I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. All these things about the news that make me angry. The things that I start flailing my mouth off at like a rotorless helicopter chopping randomly through the air before crashing and burning in a cathartic boom of aviation fuel. They don’t really make me all that angry.
OK so – it’s all relative isn’t it. People often think I’m in a mindless rage when I’m actually making a perfectly lucid point. I’ll say “Hey check out this stupid comment by this stupid person from the land of stupid” in perfectly reasonable tones and people will be “Chill the fuck out. Don’t have a cow!” – So when I’m expressing minor annoyance and my face gets a bit blotchy they think I’m going postal and start putting away the knives – even if in MY head I’m just having a perfectly reasonable and largely ironic discourse on some little niggle. I don’t use the moniker newstantrum for nothing.
So all the stupidity in the news that slaps me daily in the face, making me spew ruddy cheeked vitriol… well that’s all secondary to the one thing about the press that makes me REALLY ANGRY the stuff that makes me want to go and get my gun (the one I don’t own) and charge down Fleet Street popping caps like a cheap drive-by (ie one without a car… maybe from a bus or just on foot).
I’m talking of course about their double standards. The times when the press say stuff with all the self-righteousness they can muster and then undermine it almost simultaneously. To me the press are like the Catholic Church’s stance on child abuse. They flag up big moral markers for everyone and then just wholly undermine it all themselves. A “do as we say and not as we do” approach that has a mentality based on the preachings of a Medieval pardoner (for those if you who know your Chaucer).
“I stand up like a scholar in pulpit,
And when the ignorant people all do sit,
I preach, as you have heard me say before,
And tell a hundred false japes, less or more.”
Now I’m not expecting consistency here. I’m one of the least consistent people I know – I have no moral compass and my standards are all over the place. But then again I don’t simultaneously seek to preach on right and wrong to hundreds of thousands of people a day whilst also undermining everything I say with the blink of an eye. My inconsistency is human. A frailty made by virtue of the fact that I’m just a lump of flesh trying to get through life without doing anything really bad, like running amok in fleet street with an imaginary gun. The press, however, can muster up indignity with the force of a hurricane on one hand while sleazily lapsing into laughable amoralism on the other.
So today’s Express. God it screams at me. I’m not going to pick apart the headline and story and point to factual inaccuracy. Because frankly I don’t care. Multiculturalism is something that makes societies interesting. A 40% surge in “ethnic” (inverted commas because I don’t even know what this is supposed to mean) numbers is irrelevant except maybe to say we’re becoming more diverse. But what I think is irrelevant. What is relevant is the subtext of what the Express is saying “bad news – loads of immigrants coming here, taking our jobs or our unemployment benefits blah blah blah”. Ok, so fair enough. Some people aren’t like me. They don’t want our “national identity” (inverted commas because I don’t even know what this is supposed to mean) to be undermined. They hark back to Morris Dancers on every street corner and that idealised Britishness you feel when you see those little animated Yorkshiremen who show Tetley’s tea to be quintessentially British. Never mind, of course, that the Tetley brand is owned by Indian conglomerate Tata and that tea itself could never be grown in this country, being mainly an import from the Indian subcontinent (you see, even our tea is foreign. Gah).
Anyway. If a paper wants to argue against immigration then that’s one thing. But the same paper is celebrating Danni Minogue, who’s over here from Australia “stealing our jobs” for a stupid talent show. What message is it trying to send? And giving away a Belgian Bun? That continental pastry that proves our national subservience to European bureaucrats? Gah! If the Express wanted to be consistent they’d accompany their ethnic headline with a picture of Cheryl Cole and a great british scone giveaway. Oh… except Cheryl’s become an economic migrant to the US… oh… I give up.
The Express headline isn’t a one-off example here though. That’s where I lapse into my apoplectic rage on the subject of press hypocrisy. This happens ALL THE TIME. Yesterday the Daily Mail ran a headline condemning short sentences for rapists.
Fair enough. I don’t like rapists. Lets ignore the fact that this is a policy endorsed by Daily Mail posterboy Ken Clarke, who made it worse by categorising rape into serious and non-serious. Lets also ignore the fact that Daily Mail postergirl Nadine Dorries made the situation even worse this week by commenting that children would be less likely to be sexually abused if they were taught abstinence. What we have is what we see on the page in black and white and colour: a paper taking a moral stance that acts of objectifying women as sexual objects is wrong.
But what’s this? Under the word rapists? A picture of Pippa Middleton? Why? Oh she’s telling us how she got “that behind”. So we have one headline attacking our government for a soft stance on the objectification of women and another erm … objectifying a woman. Now I’m not going to pretend that a harrowing subject like rape is comparable to drooling media coverage of “that behind” but it seems incongruous and insensitive to be throwing out such a mixed message about women on one page of a paper – I’d sum up the message as “Death might be too good for rapists but what women really want is for men to look at their bum”. To me that is infuriating.
Of course, the Mail are experts at this. Take their outrage over the Christina Aguilera appearance on X-Factor. They ran this headline:
They were so angry about the fact that the show had put out some risqué shizzle before the watershed that they were literally watering at the mouth. So what did they do?
They published extensive photos and videos of the X-rated performance on their website, which I don’t believe has a watershed… or any restrictions at all on viewing and, unlike X-Factor, the videos are there forever for kids to look at when they want. So basically the mail has criticised a show for putting out something kids could see and then put the same thing somewhere that kids can see when they want. I’m reaching for my imaginary gun as I write this.
Immigration and morality are real bug-bears for me when it comes to the press and media. Paedophilia and rape are serious issues. Both of them are also big societal taboos that should be addressed. But they draw the hysterical press into a collective frenzy whenever they raise their ugly heads even though the press are partially complicit in the views they’re founded on.
The Sun and News of the World, in the rabid calls for chemical castration, the death penalty and Sarah’s law to allow random mobs to burn down pediatricians houses always carefully overlook the fact that they still run anachronistic and incredibly sexist pictures of very young topless models on page 3. Tabloids have, in the past, featured pictorial run-ups to a girls 16th birthday when she could finally get her breasts out for the gratification of men many times her age. They advertise sex-lines or videos for “barely legal” sex or “schoolgirls”. When the Brasseye special on paedophilia hit our screens satirising the way the press acted it was savaged, without a hint of irony, by papers running anti-Brasseye campaigns on one page and leering over 15-year-old girls on another.
It wasn’t just the Star. I can’t find the pics but the Daily Mail ran a vitriolic editorial on Brasseye, while featuring pictures of the Duchess of York’s daughters Beatrice and Euginie (aged about 12 at the time) in bikinis commenting on how good they looked.
Now I wouldn’t mind if these people were really hitting the morally conservative right-wing buttons all the time. I’d hate them. But I’d have to respect that they were reflecting a consistent editorial policy. They’d make my tantrum go up to a 6 or 7 but no higher – cos they would be what they claim to be. What makes me angry is that they are not who they claim to be. They’ll run a piece on immigration on one page and then celebrate our foreign-born celebrity culture on the same page. They’ll preach about promiscuity or sleaze or paedophilia and then publish young flesh by the bucketload to keep their readers interested. It’s this that make me go up to 11 on the tantrum stakes.