04 March 2013

BREAKING NEWS FOR TABLOID HATERS: Your Newspapers Are Rubbish As Well.

Let's begin by differentiating 'readers' from 'Readers'. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Guardian Reader, even though I used to read the Guardian (every day for over a decade). Nor am I a Daily Mail Reader, even on the rare occasions when I happen to read the Daily Mail. Of all the things I get up to of a day or a week, where I get my news from is one of the most irrelevant in defining who I am. You might call me a reader of The Times, as that is my current daily download, but I am not a Times Reader. Especially as, in our digital-leisure age, it's one of dozens, if not hundreds, of information and entertainment outlets covering my screen hour after hour.

For others, it is different. When one Guardian Reader wrote of raising her daughter as another Guardian Reader, in the same way others enforce a religious upbringing, it was with tongue lightly caressing the inside of her cheek, rather than firmly emplaced so. To a certain breed of self-righteous pomposity-monger, their choice of newspaper is a badge of honour, worn to demand respect from those whom they deem to be less wise in their selections. Take this, from the Guardian's letters page in 2011:
Unlike readers of the Tory-owned press, we take the Guardian for opinions with which we can agree or disagree and make up our own minds based on facts provided elsewhere...
In 31 words, he manages to sum-up those who self-describe as Readers of certain newspapers: defining yourself against others whom you regard as the ignorant masses, just not as clever or ethical as you because of what they read. Such attitudes prevail on social media where even the mildest questioning of some ideas or campaigns gets you accused of being a mere conduit through which Rupert Murdoch or Paul Dacre channel their every nefarious desire.

Or look at these two quotes from the writer of a blog which charts the hypocrisies, exaggerations and lies of the tabloid press in general, and the Daily Mail in particular:
"Freedom in this sense is merely the freedom for anyone to set up their own press as an outlet for their own biased and perhaps blinkered view of the world".
"There are elements of our society that are fearful,vulnerable and simply not intelligent enough to know when they are being lied to".
(My emphases).

In highlighting such illiberal and elitist views, I am not seeking to defend the Fleet Street titles being attacked. I also have no respect for them nor any truck with their politics or views. But here's an exclusive especially for the Readers of supposedly more high-minded sources: your papers are rubbish as well. They also lie, exaggerate, print slanted copy, and promote their owners' and editors' biases. Sure, they may do it over matters of greater importance than their Murdochian, Northcliffe and Desmondite counterparts. But that arguably makes it even worse. 

If you think the press is too influential in our lives and want to make it less so, then fine. Lead the way. Stop treating The Guardian and The Independent and New Statesman as if they were the first three books of a Third Testament. You want people to pay less attention to the likes of Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Phillips? Great. Then set an example. Stop taking every word the likes of Polly Toynbee and John Pilger write as some sort of infallible truth.

And in the meantime, stop referring to yourselves as "unlike readers of the Tory-owned press". Because you are not unlike them at all.

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