On John Terry, Vanessa Perroncel, and the Media

John Terry is a tempting target for the tabloids, and to an extent deserves what he gets. But what about everybody else involved?

I can't believe I'm writing this. Not really sports related and really rather ranty; feel free to skip.

Everyone knows about the John Terry-Vanessa Perroncel-Wayne Bridge saga that threatened to derail Chelsea's season and cost Terry the England captaincy. I won't rehash the details; for months the sordid story was here, there, and everywhere, and football fans of any stripe could hardly avoid it. What I find interesting is how the story was sourced: it was based entirely on a picture of John Terry taken leaving Ms. Perroncel's home and then a collection of tips from anonymous 'close friends.'

Pardon me if this seems naive, but anonymous sources don't seem to be the most robust foundation on which to be building a story of this magnitude. It also strikes me as self evident that those writing the stories also had the motivation to make things up - the goal is to sell papers, not necessarily to tell the truth. This is not to say whether the whole thing is false, the whole thing is true, or somewhere in between - the only people who know for sure are either not talking about it (Terry), or vigourously denying it (Perroncel).

I mention all this because the Guardian recently interviewed Ms. Perroncel, and it's an extremely interesting read - not for any of the details, but in the commentary about how ridiculous the media can get. A couple of excerpts:

For the first three months of this year, Perroncel was ripped apart by the press. Her reputation was destroyed, her public profile one of the most tarnished in the country. Journalists delved deep into her sexual history, running stories based on rumour. They printed satellite images of her home and maps of where and how she might be found. They raked up the details of her parents' divorce, and her father's suicide.

The non-famous women who fall in love with, or are associated with, famous men, are automatically objects of suspicion. Their motives and their morals are questioned; they're considered complicit in any wrong that's done to them.

Does anyone else think the way this whole thing has been handled is absolutely, totally, and completely insane? How is it acceptable, in a civilised society, to so brazenly attack a lady's reputation on the basis of hearsay and rumour? Is our appetite for scandal so large that we're simply ok with conscienceless hacks making money off of made-up stories?

The media looked for this story, found 'evidence' of it, reported it, cited itself as an authority, and prosecuted the criminals it had identified, sentencing them to public defamation. It was judge, jury, and executioner, and while Tery may well have brought it upon himself, it's seems to have been Ms. Perroncel who's taken the brunt of the blame.

I don't like John Terry. I don't think he's a particularly good defender and I think he embarrasses the club on the field with a combination of his self-entitlement, stupidity, and temper. I can totally believe he'd cheat on his wife with an ex-teammate's ex-girlfriend - in fact, I almost want to believe it. But because he's the obnoxious captain of an unpopular team is not an excuse to go after him in the papers and it's certainly not an excuse to cause collateral damage in the form of a woman's career and reputation. One plausibly true story was blown completely out of proportion and reporting about that story carried on for months afterwards as though there was any new information that hadn't been fabricated.

The tabloids are disgusting. They're vermin; parasites, and this needs to stop. I'm most emphatically not supporting Terry here, nor am I angry about the stick Chelsea got because of this story. What I am angry with is the frankly appalling treatment of Vanessa Perroncel throughout the whole ordeal. The implication in the interview linked above is that the press went after her just so they could sell dirt on John Terry, and that, to me, is utterly horrifying.

The world is mad.

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