Primark will turn you into a paedophile, according to The Sun
To quote an old Robin Ince joke, it's not unusual for tabloid stories to have the same effect as a Magic Eye poster; you stare at the story for 20 seconds or so before you realise: "this is bullshit."
It started off as a reasonably serious story. Primark is accused of exploiting children over its decision to sell a padded bikini top for young girls. The £4 piece of swimwear was produced in sizes for children as young as seven years old - by the measure of any right-minded person, there's really no need for a seven year old girl to pretend to have developed breasts.
Of course it's parents who are ultimately responsible for what their child wears - a point not made by the media here because it gets in the way of the story - but the premature sexualisation of children in society is a serious topic, one that's far broader and deeper than Primark's crass attempts at profiteering and exploitation. Primark have now withdrawn the swimwear from sale.
The way the story has been handled by the press is staggering. For starters, the quote picked up by all the media is one attributed to Shy Keenan, "of The Phoenix Chief Advocates which helps victims of paedophiles" according to the BBC. She is quoted as saying:
"It never fails to amaze me just how many High Street household names are now prepared to exploit the disgusting 'paedophile pound'."
Read it again - that statement becomes more ridiculous the more you look at it. Used in this context, Keenan is accusing Primark of attempting to sell this clothing to paedophiles. Obviously that's stupid; Keenan has used the phrase in entirely the wrong context, but none of the press have bothered to correct it because it's a hard-hitting soundbite, even if it doesn't actually make sense.
But then, to even suggest that Primark are somehow deliberately selling these clothes specifically for the titillation of paedophiles is an outrageous accusation; at worst, Primark has gone too far in following the global trend of exploiting the desire of children to be adults before their time. And what is the paedophile pound, anyway? How much is it worth to the UK economy?
That doesn't stop matters getting more outrageous, however. Here's the Sun's take on it:
"Encouraging paedohilia" - The Sun is suggesting that Primark's actions could turn members of the public into paedophiles. In the same way that watching Mamma Mia will turn a straight man gay, presumably. Utter, utter bollocks and another example of a serious point being commandeered for the sake of shameless and reckless scaremongering.
So much of what you read in the press isn't news; it's a manipulated, bastardised version of the truth, a deliberately inflamed opinion or whorish PR. But then I've heard that reading The Sun can give you puss-ridden cock splinters, so you'd do well to stay away.