Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Lancashire Vampire in Washington.

In that once-respected newspaper, the Washington post, the tale of a UK English teacher lambasted for having the audacity to have a private life has been somewhat embellished by one Emil Steiner.

It seems Mr. Steiner, and the Washington Post, are happy to print their assumptions that the teacher in question actually practices some kind of vampire rituals at night, and are no doubt delighted that many of their redneck readers have condemned this woman solely on the basis of their thoughtless babbling. All she has, in fact, done, is write a book. If we are to assume that every writer lives out what they write, then Clive Barker and Stephen King should have been locked away a long time ago.

The Press thrives on conflict. Where there is none, they make it up. The only comfort in this for me is that the UK press are not the only ones guilty of such feeble scaremongering. There was a time, not so long ago, when reporters actually went out and looked for real stories. Now, it seems, they are content to browse the Internet for some tidbit they can build on to produce their worthless chatter.

If someone gets their career ruined in the process, well that's just tough. Mr. Steiner and his ilk are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank, their consciences firmly gagged with dollar bills.

In the article linked, Mr. Steiner relates two earlier cases in which he has villified teachers who, he states, committed no crime. Neither has any crime been committed in this case. Clearly, he does not permit a trivial detail such as the truth to get in his way when he wants to demonise the innocent.

This is a story of a small-town school with a minor issue to deal with. There is no crime here. Heck, there is no worthwhile story here! It's a small administrative issue. Teachers found publishing pornography are--and have been--immediately dismissed. This is not the case here. The whole thing is like the gossip that travels around knitting circles, embellished and exaggerated at each step. The half-senile, wizened old crones who never bother to check the facts are, in this case, reporters.

Mr. Steiner and his cronies can splash around in the shallow end of the gene pool to their heart's content for all I care.

I just wish they'd do it more quietly.


Scary Monster said...

Mr. Romulus. Me understands your perturbation about the article, which was published under the op ed page by the way, but please limit your comments to the writers of the article, not the readers, even if they all might be rednecks, which Me seriously doubts.
The teacher in question has done more than just publish a book she has set up a web page and posted videos. That also in itself is not cause for the treatment she recieved.
It be true, absolutely true that the press makes it a point of lambasting the object of derison, it makes for better copy and that sell more papers. That's what they want to do.
The woman really didn't do anything wrong all she did was exercise her imagination and put it out there for the world to see. The problem as Me sees it be that the school that she be working at is somehow connected to a religious affiliate (church of England)That would make vampire stories a no no.
Many other writers have been attacked for putting their thoughts down on paper. They have all paid the price for it and many have been vindicated. She made her choice and I hope that all this publicity will promote her book so that she doesn't need a job and might choose a position where her attitudes will be more readily accepted.

Romulus Crowe said...

Sacary - I didn't mean to imply that all the readers were rednecks, but that those 'rednecks' amongst the readership reacted by attacking the woman. Bad phrasing. My fault.

Much has been made of the 'erotic content' of the website, which has now been removed. The videos were head-shots of the woman reading her poetry. The images were her publicity shots. She was 'dolled up' in what might be considered sexy clothing, but revealed nothing that shouldn't be revealed, and indeed far less than is revealed daily in some UK newspapers. The press refer to 'images' and 'videos' in a way which implies they were live-sex pornography. They were not.

As for the content, well, Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' is part of the reading list for UK schools, as is all of Shakespeare. When I was at school, one of the books we studied was 'Lord of the Flies', in which a schoolboy dies at the hands of other schoolboys. It was written by a schoolmaster, I believe. We also studied 'The Hobbit' which is full of magic and has a wizard as a main character. Odd, then, that it didn't get the same attention as 'Harry Potter'. Times have certainly changed.

We studied Shakespeare's 'The Tempest', in which the deformed Caliban's lust for Miranda is clear, and the sexual ambiguity of Ariel certainly made us think.

What concerned me most here was that this woman's book and website were separate from her school work. It's not as if she was trying to indoctrinate the children into some religious cult.

If the press can destroy someone so completely, someone who has done nothing wrong, they can do the same to anyone. That is the core of my worry about cases like this. It's like having a witchfinder on the loose, all over again.

No more fair trial. Once the papers catch you, you're guilty, no matter what the outcome of any investigation.

Romulus Crowe said...

More info - the website wasn't 'removed' as I thought. It's been set to be non-visible to the public. The site is on Myspace, so if there was objectionable content they'd have deleted it. They haven't.

I forgot to mention that in 'The Tempest', Caliban's attempted rape of Miranda is discussed, though not shown. That was suitable, indeed compulsory, reading for my schooldays.

Further, the employment contracts in the UK forbid this woman from discussing the case with colleagues, the press, or anyone else until it is resolved. She has no right of reply to the allegations made in the press.

No such restrictions apply to the employer.

At times like this, I'm very glad to be self-employed.

tom sheepandgoats said...


Regarding "'dolled up' in what might be considered sexy clothing, but revealed nothing that shouldn't be revealed, and indeed far less than is revealed daily in some UK newspapers:"

We here in the U.S. used to greatly look forward to BBC news with Michal Hussein, an extremely attractive woman wearing tops with extremely plunging necklines. Of course I never noticed this at all, though everyone else I know did.

Incidentally, she disppeared with barely a trace. The BBC, they tell me, reports she had to attend to family matters, and I have even heard speculation that she was related to the you-know-who Hussein of Iraq!

You're in the U.K. and you investigate things. What gives?

Romulus Crowe said...

I think Hussein is rather a common surname in the Arab world. So just having the same surname doesn't mean she's related. I, for example, am not related to the actor Russel Crowe, and fortunately look nothing like him.

If she 'vanished for family matters', knowing the British reserved manner, it most likely means she's pregnant and her bosses are worried that she won't fit behind the desk, or that her increasing bulge will distract viewers from the news.

I'll see whether I can find anything on the subject. Maybe I can find a photo of that plunging neckline, since you missed it ;)

Romulus Crowe said...

A cursory swipe of the Internet suggests she might be one of Saddam Hussein's daughters.

It's just one reference, so its legitimacy is suspect. Even if it's true, I don't think the desire for dictatorship is hereditary so I wouldn't apply the old 'sins of the fathers' thing.

Although if your dad was about to be hanged for whatever reason, that would more than justify taking some time away from work.

tom sheepandgoats said...

I recall reading somewhere that she is highly educated. Prestigious schools. That, and to land BBC anchorwoman position at a fairly young age would suggest an upbringing of privilege, consistent with what Swipes says.

Her reporting was always insightful and competent, at least as much as any of them, betraying no obvious religious bias.

Romulus Crowe said...

Well, I don't think Saddam Hussein's administration was religion based. He ran a secular state. I could be wrong, since foreign politics is not a particular forte of mine. I don't like domestic politicians so I pay no attention at all to those in other countries. They're someone else's problem.

I think, though, that under Saddam there was none of this 'women must stay home and do as they're told' stuff. Iraqi women were entitled to education, although I have no idea whether the education was free or not.

Anyway, just like everywhere else, money buys a better education so Saddam's children would have had every opportunity to develop to their full potential. That's a constant in any country, regardless of how it's run or who runs it.

I haven't seen Michal Hussein myself, but it sounds like she made good use of that available education. Good for her.

Kelvine Dogglatter said...

You clearly have not read Mr. Steiner's article as he states support for the teacher in question. Moreover he asks readers for their opinion on the matter. Perhaps next time you accuse someone of "printing assumptions" you should do a little research rather than appear hypocritical

Romulus Crowe said...

I have indeed read the article. I went back and read it again. I can't find any statement of support other than that the teacher's students supported her.

The article's title:

"School Mistress by Day, Vampire Mistress by Night"


"Can Teachers Practice Porn?"

Do these not set the tone of the article straight away? The reader is set up to expect a story of some Gothic vampire girl with an involvement in porn, and who might well be luring children into her cult.

The first paragraph is pretty damning, don't you think?

The second (there are only two) contains the aforementioned note that her pupils support her, phrased as 'several commenters claiming to be pupils' - a phrasing that implies they might not be. Hardly unstinting support, I'd say.

He does, indeed end with a note that readers should make up their own minds, but as any skilled journalist can tell you, many of his readers made up their minds after reading the headings.

Is that sufficient research for you? If there is a phrase in there where Steiner actually states his own support for this teacher, point it out.

Your own attempt at manipulation of the reader is transparent -'Clearly you have not read' ''Do a little research' 'Hypocritical' - the stock phrases of the message board, designed to convince the casual reader that you know all about the subject at hand and are exposing a fraud. This is the wrong place for such petty tricks.

Please feel free to refute my assertions, but be aware that I will reply.

Do you really work for Guinness, or is that just a hiding place?

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