Monday, February 16, 2009

I see their knavery; this is to make an ass of them

I've been doing the rounds of the UK anti-tabloid blogs over the last few days: including the The Sun Lies, Enemies of Reason and Alone in the Dark.

The creators of these blogs see it as their duty as good citizens to refute and rejoin every last lie, exaggeration, misrepresentation, canard, fib, falsehood, and untruth that pours from the pages of those grotesques of British public life: The Daily Mail, The Sun, and The News of the World.

This is an entirely necessary task, as the tagline on Mail Watch says:

We are not here to hate the readers of the Daily Mail.

We are here to show them that they are being lied to.

We ask our readers and contributors to keep this is mind.

Indeed: but Daily Mail readers aren't stupid (or at least not as borderline-disabled as you'd have to be to believe what is written in The Mail) so why do they continue to buy a newspaper that is lying to them?

I'm not being naive here: why do people read The Mail? Is there a particularly good crossword? Are the horoscopes particularly accurate? Is the sports coverage terse and reliable?

If the quality of every part of the newspaper is similar to the quality of the headline, news, and editorials then it can't be particularly good.

I have no way of knowing if the editorial line of these newspapers accurately reflects the pre-existing views of the readership or not. If I were to take over any of these newspapers and replace the editorial staff with people with extensive technocratic competence as well as journalistic and writing skills, would the readers be any better off?

I don't know.

But there comes a point when the nastiness and unpleasantness reaches a level where it generates a genuine public hazard. Check out the latest of the baby P case, an open letter sent by the social services blog Community Care to the editor of The Sun Rebekah Wade.

Social workers do an incredibly necessary and unpleasant job. And when the tabloids aren't complaining that they're not doing their jobs properly they're complaining when they decide to take a child into care.

You can imagine an alternate universe where baby P was taken into care before he died and became the subject of tabloid ire because the child snatching social services were taking kids away from their parents.

As the letter says:

Informed public opinion is undoubtedly important. Unfortunately, your coverage misinformed your readers. And in considering their views ahead of the facts and the informed opinions of the social workers who struggle with the realities at the frontline everyday, you have risked more children's safety and maybe their lives.

So at what point will something be done? And is it even practical to do anything? Is the generation that reads this trash dying out?

How would you go about altering the sensational and dangerous reporting of British tabloids?

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