Peter Mullen: Cheese, wine and onions? Haldly a reason to hang poor Antony Worrall Thompson
"Why, why, why are you taking three onions?" was the question Antony Worrall Thompson asked himself as he stole food in Tesco's. He also took cheese and wine and, perhaps not the sort of items to appeal to a virtuoso chef, "two packets of discounted coleslaw".
Pretty small beer – except he didn’t nick any beer. Not exactly a great train robbery. The disproportionate fuss being made is all because he’s a celeb. I can put up with the fuss and the silly headlines: I’ve Been Edam Fool But I’m Going To Be Gouda. What’s not so easy to stomach is all the cod psychology being dished up to “explain” these petty acts of dishonesty. The media shrinks are lining up on opposite sides. There are those who say that Antony did it because he was “suffering from low self-esteem.” Then the others who say he had too much self-esteem which tipped over into arrogance and made him think he could do as he liked.
It’s all jargon and baloney. He did it because he was a naughty boy. It’s not a hanging offence, and I guess the natural response is to feel sorry for him. Poor chap, he obviously feels mortified and can’t understand what came over him. His theft was a minor act of wrongdoing. Why can’t we leave it at that? I loathe the medicalisation of morality – the attempt to account for ordinary human conduct by means of psychopathy. This is an approach which ultimately demoralises our behaviour. If we’re always being told to ask what “made” someone do what they did, then that completely undermines moral responsibility.