Deborah Orr: A coating of postmodern irony doesn't hide hypocritical attitudes towards sex

Click to follow

Channel 4 has decided to drop a few million quid launching its new television channel with just such a spoof. All over Britain, it has proclaimed in posters that it is launching a "new Adult Entertainment Channel". This is written in porny neon to create a nudge-nudge double entendre that, supposedly, works on quite a number of levels. Unhappily, though, since it deliberately fails to deliver on its promise, the work it does can best be compared to that of a dodgy geezer running a clip joint.

The channel, by using the words "adult entertainment", promises pornography. This is ostensibly audacious because Channel 4 is proud of its Daily Mail-generated reputation as overly sexual, and also because Britain does actually have the largest number of porn channels in Europe by far (26 to runner-up Germany's five).

In other words, the idea that Channel 4 should launch an adult entertainment channel is not implausible - except for the fact that it would break with the odd parallel morality whereby the most outrageously exploitative and tasteless behaviour is tolerated and celebrated, as long as it respects the narrow boundary of the mainstream (why Pete Doherty can be pictured taking drugs and Kate Moss can't, why cabinet ministers can be foul-mouthed in private while newspapers asterisk even mild swear words etc).

But all the advertisements were really saying (ha,ha!) was that the new channel provides entertainment for people who are grown up! And judging from the stir they have caused (none), most people understood that right away.

The channel in question is called More4 and if you're looking for a television channel that challenges, in an adult way, our oh so modern society's seeming need to suffuse everything with the sort of meaningless sexual content that ought to appeal only to 14-year-old male virgins with performance anxiety, and its possible connection with the cutting up of young girls, the fact that Britain is a world centre for the sex trade, and the dubious morality of promising celebrity to young people who'll have sex on television, it is pretty plain that More4 will not be it. More4, as it displays in its own jaded launch advertisements, is able to promise, simply, more of the same.

Privilege of bad behaviour

Rhys Gray is the poor little rich boy whose anti-authoritarian stance got him kicked out of Marlborough, and whose ability to manipulate his dad got them into the county court. Russell Gray challenged the right of Marlborough College to expel the 16-year-old, left, for bad behaviour, and had to throw in the towel at a cost of £200,000.

This was because the college responded in kind when Mr Gray went public in his criticisms of the school, and revealed that the boy had had 200 disciplinary "blue chits" against him in the previous year. The school also revealed that Mr Gray had been uncooperative when the school tried to talk to him about the boy's problems.

Mr Gray says he knew he was sunk when the judge started comparing the obligations of state schools with the freedoms of private schools, and knew the establishment figure would side with Marlborough. He is quite wrong. Mr Gray could have sent his boy to a state school that was obliged to put up with this bad behaviour. The selfish posturing of both father and son would have to have been borne. Mr Gray is a millionaire, who lives in a grand house. Privilege, increasingly, is all about buying respite from the Mr Grays of this world, however poor or wealthy they may be.

Irresponsibility sells, even if the taxpayer has to pick up the costs

There are reports in the red-top press about the high cost of protecting those who have served their time for their crime but who need police protection even now they have been released. The rapist Iorworth Hoare, who has spent half of his life in prison, has been tracked down by The Sun, to a red-brick house in Sunderland, where he lives as Edward Thomas. None of his neighbours knew of his past, but now The Sun has told them.

It was, apparently, costing "up to" £10,000 a month for the Home Office to protect the identity of Mr Hoare, which The Sun finds particularly galling as he won a great deal of money while in prison on the lottery. (Yes, guys, it's a lottery.)

Now, thanks to The Sun's sterling investigative work, Mr Hoare will presumably have to be relocated, given a new false identity, and have his security stepped up.

Even more cash, as another red-top fumes, has been spent on protecting Maxine Carr, pictured, the poor idiot who had the vile misfortune to get mixed up with Ian Huntley. She hasn't been exposed by the press yet, though, so obviously throwing money at the problem works.

What is the problem? Oh, popular newspapers appealing to atavistic instincts by employing the kind of rhetoric that makes easily influenced people feel that they are right to take the law into their own hands. And newspapers that then apply themselves to letting these same people know where their quarry might be found.

Why don't they realise how irresponsible they're being? They do, but irresponsibility sells, and these guys want to make money out of Iorworth Hoare and Maxine Carr, even if it's the taxpayer who has to pay, once again, when the story becomes chip paper and the damage has to be fixed.