Suffer the little children

Ok. This is the big one. Forget the repulsive jokes being made about Amy Winehouse. When it comes to pure, untrammelled vitriol, you will do well to come close to Katharine Birbalsingh in The Telegraph . And I truly mean to come close. If Cathy Relf was onto something when she wrote about the astonishing knee-jerk reaction of the Sun in labelling the Norwegian massacre as the work of ‘al-Qaeda’ without a jot of evidence, then bow in supplication to the new goddess of the lynch mob.

She laments that ‘Anders Behring Breivik refuses to plead guilty’, but notes that at least he ‘recognises he is responsible’. It’s a little odd that she immediately declares that ‘he shirks real responsibility’, and takes this as proof of his insanity … I do wonder at her qualifications with regards the declaring of an individual insane. Really, I do.

For Katharine, it is Anders’ father who must answer for his son’s actions.

Jens Breivik says he does not “feel like his father”. Oh really? I wonder whether he felt like Anders’ father when he abandoned both him and his mother to marry another woman?

Coo. Now there’s some serious responsibility.

Much has been made recently of press responsibility, not least their obligation to report in a manner that is at the very least not misleading.

Now, read this paragraph and weep:

Of course, normally neglected children go on to have difficult adult relationships themselves and maybe they see a therapist. Sometimes they have trouble settling at school. Most do not go on killing sprees which result in 76 dead. Clearly, something else wasn’t quite right with Anders Breivik. But his father is deeply confused. “How could he just stand there and kill so many innocent people and just seem to think that what he did was OK?” Well maybe he didn’t have a father when he was growing up to teach him the difference between right and wrong. What I want to know is why his father isn’t feeling any sense of remorse for having failed his son.

That’s right. Apparently, most neglected children do not go on killing sprees which result in 76 dead. Most. Most. Most, for fuck’s sake! It is astonishing. Cheap point, I concede … but still …

I’m not sure it’s worth going into the regular lapses of logic in this article. Apparently, Jens ‘fought to take him from his mother and half-sister’, which was a bad thing, but then is lambasted thus: ‘maybe he didn’t have a father when he was growing up to teach him right from wrong’. Yeouch. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, Jens. At this point, I must point out that I don’t condone poor fathership in any way, but without knowing the real facts of the matter, it’s impossible to make any real judgement regarding standards of parenting, either paternally or maternally.

Naturally, Katharine implies very heavily here that a mother is incapable of teaching her son right from wrong. By her logic, Jens merely abrogated his responsibility, even though he apparently tried hard to be allowed to bring up his son. Anders’ mother is the one who failed, by this logic. She even pins blame on Jens’ second wife, who apparently never met Anders.

It is only after this astonishingly brutal, illogical and offensive, er, offensive that Katharine decides to make a point or two that makes any sense, but even these, regarding Jens’ apparent regard only for his reputation and his disregard for the deaths of the 76 victims, suffer from a callous desire to vilify and to apportion blame in the service, one can only infer, of some personal bugbear. Maybe Katharine was once force-fed lutefisk by a Norwegian divorcee, and since then …

Now, it seems from the few ‘facts’ presented that the Breivik family was somewhat fractured, and these sorts of situations always resist simple blame analysis – damn, they usually evade complex analysis.

The final paragraph:

While Anders Breivik is clearly disturbed on many levels, I am certain that the beginnings of his madness started when he was just a small child, when his father abandoned him […] his father’s reaction to this event is disappointing, and demonstrates a lack of humanity that should be there. After so many years, after such horror, would a father not want to speak to his son to find out why he did such a thing? Yet, Jens swears he will not contact his son. It’s not right. Jens’ relationship with his son was not right. And Jens should recognise that.

Phew! Now, I’ve heard of sweeping statements before, but good god.

What’s not right is that this woman is allowed to publish these vitriolic musings – musings which are so violent, bilious and illogical that one can only wonder at the woman’s sanity – in a national newspaper. This article would seem extreme in Spare Rib.

Luckily, from my quick perusal of the comments section, none of the readers of the Telegraph have reacted with anything other than disgust.

Katharine’s byline runs as follows:

Katharine Birbalsingh is the teacher who exposed the failings of the comprehensive school system at the Conservative Party conference last year. Katharine has been teaching in inner London for over a decade and plans to set up a Free School in south London to help to serve underprivileged children. Her book, To Miss with Love, is out now. Follow @Miss_Snuffy on Twitter to see what Katharine’s doing now. Katharine’s personal website is

Christ on a bike. We need to watch every one of those children. They’re bound to turn out badly. Ok, so most of them won’t become Tories, but is it worth the risk? And that’s treating Katharine by her own standards. She may be very good at her job. She may not. I hope it’s not writing …

Whatever you do, do not buy her book, follow her on twitter (Miss_Snuffy? Is this a death-porn badger?), or ever, ever, visit her personal website. She won’t accept responsibility for what it may drive you to.

Tweet This!