A man has died from obesity… and The Sun can’t suppress its giggles

Exploitative piece is like a Victorian freak show disguised as a public health story

 

65ST CARL DEAD AFTER ICE CREAM

‘Britain’s fattest man has died – hours after ordering an apple crumble and ice cream from his favourite takeaway.’

So begins the Sun’s coverage of the death of one Carl Thompson, at the age of 33, at his home yesterday in Dover, Kent.

The Sun also saw fit to publish a nearly full-page photograph of the recently deceased Mr Thompson, in case readers wondered what an obese person looks like.

But as the piece notes of Mr Thompson:

“He began eating heavily to numb the pain after his mum died of breast cancer in 2012.”

It quotes Mr Thompson, from a front-page Sun interview in April, saying:

I just can’t stop eating. I’ll eat anything that’s put in front of me. The bottom line is I could die if I keep going the way I do.”

For someone to keep eating like this for years until they reach 65 stone suggests a serious fault in their mental health.

To its credit, the Sun includes the above information and a small column from a reporter, noting the paper arranged for five hours of addiction counselling for Mr Thompson.

Unfortunately, this only increases the sense of exploitation by the paper you have in reading the piece.

We are invited to gasp and perhaps chuckle at Mr Thompson’s size by means of the photograph and the grinning headline and introduction.

Then we are given heart-wrenching quotes from a local Pizza take-away owner saying Thompson was ‘full of life’ and optimistic about receiving help.

Finally an old quote from the deceased foretells his own death.

Highlighting cases such as these can be defended on several grounds. But newspapers should make up their minds if they are drawing attention to a public health issue or reproducing the affect of a Victorian freak show, for the general amusement of its readers.

Trying to do both at the same time, or use one as a cover for the other, makes you want to go and take a shower.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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13 Responses to “A man has died from obesity… and The Sun can’t suppress its giggles”

  1. GhostofJimMorisson

    For someone to keep eating like this for years until they reach 65 stone suggests a serious fault in their mental health.

    No, it suggests a greedy bastard. When my weight got to 17 stone I thought to myself “I’m getting a bit podgy, best do something about it”. People need to take responsibility for their bodies. Help is out there for anyone who needs it.

  2. moochka

    “No, it suggests a greedy bastard. When my weight got to 17 stone I thought to myself “I’m getting a bit podgy, best do something about it”. People need to take responsibility for their bodies. Help is out there for anyone who needs it.”

    ….something tells me you don’t understand how mental conditions work. If your answer to an irrational act is an over-simplistic rational solution then you evidently don’t get it and should probably stay quiet.

  3. Selohesra

    Is the Mirror’s coverage really any better? – its what you expect from a tabloid
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/britains-fattest-man-dead-carl-5924039

  4. dnspncr

    It would be easy for me to label you as a thick bastard who knows fuck all about psychology but I understand there are a multitude of possible motivating factors behind your comment so I’ll refrain myself.

  5. AlanGiles

    Let’s be fair. I loathe the “Sun” but it wasn’t the only paper to show a photograph of the poor chap. I have a copy of “Metro” here for example which shows an unclothed photograph.

    The Sun is a crass red-top tabloid but most of the papers picked up on this story this morning.

  6. Fred Flintstone

    Its ok for the mirror to that, just like hacking phones.

  7. stevep

    I will always advocate freedom of choice, as long as the choices people make don`t harm anyone or anything.
    Unfortunately some poor souls, for whatever reason, lose their way and have to be protected from harming themselves and potentially, others. Sectioning such individuals under mental health legislation and giving them proper care and treatment until they can become functioning members of society once more, might be the answer.
    As for Victorian freak shows, such fairground attractions were very popular in their time, people visiting them pointing, laughing and being disgusted by others with imperfections so as to divert attention away from their own internal and external imperfections.
    One of the more popular freak shows was the hall of mirrors, where visitors could stand in front of and marvel at, various distortions of the truth.
    Small wonder then, that the tabloids are so popular today.

  8. jacko

    Is there no end to your humourless, sanctimonious moralizing about newspaper stories, Adam Barnett?

    Let’s examine some your statements:

    “The Sun also saw fit to publish a nearly full-page photograph.”

    Media use photographs. Otherwise entire pages would be unbroken text. And since the story is about Britain’s fattest man, it’s hardly surprising that the photo features that subject.

    “We are invited to gasp and perhaps chuckle at Mr Thompson’s size.”

    Since he is Britain’s fattest man, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of those two reactions would occur in most people.

    “Highlighting cases such as these can be defended on several grounds.”

    Oh, can it? Gee, thanks. So newspapers would still be able to run stories about fat people under a Labour government, would they? Oh, the freedom of a Left wing administration.

    “Newspapers should make up their minds if they are drawing attention to a public health issue or reproducing the affect of a Victorian freak show.”

    Why should they? Because you think so? They’re not charities or public bodies. Or would you like to introduce another new law?

  9. Torybushhug

    Another victory for the boundless welfare state. Don’t worry, no matter what you consume, no matter what you do the state will reward you. Back in the day obesity was unusual.

  10. ChristyCTaylor

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  12. TN

    Seriously Adam, your “exposés” about the evil, nefarious right wing media are getting tedious at this stage. I thought it was getting pathetic when you complained like a repressed virgin about The Sun’s bikini photos competition.

  13. TN

    Probably no, to answer your first question.

    I’m getting sick of the moralising of him, Bloodworth and Stockham to be honest.

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