Voices: Piers Morgan isn’t the problem with the Baby Reindeer interview – we are

One of the most toxic aspects of British media culture is our tendency to seek out people – usually women, usually vulnerable in some way – who we use as a consequence-free punching bag. We did it to Jade Goody, we did it to Susan Boyle, and with the runaway success of the hit Netflix drama Baby Reindeer it seems as though we’re about to start doing it to the real-life inspiration behind the show’s antagonist, Martha.

If you’re one of the three people who hasn’t watched it yet, Baby Reindeer is a semi-fictionalised account of the life of the show’s creator, Richard Gadd. The show focuses on struggling comedian Donny (Gadd’s stand-in), who finds his life turned upside down when he is stalked by a customer of the pub he works at. Around 22 million people have watched the show according to Netflix’s own viewing figures, which perhaps inevitably has resulted in fans wanting to know more about the real people on which the story is based.

Ever a man of the people, Piers Morgan has promised to satiate fans’ desires by airing an interview with Fiona Harvey, the 58-year-old Scottish lawyer on whom Martha is allegedly based. The interview was filmed in advance and Harvey has already expressed some dissatisfaction with how it was conducted:

“I wouldn’t say I was happy. It was very rapid to try to trip me up. He did it fast paced to catch me off guard … It seemed to me that I was set up. I feel a bit used.”

That isn’t too surprising. In a tweet to promote the interview Morgan, with his limitless grace and tact, asked of Harvey “Is she a psycho stalker?”, just in case you were wondering what kind of tone he’s likely to strike. But that’s just Piers Morgan being Piers Morgan – you can no more expect him to be sensitive than you can expect a fish to climb a tree. Morgan isn’t the issue here – the real problem with this interview is that there’s a market for it at all.

It seems like, when it comes to certain people, we feel as though we are entitled to wring as much entertainment and information as we can out of them to satisfy our insatiable need for drama. Regardless of what Harvey has or has not allegedly done (she denies stalking Gadd), it isn’t something that any number of controversy-baiting television interviews will resolve. It certainly isn’t something that can be solved with death threats, which Harvey claims to have received since being outed.

If there are any “psycho stalkers” in this story, it’s us – the people sitting at home trying to dig up information about real people, who have experienced real trauma, because we aren’t satisfied with the four-hour dramatised confessional created specifically for our consumption (probably because we binged it too quickly – I know I did). I understand being curious. If I’m being honest, the first thing I did after finishing the show was read as much information about it as I could.

But surely there’s a limit to that curiosity? There should be – especially when it involves a person who might be considered vulnerable. It can be fun playing internet detective, gossiping about scandal and outrageous events – but we have a responsibility to take a step back, and consider if that gossip has the potential to be harmful.

Let’s not forget, part of the problem here lies with Richard Gadd himself. If Gadd wants to self-mythologise, that’s one thing, but in creating Baby Reindeer he was always running the risk of dragging another, potentially highly vulnerable person into his quest for fame. Harvey has effectively been sacrificed on the altar of Gadd’s career, and now she has to live with a type of fame she never asked for.

Does he have a right to do that? To tell his own story, regardless of how it might impact the other key players? Sure – it’s worth remembering that he’s a victim of trauma too. But while he had a measure of agency in how he approached that trauma, Harvey has not been afforded the same privilege.

There’s a nasty tradition in this country of punching down on people like Harvey – people we collectively decide are worthy of our derision and declare open season on. Jeremy Kyle made an entire career out of it. It’s a cornerstone of our political institutions. GB News wouldn’t exist without it. But there’s such a thing as going too far – and I’d say gawking at somebody with an alleged history of mental health issues qualifies.

If you’re really desperate for more Baby Reindeer content, consider just rewatching the show. Bring a friend over who hasn’t seen it, and enjoy watching them squirm. Or better yet, do yourself a favour and just watch something else. I’ve heard Squid Game is pretty good.