Many ingredients to Nigella story

Last updated 05:01 20/06/2013
BEFORE THE STORM: Nigella and Charles Saatchi.
BEFORE THE STORM: Nigella and Charles Saatchi.

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OPINION: We can take comfort in knowing that ordinary people are varied and considered in their assessments of complex issues.

The furore surrounding what looked like a domestic spat between Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi is a topical case in point. It offered the perfect story-style narrative for media to follow: a rich and famous person doing bad things.

The salaciousness was good for a 24-hour media splurge. Now the narratives of society's elites are taking over. They're calling the incident domestic violence and asking why no one in the restaurant intervened. Some are saying that, because no-one in the restaurant took action, societal attitudes toward domestic violence need to change.

Judging by the comments on stories on the incident, and across social media, it seems that ordinary people are taking a far more moderate view, and using their own experiences as a guide.

They say that when confronted with these sorts of situations, a decision to intervene is complicated. The reasons they give are broad; the people were famous (there is an assumption that these people have their lives together, and are used to the public spotlight); others were watching (intervention would be high profile); previous interventions in the private lives of others have gone bad; people's relationships are complex, and personal (it takes all sorts); she didn't seek help; and the nature of the physicality did not warrant intervention.

This is a complex and considered reaction to a situation, despite the media and some elites portraying it as a simple black and white case of a bad man beating up a good woman.

The lesson is that the public can see and handle complexity much more comfortably than others like social commentators and media, who are driven by agendas. The public do have agendas - they interpret the Saatchi/Lawson incident with much variety, depending on their experiences and ideologies. But the effect of distance, and absence of personal or professional gain, moderates the perspective. The sum of these perspectives is usually a balanced view.

The point is that the public perspective is more varied and moderate than you would imagine was "society's" view if you used the screeching of social commentators as your guide.

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