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The hypocrisy and snobbery over Jeremy Kyle is overpowering

PIERS MORGAN: Any suicide is tragic, but the stench of shameless hypocrisy and snobbery over Jeremy Kyle’s TV show, as it was with Jerry Springer, is overpowering

I once asked Jerry Springer why he thought his long-running TV show was so wildly popular.

‘Because it’s the American dream at its purest,’ he replied, as we had dinner together in Los Angeles. ‘The thing that makes America unique is that it was founded on an idea. And that idea was that everyone gets the same shot, whatever their religion, colour, sex, birthplace, parentage, anything. That’s why they love my show, because anyone can enter and they all get a shot.’

Later that night, as we walked back to our hotel, we bumped into Muhammad Ali and his wife, who were both thrilled to see Jerry as it turned out The Greatest absolutely loved watching The Jerry Springer Show. ‘He loves all the fighting!’ explained Lonnie.

Of course he did. 

Piers Morgan with Jerry Springer, whose controversial show ran for 27 years and 3,891 episodes, until it ended last year

I thought of that night when I heard today that Jeremy Kyle’s British version of the Springer Show had been sensationally cancelled by ITV – the network for whom I also work – after the tragic death, presumed suicide, of someone who had recently appeared as a guest. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest appearing on The Jeremy Kyle Show was the British dream at its purest, but then my country wasn’t founded on the same idea as America.

However, for many people at the poorer, less privileged and educated end of the social spectrum, it represented their shot too; a chance to make a name for themselves, to be a local celebrity of sorts, and also to possibly resolve a personal problem or dispute in the process.

I’ve met people who’ve appeared on it who say it was the highlight of their entire lives.

Kyle, like Springer, acted as ringmaster to feuding families and warring friends, encouraging them to confront each other about everything from lies and cheating to jealousy and paternity claims.

But for every angry, bitter implacable fight that erupted on their shows, they also did a lot of good too – reuniting people, solving problems, fixing marriages, and securing proper rehab treatment for those who may have needed it.

There was a clear social conscience that went with the titillation.

I’ll be honest: this isn’t the kind of television that I watch or enjoy. 

Jeremy Kyle, above, is Britain’s answer to Jerry Springer, top, and specializes in confrontational talk shows where guests get to air out their personal grievances on stage

 But it proved to be hugely popular both in America and Britain.

The Jerry Springer Show ran for 27 years and 3,891 episodes, until it ended last year.

The Jeremy Kyle Show ran for 14 years and 3,320 episodes.

This is the first time anyone has taken their own life after appearing on the UK version.

(By grim coincidence, in America, the family of a guest who killed himself after appearing on The Jerry Springer Show shortly before it was cancelled is now suing for damages.) 

The investigation into the death of Kyle’s guest Steve Dymond is still on going, but what is not in doubt is that he died within a week of appearing on a typically fiery episode of the show in which he failed a lie-detector test over whether he cheated on his girlfriend. 

What is also not in doubt is that like every other guest who’s ever appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show, and the Springer Show, Mr Dymond did so entirely voluntarily and had reportedly been declared medically fit to do so by a doctor.

And therein lies the central dilemma thrown up by this tragedy: how far should adult members of the public be protected from themselves?

After all, they’re allowed by law to purchase tobacco and alcohol, which we know are life-threateningly harmful materials that kill a lot more people than TV shows.

Is drinking or smoking better or worse for your health and wellbeing than publicly talking about your broken marriage or rift with your brother?

And when it comes to television exposure, is appearing on The Jeremy Kyle Show or the Springer Show really more damaging than having news cameras shoved in your face by respected news organisations like CNN or the BBC immediately after a deadly major natural disaster, mass shooting or terror attack? 

Jeremy Kyle’s guest Steve Dymond killed himself after appearing on the show and being outed as a cheater by a lie detector test. The incident has led to Kyle’s popular daytime show being axed after 14 years. The show featuring Dymond has not been aired.

That happens all the time, and I’m not aware that the self-entitled ‘serious news media’ take the time to enact proper ‘duty of care’ investigation into every single person they race to put on camera to grill them about their newly dead or wounded loved ones or their own horrific experiences at often the most intense, shocking, vulnerable time of their lives?

In fact, I know for a fact they don’t.

Yet that is considered perfectly acceptable, whereas adults voluntarily appear on a daytime show to discuss their own lives is apparently outrageous intrusion that must be banned.

I smell both the stench of rank hypocrisy and shameless snobbery in a lot of the gleeful commentary being spewed today in the wake of Jeremy Kyle’s demise.

Full disclosure, I know Kyle well and consider him a friend. 

Like Springer – also a friend – he’s an intelligent man and highly skilled broadcaster with a genuine fascination about, and empathy for, so-called ‘ordinary people’.

Both men, I think, viewed their primary role as truth-seekers, dispute-fixers, victim-supporters and villain-shamers.

Of course, they knew the entertainment value for viewers would come from lively, animated guests.

But the bottom line is that the vast majority of people who watched or appeared on them loved both the shows and the hosts.

And, crucially, the guests all knew exactly what they were getting into when they signed up for them.

Nobody held a gun to their heads.

In an era where consent has become a major issue, they all gave consent.

I doubt most of the journalists leading the charge to cancel Kyle ever actually watched the show for more than a few minutes. 

Jerry Springer’s guest Blake Alvey, top left, also killed himself after appearing on the show and being confronted by his fiancée Cassie Rutter, right, who confessed to cheating on him with his close friend

That would have been more than enough time for these mainly middle-class, pseudo-intellectual, supercilious snobs to determine in their own superior minds that it was just a platform for stupid, tattooed, toothless, working class morons to shout at each other and be shouted out by a nasty, razor-smart, exploitative bully.

But in reality, it was a platform for people who would never otherwise have a public voice to have their moment in the sun.

They wanted to be there or they wouldn’t have been there.

And the withering interrogations they often faced were no worse, in my view, than much of what the ‘serious news media’ dishes out to people on a daily basis.

The Guardian newspaper, for example, has been leading the UK print media outrage over the Kyle scandal, raging that the show epitomises the kind of crass, downmarket, tabloid nastiness that coarsens public life and which it professes to despise.

Yet the same Guardian newspaper thinks nothing of being relentlessly spiteful and nasty towards anyone it sees fit.

Just Google its mentions of me and luxuriate in the decades of often very unpleasant and personally abusive bile they spew about me.

Now, I’m a big boy, and can dish it back as hard as it comes.

But let’s not pretend that somehow Jeremy Kyle is the only person in the media guilty of delivering a withering putdown.

Or that he is the only person in the media who put members of the public into confrontational situations or potentially stressful exposure.

Similarly, many of the indignant educated liberals exploding with fury on social media about Kyle are themselves often guilty of posting repulsive abusive about the likes of Donald Trump.

We live in a bear-pit society now, fuelled by the febrile world of Twitter and increasingly intransigent, self-righteous political divide.

Television on both sides of the Atlantic has reflected that bear-pit mentality with myriad shows like Big Brother and The Apprentice pitting people against each other and often being viciously judged accordingly.

If you go on talent shows like Britain or America’s Got Talent, and sing or dance badly, there’s a very good chance someone like Simon Cowell – or me when I used to be a judge on both shows – is going to mock you for it.

In Britain, two contestants on a very successful reality dating show called Love Island took their own lives after they appeared and their 15 minutes of fame ran out.

Was it the show’s fault, or would they have done it anyway?

It’s impossible to say, and very difficult to predict.

Television companies have an absolute duty of care to do as much they can to help people who appear on these kinds of shows.

But in the end there’s only so much they can do.

Adults are adults, and are free to make their own minds up about whether they want to be on TV.

And next time you watch the news, take a beat to see how many innocent, vulnerable people get thrust into the spotlight every day, often unwittingly, by the very same media screaming loudest about Jeremy Kyle.

 

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