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Piers Morgan’s ‘Baby Reindeer’ interview is the lowest form of television

None of them are helped by being made into entertainment. Credit: Getty

May 10, 2024 - 7:30pm

Fiona Harvey was identified as “Martha” within hours of the release of the Netflix series Baby Reindeer. Tracked down through posts on X, there was undeniably a satisfying circularity to the mass online stalking of the woman accused of stalking comedian Richard Gadd.

Netflix Policy Chief Benjamin King claimed that every reasonable precaution had been taken to disguise “the real-life identities of the people involved in that story.” Gadd himself requested that viewers not speculate on who the real Martha was. Nonetheless, it seemed inevitable that her name would be unearthed.

Some fans of the show crowed that the “crazy bitch” had got her comeuppance; after trial-by-Netflix, Harvey was securely fastened into the social media stocks. Given this, it’s understandable that she would want to tell her side of the story.

Her chance to do so came on Piers Morgan Uncensored last night, where Harvey made a distinctly shaky case. She bizarrely admitted to having had four phones, six email addresses and, most implausibly, a photographic memory. Gadd, she said, was mentally unwell, and Netflix was “making money out of untrue facts.” The interview amassed nearly four million views in just 12 hours. If you’re looking for a winner out of the whole sorry saga, it’s probably Piers Morgan.

Meanwhile, the veteran broadcaster somewhat pompously pointed out, “at the very least, Netflix’ duty of care, and Richard Gadd’s duty of care, has been a spectacular failure”. His own responsibility, to both Harvey and her alleged victims, remained moot.

Nonetheless, it was great televisual material. Morgan’s interrogation of Harvey was every bit as gripping and compulsive as the Netflix series, though arguably it was not guilt-free. Just as with his interview of the pro-Palestine activist and performance artist Crackhead Barney, Morgan’s instruction to Harvey to “stare down the barrel of the camera” to put her side to the audience was a shabby exercise in click-chasing. And I admit, I was one of the millions who clicked.

There is something undeniably voyeuristic in the media exposure of people who would be better off ignored. Perhaps it shows a need in an atomised society for sincerity, for connection, for a glimpse into people’s inner lives. But ultimately, whatever truth lies outside the minds of Gadd, Harvey, and even Crackhead Barney, none of them are helped by being made into entertainment. It not only reflects poorly on broadcasters like Morgan but on us, the viewers, who make profits for such prurient programmes.

Barney’s performance just a week earlier was particularly grotesque. Wearing a nappy, white body paint and nipple tape, she ranted incoherently. In response to criticism Morgan explained that his show had “got what was a very competitive booking — the first interview with this woman”. He went on, with about as much plausibility as some of his guests, to defend his decision as an attempt to expose the narcissistic motivations of activists as part of his journalistic duty to the national conversation.

The suffering artist stereotype holds because it is undeniable that trauma can be transformed into great works. But unlike the perfectly rendered revenge taken by Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, in today’s dislocated but hyperconnected world the victims and perpetrators portrayed in creative works can and will be tracked down. Broadcasters ought not to feed this.

There was a time when psychiatric hospitals welcomed tourists. Victorian visitors would gawp at Bedlam’s inmates for their own entertainment. Sometimes, it’s clear we’ve not come that far.


Josephine Bartosch is a freelance writer and assistant editor at The Critic.

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
16 days ago

We shouldn’t forget that Morgan published fabricated photographs which purported to show British troops abusing prisoners in Iraq. He’s toxic.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
16 days ago

I believe her.
Or do I??

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
16 days ago

I think Morgan conducted the interview quite well. Hardly as though the Fionas should be allowed to do their business unhindered. There have apparently been several stalking cases.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
16 days ago

This article is about 25 years too late

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
16 days ago

Why should Morgan be different than any other shill looking to make a fast buck/quid. He’s no different than any network news broadcast today. Which is why I never tune in.

Madas A. Hatter
Madas A. Hatter
16 days ago

I’ve watched the interview and the subsequent panel discussion. The ‘true story’ at this point seems to have been false with respect to the woman’s admission of guilt, conviction and imprisonment. There is no evidence that Fiona Muir, Muir-Harvey or Harvey was ever charged or convicted of anything. But as the lawyer pointed out, Netflix has a world-class legal team who would have been all over it before tagging the series ‘a true story’. Not based on or inspired by, but a true story.
Morgan and his panel seem to have missed something mentioned early in the process: the woman was known for using aliases. I’m willing to bet Netflix has evidence that she was convicted, but under a different name.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
16 days ago

It is really obvious to me that he was probing the 41,000 emails etc at length because there must be proof.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
16 days ago

Golly gee whiz I dunno, Josephine. I’ve really enjoyed most of your unHerd pieces but decrying the shallowness lowest-common-denominatorness of this kind of sensationalism while supporting it by watching firmly falls into the camp of ‘I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but…’

Ian_S
Ian_S
16 days ago

Must be a slow news week. I love Jo Bartosch, she’s a firm fixture in the t e r f pantheon and I adore her. But this is a non-story.

David Morley
David Morley
16 days ago

there was undeniably a satisfying circularity to the mass online stalking of the woman accused of stalking

I don’t like it, but I’m afraid these outings on social media are part of the world we now live in. After all the hateful stuff about supposed male toxicity, the internet is now alive with toxic femininity stories. Men, who have been painted as the worlds villains, are now kicking back.

When will we get back to the realisation that, regardless of sex, nobody is perfect, most people are good (most of the time), some bad, and some frankly crazy. But you don’t judge everyone by the behaviours of the outliers, or demonise normal flaws and failures. Not any time soon I fear.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
16 days ago

Isn’t this just Jeremy Kyle masquerading as news with less guilt attached for the viewers?

Even the BEEB is doing this now; in crime reporting we always get video clips of crimes to salivate over (with trigger warnings of course). This week the once brilliant Panorama was reported to have done a special investigation about a ‘notorious crime family’ (like ‘Animal Kingdom’ without the mother figure) and there was a picture on the website that looked like a still from ‘Reservoir Dogs’.

Talk about a theatre of cruelty.

Richard Spira
Richard Spira
16 days ago

Casual visits to Bedlam had been stopped by 1800, long before the Victorians. In historical knowledge – or sub-editing – we may have gone backwards.

Gerry Quinn
Gerry Quinn
14 days ago

If Morgan does not give her a chance to speak.. who will?

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
14 days ago

If it’s tawdry, demeaning, exploitative, tabloid trash, which it is, then why on earth watch it?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
14 days ago

“Given this, it’s understandable that she (Harvey) would want to tell her side of the story.” Or perhaps she wants to tell the truth or what is largely the truth.
In basing a fiction on a few grains of truth and then presenting it as a ‘true story’, Gadd would be following in the footsteps of royalty. Netflix also failed to do due diligence on that series.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
14 days ago

The creator of this show suffers from the strange syndrome of reverse narcissism. One suspects that this could only happen to a stand-up comedian, given their culture and agenda.
He has fictionalised his biography through a series of big-budget stand-up sketches which have convinced the Netflix commissioning editors and the wider media.
Ergo, he has projected a victimhood based on a societal problem of narcissism amplified circularly by information digital technology. Then in an narcissistic attempt to create a new medium for artistic narcissism, he has drawn upon this ultra-narcissistic (streaming) subset of the most narcissistic of media: television.