In this lovely verdant island that we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (also known as The UK; Great Britain; Britain; England; Blighty or Airstrip One), we have a war of words going on between two seemingly opposing forces. Behind these media behemoths stand an army of dedicated readers ready to do battle with each other, newspapers rolled as their sword of honour and with smugness and self-satisfaction as their shield of truth. What is the driving ethos behind each army? Are these untold hordes of the newsprint faithful so different? Why have they rallied behind their respective rag? What if their source of pride and inspiration were to disappear like so many News of the Worlds in the night?
The Daily Mail: a bastion of Britishness; the voice of middle England, standing up for those who already have the means to stand up for themselves; a mouthpiece for sensationally stating the bleeding obvious. Browsing through the Mail offers the reader an opportunity to learn that crime is wrong and that decency is good. They should be thanked for such a revelation. Looking at some of the bile driven articles, I am worried that I don’t meet their exclusive criteria: I am neither English (although inserting the word “Scottish” into the title of their Northern British edition reassures me somewhat), nor from a middle class background nor own my own home. I am, however, a native English speaker and don’t claim any sort of benefits. I also believe in universal fairness and decry those who undeservedly leech off the state. Unfortunately, I am rather draconian in my denunciation, including benefit cheats (of all nationalities), expense-fiddling MPs, hereditary peers in the House of Lords and the British Royal Family- something that Mail stalwarts would find ghastly. [I actually think the Queen seems like a very nice old lady and we are very lucky to have a head of state of such respectability. Would Mail readers still be as unwavering in their support if another Henry VIII were to ascend to the throne?].
I also think that criminals should be punished. Of course they should. Every one of them. Including the paparazzi who take long lens photos of celebrities and/or their children and supply them to tabloid newspapers, Mail included- not quite a criminal offence yet but sparking enough of a moral outrage to get the average Mail reader’s blood boiling. As the Sex Pistols once sang: “No one is innocent”.
I don’t think such exclusive entrance requirements could result in an army so massive as to support the circulation of a national daily tabloid. Maybe the readers suffer from the delusion that we all suffer from occasionally: we are better than all the rest. Picking on the minorities in society (recurring examples including immigrants, Muslims, hardened criminals, gypsies and the non-Christian) is a fantastic way to garner as much readership as possible by appealing to the holier-than-thou, tutting masses.
Conversely, the vast sneering army of Guardian readers seem diametrically opposite to their rivals behind the twitching pages of the Mail. Is that so? There may be the same level of smugness in their thinking: that they are on some sort of moral crusade against a perceived threat. With the Guardian, their message is thus: crime is wrong and decency is good. Again another revelation that I don’t need to pay over £1 to learn. Their targets, on the surface of it, seem more altruistic, going for the the high flying bankers (or the rich in general), the racist and the privileged. Thankfully I don’t fall into any of those categories: that’s me safe- for now. However, I don’t think I would be eligible for their ranks too: I’m not any sort of activist, I believe that rich(er) people will always exist and are a natural and necessary part of this modern society (as long as they pay their fair share) and I encourage freedom of speech in all forms, including seemingly racist material [how else would I be able to avoid a racist if I’m not allowed to hear what they say?]
The Guardian, a newspaper and part of a large corporation similar in magnitude to the Mail, seems to want to shoot itself in the foot by making every rich and/or powerful person on the planet feel guilty for being successful (monetarily at least), which surely would include their directors, investors and many of their London based readership.
Their lambasting seems to surreptitiously include anyone who doesn’t have a degree in history or is well versed in the fine arts. Contributors are regularly featured in Pseuds Corner in Private Eye magazine, harking back to Shakespeare and Moliere when writing about football or cricket. Even when I tried to find solace in an interview with Ricky Gervais, the opening question asked about Ricky’s possible Huguenot heritage. I’m not ashamed to say that I had to look that up, only to find out it’s an archaic expression for French Protestants. More mystifying to me was why the interviewer used that little used word as well as displaying it at the start of the article and proceded to milk the point for a further five paragraphs, before embellishing her following work as different from those other celebrity interviews. More fool me for being ignorant or more fool her for being pretentious?
I suppose there is a market for these examples of invective and drivel from two middle-ranking national newspapers otherwise they would no longer be printed in their thousands every day. They are feeding a readership hungry to feel justified in themselves by using a hastily strung together set of news stories as a moral crutch, when they should put down their newspapers and look at what is actually happening in this world without the skewed lens of a biased reporter or editorial/proprietorial pressure. Stop reading the Mail. Stop reading the Guardian. Stop reading all journals. Get your news from teletext (or digital equivalent) and your opinions from your own intelligent brain.