It is not a question of taste

This is the last time I will be writing a post on this subject so I hope it is definitive enough for some visitors to this site to understand. The visitors I am referring to – or people on Twitter or message boards or wherever – who shrug their shoulders and tell me that if I don’t like the Daily Mail I should stop reading it and just ignore it. I’ve tried to respond to this several times in the past, but the latest comment on this site has made me determined to write this post on the topic:

Stop reading the Mail then! Presumably you don’t go to gigs by bands you hate just so you can whinge about them afterwards, so why subject yourself to news media that you fundamentally disagree with *because it isn’t aimed at you*. Personally, I don’t like the Mail either – that’s why I don’t read it.

Firstly, the analogy of going to gigs is simply wrong because this website is not about my taste in something, I do not rant simply about something I do not like, rather I try to point out when the tabloid media (read by millions) is lying to its readers or being racist, homophobic or otherwise unpleasant. It is not a question of disagreeing with their worldview per see, it is the fact that this worldview is built out of a series of dishonest media narratives. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I want an opinion to be based on facts, not a series of lies and distortions created by the tabloid media and neatly packaged for the consumption of confused readers who sadly do not see that they are being lied to.

This is why your analogy does not work. Bands are very much a question of taste, they have little or nothing to do with basic humanity, honesty or truth. I can accept that there are thousands of manufactured pop bands out there that I dislike intensely (and you could rationalise some of this dislike if you talked about the commercialisation of music and the replacement of genuine creativity and art with music written, sung and packaged to a predictable corporate formula) but I can see that there is no real harm in it. I can ignore it because, on the whole, it is not hurting anyone.

The tabloid media on the other hand are inciting racial hatred against Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers. They are distorting reality to scare their readership into docile submission. People are becoming increasingly disconnected from reality and are unable to see that they are being repeatedly lied to. A comment on the Daily Star headline: ‘MUSLIM-ONLY PUBLIC LOOS, council wastes YOUR money on hole-in-ground toilets‘ the other day hit the nail on the head – and much as I try to avoid invoking Nazi Germany I will repeat it here:

I can’t believe these headlines are published and nothing can be done about them. Change Muslim to Jewish and the context of demonising a religious or racial group suddenly seems a little clearer.

The reason blogs like this exist is that currently nothing can be done to challenge dishonest headlines because in 2005 the Press Complaints Comission ruled that: ‘a headline should be regarded as a comment and so not subject to the Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code’. How can an effective regulatory body argue that headlines have no need to be accurate? As a result of this ruling the Express frontpage headline: ‘Bombers are all spongeing asylum-seekers’, was ruled as being perfectly acceptable and the complete lies about Muslims go unchallenged in any formal capacity.

I do not disagree with the Daily Mail because ‘it is not aimed at me’, I disagree with the Daily Mail because they lie to their readers, as proven on this site over and over again. If the Daily Mail stopped lying then I would not have anything to write about, nor would any of the other bloggers who expose media dishonesty on a daily basis.

Ignoring the tabloid press is not going to change anything. Pretending that it doesn’t exist will not make the world a better place. I do not write about bands I do not like because not many bands spend their time inciting racial hatred, inventing stories about health and safety or political correctness (to the detriment of us all) or trying to pretend that everyone under 30 in the UK is a knife-wielding killer-in-waiting.

It is not a question of taste, it is a question of truth. I write this blog because – as utterly naive as this sounds – I’m a dreamer and I want to make a difference to the world. I want people to spend more time focusing on the beauty of being alive; the realisation that we have infinitely more common desires than cultural differences. Fundamentally we are all human beings, following our instincts, needing to love and be loved, to have shelter, food, freedom and the chance to raise a family.

I know I quoted Bill Bryson recently, but I think it is worth quoting again here:

Every living thing is an elaboration of a single original plan. As humans we are mere increments – each of us a musty archive of adjustments, adaptations, modifications and providential tinkerings stretching back to 3,8 billion years. Remarkably we are even quite closely related to fruit and vegetables. About half the chemical functions that take place in a banana are fundamentally the same as the chemical functions that place in you. It cannot be said too often: all life is one. That is, and I suspect will ever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is.”
– Bill Bryson in “A Short History of Nearly Everything” (2003)

Sure, I could stop reading the Daily Mail and I could ignore the casual racism I encounter everyday from Mail readers, students who have been brought up in tabloid households and so on. But, although doing this might make my life a little more beautiful, it would not make the world a better place. I am not saying this blog is making any difference, but it is at least trying and I’m not simply sticking my fingers in my ears and prentending that this awful manifestation of personal insecurity, jealousy and impotent rage doesn’t exist.

As I wrote during the election: whether you read a tabloid newspaper or not, you cannot avoid being exposed to the poisonous narratives that they create.

Think of a tabloid reader as if they were a smoker and the tabloid newspaper is a cigarette. A lit cigarette is hard to ignore, is has a fiery tip and billows smoke, the smoker inhales the poisonous smoke and then exhales it, often in the vicinity of others. You don’t have to be a smoker to inhale this second-hand smoke, nor do you have to be a smoker to see and smell the lit cigarette. The tabloid press acts in the same way: the headlines scream at you from newstands, whilst any tabloid reader who inhales the message exhales it – frequently – in your company. We are all passive tabloid newspaper readers. The poisonous stench is unavoidable.

Every Time you hear someone fearfully talk about the population hitting ’70million’; every time you hear that immigrants / illegal immigrants / asylum seekers are ‘showered in benefits’ whilst ‘hard working taxpayers / pensioners’ are left without; every time people say that there aren’t enough jobs because of immigrants; every time you hear that local schools / hospitals are ‘full / stretched / overrun’; every time you hear people moan about ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ or the ‘PC brigade’ or ‘political correctness gone mad’; every time you hear someone talk about ‘open borders / no border controls / unlimited immigration’.

Every Time you hear these things you are the passive victim of a tabloid newspaper.

Think back to an election in which immigration was a central topic as the three potential leaders competed to be toughest on the subject and consider whether immigration deserved this coverage, given that it has been a net contributor to the economy and studies have shown – all over the world – that immigration does not impact on wages or the number of jobs available. Immigration became the number one topic – and the only one talked about at length during all three of the televised debates and when prospective and current PMs went on Radio 1 it was the main issue that young voters brought up. The whole election was fought around immigration because the tabloid press has set up immigrants as the bogeymen behind all the problems (real or otherwise) that they editorialise about.

All the while the tabloid press still claimed that you could not even talk about immigration, an argument so fallacious that it staggers me how people fall for it.

My point is, as it always is, that tabloid journalism has real consequences for all of us – whether we read a tabloid newspaper or not. We are all passive tabloid readers, unavoidably inhaling the hatred, the outrage and the distorted media narratives on a range of topics that impact on our lives. You cannot stop inhaling tabloid messages by turning your head any more than you can stop inhaling a rank smoke that engulfs us all. In the end we all have a choice, we either quietly gulp it down and pretend it does not exist, or we do everything in our power to challenge it and stop it at its source.

I’ll write this blog and perhaps even work up the courage to start openly challenging people; what you do is up to you.

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