for upholding the moral and legal orders by which it is universally accepted we should abide. Nobody wants to get hurt, but I cannot fathom how an individual could do nothing in such circumstances and essentially boast about it afterwards, expecting some sort of pat on the back. Of course, if two men are fighting in a back alleyway in the dead of night, then a lone individual may not really know how to handle this situation. I would struggle. But I wouldn’t walk away, forgetting it. I would discretely use my mobile, call the police, or failing that would run to the nearest person and ask to use their phone. I would essentially react the same during any circumstances like this, as I know physically I could do little to halt a fight, but I would not close my eyes and allow someone to continue being abused. I also understand that these situations can be diverse, and at times physical involvement by another can exacerbate an already explosive liaison – but, again, it need not be ignored. And if I witnessed someone being beaten to the point of death or severe injury and there was not enough time for the police to arrive and stop the conflict before tragedy struck, then I would dive in – hoping that this would provide the authorities with the opportunity to reach the scene and do something about it. Some may think this would be foolish, but I just couldn’t watch a woman (or man) being violentally attacked and do nothing.
I would also not turn away from the victim, refuse to offer a smile or make contact with them (as if they were a piece of dirt not even deserving of a fleeting glance) all because they had the audacity to allow themselves to suffer a brutal attack. I certainly wouldn’t consider truthfully relaying my understanding of what happened to the police or a courtroom, in hope that the person who suffered the upset could get justice, a drain on my time, and it is precisely attitudes like Turner’s that prevent so many women from coming forward when they have been beaten and/or raped. Why does Turner consider her time more important than helping another woman get justice? She is not really a celebrity. She does not have a hectic career. Is it because that woman was allegedly a prostitute? I’m not an aspiring modern-day hero, I’m just a normal woman with ordinary values, with a firm grasp of what is right and what is wrong. If Turner had been genuinely scared and then repentant then maybe she could elicit some sense of sympathy for having been in a difficult situation, but for her it never was hard. She was simply on her way to make-up and did not want to be disturbed by what she considered the raw working classes, and then tried to explain it away. It hasn’t worked, though.
Moral of the story: if you’re thinking of setting yourself on fire, don’t do it when Turner is in the vicinity. It’s unlikely that, unless you’re wearing a pair of Manolo Blanhiks and dousing yourself in an expensive vintage champagne as an inflammatory, she would consider you worthy enough to piss on. Ho hum. I had the pleasure of being in the presence of Turner in the green room of a TV show I appeared on last year, and without going into too much detail her writing persona is truly reflective of her personality (admittedly, I did not know who she was until someone mentioned afterwards that she actually worked in the media). I also used to write a few pieces for the Western Mail, but stopped when I realised that, in my opinion, certain factions of the paper seemed to lack anything reminiscent of journalistic integrity or research abilities. But please, WM, don’t give Turner any more editorial space! Yes, Wales is a small country, but surely you could harness home-grown talent instead of indulging the homophobic and, let’s face it, sexist, racist, and classist attitudes of a woman who is not even resident in an area where the WM is distributed (while she claims to have strong welsh roots, from what I understand she was born in London, lives there now and has done for sometime). Cardiff girl Ruth Jones, for example, would probably do a fabulous job, as would Joanna Page, Lisa Rogers, Rachel Tresize, Lucy Owen, or even Charlotte Church (as I’m sure she would give it a go!). Just, please, seriously consider getting rid of Turner, before we are bombarded with yet more of her incessant, offensive, and morally distorted twittering.