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The Capital’s Real Menace

March 15, 2012

Some days ago, Simon Jenkins published an article in the London Evening Standard entitled “Tally ho! Hunt down the capital’s vulpine menace”. In it he explained:

London’s small gardens are infested. In mine, pigeons so fat their legs can hardly support them roll about on the steps. Parakeets squawk in the trees. Grey squirrels munch their way through rose buds and strip clematis. Mice trot this way and that, leaving little trails of droppings. Foxes treat garden sheds as free bed and breakfast.

To Simon Jenkins, the council’s careful advice on how to deter the fox from making its home in his expensive Holland Park garden was outrageous. He was bemused when the person suggested he could urinate near his shed, as that would get rid of the fox easily and humanely. He demanded extermination. His own suggestion was “strychnine and two barrels of a shotgun”. He fantasised about a full-on hunt in Holland Park.

Rarely have I seen a more eloquent, if unwitting, expression of the sense of entitlement the rich of this land feel; their refusal to share the planet with other living creatures. He might as well add “benefit scroungers” and “pretend disabled” to that list and sound the horn.

Like every truly stupid story in the Standard, it was accompanied by a truly stupid picture. The photo below appeared with the byline: “FEARLESS: An urban fox scurries past the entrance to Southwark Crown Court in broad daylight”

I will limit myself to pointing out that this is the cleanest, fluffiest fox I have ever seen in my local borough of Southwark; that it does not cast a shadow (like the guard behind it does); that it is in perfect focus when equidistant parts of the pavement are not; and finally that its reflection in the glass is not a mirror image (note the hind legs, which should  be reflected the opposite way). You can draw your own conclusions.

If the veracity of this pictorial is anything to go by, perhaps like everything else in the Standard, the story was entirely made up. Perhaps Simon Jenkins didn’t call about a fox and the council didn’t tell him to urinate near the shed. Perhaps he called about a cat and the council told him to piss off.

Of course, this is not Jenkins’ first foray into thoughtless idiocy. He was outraged when it was suggested that he should improve his security after he has been burgled, describing it as “locking the door after the horse has bolted” – as if nobody gets burgled more than once. He was outraged by the occupy movement, which he described as “not a proper protest”. He was outraged by suggestions that privatising the police may, just possibly, be a bad idea.

His rants fit perfectly within the Evening Standard’s ultra-right-wing, illiberal, illiterate agenda. (I always note with amusement how differently he occasionally writes for the Guardian.)

And this is the more serious point: Having destroyed its competition and secured the much-coveted, single-paper distribution spots inside underground stations, the London Evening Standard is essentially a monopoly; a sole voice shouting “Vote Boris” five evenings a week; a monotonous white noise telling us that the only important square mile in our city in the Square Mile of The City. This election leaflet, thrust into my hands on a daily basis, is much more annoying and offensive than any urban fox.

I, for one, have decided to stop mechanically picking up the damn thing, just because it is free. I urge you to do the same.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2012 6:23 pm

    That picture really made me laugh, do they seriously think anybody would think it wasn’t fake? Well done Alex

  2. March 15, 2012 8:14 pm

    That they suggested it was a real picture is laughable – but surely doctored photographs aren’t allowed unless marked as such? Or are free papers governed by different rules? Or maybe I’m just naive.

  3. March 15, 2012 10:12 pm

    I was willing to give the Evening Standard the benefit of the doubt when Lebedev bought it. But it has shown itself no better than before, and if anything worse. The headline on Monday was about as partial and Boris-biased as you’re likely to get. Even the Sun only got quite that bold on election day itself.

    I expect shortly to see the exact same picture, with Ken photoshopped instead of the fox, with the caption “FEARLESS: Ken Livingstone scurries past the entrance to Southwark Crown Court in broad daylight” and an article by Simon Jenkins calling for the return of McCarthyism.

  4. Muffit permalink
    March 15, 2012 10:57 pm

    I’m inclined to think the picture is real, or could be, what’s worrying is rich people calling for wanton violence against defenceless animals like they have a right.

    I think we need to consider wanton violence against rich people who think that’s OK before we consider that.

  5. Journo permalink
    March 16, 2012 3:28 pm

    Sorry to rain on your parade, but that’s a (genuine) Press Association picture taken outside Southwark crown court. So, before you all rush to glib generalisations, it’s not faked – something the Standard wouldn’t do anyway…

  6. Journo permalink
    March 16, 2012 3:45 pm

    Only that it’s in every newspaper’s in-house electronic picture library. The original caption reads: A security officer stares in amazement at an urban fox strolling past the entrance to Southwark crown court in London, Tuesday January 7, 2003. PA photo: Michael Stephens.

    I’m sure PA would be able to account for its veracity if you still persist in thinking it’s a conspiracy….

    • March 16, 2012 3:55 pm

      So, it is a real 10-year-old picture. Excellent.

      • Journo permalink
        March 16, 2012 4:01 pm

        It’s still six years younger than the example you’ve dredged up to support your argument that the Standard makes everything up

      • March 16, 2012 4:10 pm

        I dredged that one up as a counter-argument to your “something the Standard wouldn’t do” since, clearly, they are your employer.

  7. Alan permalink
    March 16, 2012 5:50 pm

    So where is the photographers’ reflection?

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