The Media Column: One Was a "Coke Snorting" Cow, the Other a Loveable "Ashes Hero" Who Had Celebrated England's Cricket Triumph in Style, with Champagne, Lager and So On

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Last Monday the Sun carried two stories on its front page, one about Kate Moss, the other about Andrew (Freddie) Flintoff. They had been the most talked-about personalities of the preceding week, and both are supposedly role models for the young. One had imbibed the drug of her choice in a private place, but pictures taken secretly on a mobile phone went to the Daily Mirror. The other had imbibed the drug of his choice in a night-long binge, publicly boasted of his prodigious intake, and paraded before millions on TV and in the streets with slurred speech and unsteady gait.

The Sun presented Moss and Flintoff in different lights, as the papers had done all week. One was a "coke-snorting" cow, the other a loveable "Ashes hero" who had celebrated England's cricket triumph in time-honoured style, with champagne, lager and so on. One had just dumped her lover--who also takes drugs--and been exposed in the News of the World the previous day for "lesbian romps". The other had been "bowled over" by a scan of his new baby and continued to boast to the Sun of how he "drank and drank and drank".

Despite the intriguing parallels, the papers reported the two stories as though they were on different planets. Only a few commentators dared to raise questions. One or two contrasted the papers' attitudes to drunken cricketers and drunken footballers. The Guardian's newly shrunk g2 (a cute little thing) asked a Bristol professor about the dangers of drinking so much booze. He assured us that Flintoff was big enough to take drink without lasting ill-effects, but worried he might fall over and hurt himself (you need a professor to think of that). Janet Street-Porter in the Independent on Sunday explained that Moss is "fun" and "super-bright" and that everybody in the media snorts coke anyway.

You can take the arguments about Moss and Flintoff, coke and alcohol for a ride in your head until it spins. You can compare the physical, mental and social effects of the two drugs, the likelihood that either will lead to addiction, the extent to which indulgence might make Britain's leading fashion model incapable of doing her job and Britain's leading cricketer incapable of doing his. You can, as Cristina Odone did in the Observer, suggest that we all secretly envy Moss because we think fashion modelling is easy, while we know damn well that beating the Aussies at cricket is hard work. You can wonder whether Moss's successful recent claim for libel against the Sunday Mirror--over allegations that she had collapsed in a coke-induced coma in Barcelona in 2001--explains the press vindictiveness. …