The ongoing hostilities between The Sun and The Guardian (see links to previous stories below) flared up again this week as the red top’s managing editor Richard Caseby demanded an apology for a Marina Hyde piece which used the term ‘down market scrubbers’ in connection with Page 3 girls .
Hyde condemned The Sun for its use of a bikini-clad picture of Reeva Steenkamp on its front page to illustrate a story about her murder. Discussing it in the light of Rupert Murdoch’s Twitter message suggesting that Page 3 could be replaced with: “Perhaps halfway house with glamorous fashionistas”, Hyde said: “What Rupert is after, this made clear, is a better class of tit – not those cheap tits, attached to downmarket scrubbers so guilelessly keen to show you them…”
When the Guardian published a column last week by Marina Hyde in which she referred to Page 3 girls as "downmarket scrubbers", I was appalled and asked editor Alan Rusbridger for an apology.
Was this the same newspaper that campaigned for women's rights all through the 1970s and beyond, and I mean all women's rights. Battered women, prostitutes, any woman who felt threatened? Maybe even the right of Page 3 girls to a smidgen of respect from the sisterhood?
Remember, these are the same Page 3 girls who travelled to Helmand to cheer up the soldiers on the front line, the ones who serve Christmas dinner with a winning smile to severely injured troops at Headley Court military hospital, the ones who raise tens of thousands of pounds for Help for Heroes.
All institutions have their time in the sun and all media must adapt to a fast-changing digital universe and the readers they serve. So I defend anyone's right to an honest objection to Page 3. But are you really sure you want to call these girls “downmarket scrubbers” in your pages, Rusbridger?
Are you sure you don't want to apologise, to issue a clarification to say you didn't really mean it? To think, actually, on reflection, Hyde's hamfisted column didn't work - it just looks like we're insulting them personally?
Flipping through Cassell's dictionary of slang, you'll find this definition: “Scrubber (1950s) 1. A promiscuous woman usu. young (cf. slapper)” and an alternative: “a mare that runs wild in scrub country, copulating indiscriminately with stray stallions.”
How sad and ironic that Hyde should use such debased language in an article purporting to defend Reeva Steenkamp, the South African model shot to death. The Guardian, though, says it will definitely not apologise for Hyde's description of Page 3 girls as "downmarket scrubbers". Why?
Wait for it... because the paper says in a statement that the author of the offending article was "clearly channelling the imagined thoughts of Rupert Murdoch". Come again?
Sadly, Rusbridger hasn't elaborated as to whether Hyde was using a crystal ball or an ouija board.
So that's what you learn in the Guardian school of gonzo journalism. You dream up something really hateful, put it in the mouth or mind of someone who never said or thought it in the first place and walk away from any responsibility whatsoever. I think it's called post-modern cowardice.
A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said: "The Guardian's independent readers' editor received one complaint about Marina Hyde's column, from Richard Caseby. Having reviewed the complaint, and recognising that she was clearly employing the use of irony, he will be taking no further action."