Since the closure of the News of the World, previously silent politicians have suddenly started calling for a cleanup of the British press. This new and possibly hypocritical outcry from those elected to make our laws could indicate that there is a real chance of putting the press back into a box where it can be regulated without at the same time being stifled.
It has been said that both the Sun and the News of the World are both regarded as British institutions and part of the British way of life. TheOpinionSite.org believes that this is total nonsense as no newspaper should ever be allowed to become part of the life of any country if it makes its profits from the destruction of the lives of others.
For years now, MPs, ministers and especially prime ministers have cowered in fear as the British tabloid press, owned largely by Rupert Murdoch has sought not just to influence but actually to directly control the government of the day. It may be for the first time in a century we are now seeing a real possibility of change and perhaps the beginning of a new era where the press is still free but must also act responsibly.
This change in attitude however will not come easily. It is estimated that for each of the 2.5 Million copies of the News of the World that were sold every Sunday, there were three readers. In total therefore, there were 7.5 million readers of the tacky tabloid every weekend. That represents about 8% of the current UK population and these people will no doubt be seeking an alternative source of tittle-tattle to replace that once provided by the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.
Regrettably, it is true that the only reason the tabloid press has developed in Britain in the unique way in which it has is the fact that so many British people like to stick their noses into the affairs of others. We’re not just talking here about the privacy of celebrities either.
Perfectly ordinary men, women and even children have often been targeted by the tabloids as being liars, ‘monsters’, ‘fiends’ and other unsavoury characters when it has been suggested that there may be so-called “public interest” in the story. When later these people have been found to be innocent, not a word has been said – not by the papers nor by the public who buy such rubbish.
This description of “public interest” has been deliberately misinterpreted by the tabloids to imply the degree of interest in a particular story that could be likely from the British public when in fact, contrary to the understanding of most people, the term “public interest” actually means “in the interests of the British public”.
What follows therefore is the need for the British people themselves to demonstrate a new kind of responsibility which will also entail minding their own business and not seeking to compensate for their own trials and tribulations by heaping condemnation upon others. It is a curiously British thing indeed that as adults many of us still enjoy watching others suffer at the hands of authority in the way that most children do at school, safe in the knowledge that they themselves are not in trouble.
The sanctimonious “holier than thou” attitude of those who are willing to part with money in order to satisfy the need that it generates is the reason why, unlike in other civilised countries, we have a tabloid press that has legitimised the business of prying into other people’s lives and, if possible, wrecking them.
In this way, the destruction of an individual’s life has become no more important than any other form of entertainment, often catering to the lurid and sordid side of the reader’s human nature. The manipulation of often less intellectually able people has been the mainstay of the tabloid industry’s income as it is so much easier for such individuals to criticise from a distance the shortcomings of others rather than look to fix the inadequacies of themselves.
Such exploitation of not very clever people has kept Mr. Murdoch and others in a very comfortable lifestyle for very many years. The closure of one of his tabloids is not going to change the culture of the British press on its own, particularly with the Express and the Daily Mail still spouting endless streams of misinformation and dogma driven drivel every day.
TheOpinionSite.org believes that the only way to truly get rid of the destructive tabloid mentality that has been around now for over a century, is to stop paying for the rubbish churned out on a daily basis and sold to those who should know better.
If the British really want their press to become more responsible, which allegedly they do, then the public themselves must take the lead and insist on an end to the obnoxious practices that have been so prevalent in recent years. These practices do not only include phone hacking or the lifting of confidential e-mails but much more importantly, the subtle but highly effective conditioning of the British public into supporting a particular point of view or belief.
The anti-paedophile and superficial pro armed forces campaigns created and watched over by Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs were an insult to the British public, not an attempt to satisfy a social requirement. The so-called “naming and shaming” off alleged paedophiles by the News of the World and even the Sun was rightly condemned by almost every law enforcement agency and nearly every major children’s charity as being irresponsible and designed purely for profit, not for the protection of children yet people continued to buy the paper.
The alleged support for British forces fighting overseas again tapped into raw emotion, the type of emotion almost unique to the British in order to make profits for the Murdoch empire, not for the protection or support of “our boys”. The British sense of fair play was milked dry by Brooks and her colleagues as they sought to squeeze every penny from the well-meaning intentions of the British public. This did not prevent them though from hacking the phones of British troops’ families and friends.
The real tragedy is that the hypocrisy of tabloid journalism is there for all to see and always has been. The fact that one scandal mongering newspaper has destroyed itself with a scandal of its own making is not the major factor when it comes to reappraising the role of the press, even if it does get more airtime and column inches than anything else.
The really important aspect under consideration now is not how to prevent newspapers from reporting certain stories but how to educate ordinary people into not falling prey to and not paying for the rubbish and insignificant nonsense that has been peddled by so many cheap newspapers.
The real quest is to end the manipulation of people by a few editors and to take steps to ensure that our own elected representatives are unafraid to tell the truth about delicate situations and government mistakes, rather than have the government attacked by newspaper editors who threaten to dish the dirt on those who do not fall into line.
In short, TheOpinionSite.org believes that the only way to get the press to act responsibly is for the British people themselves to dictate the kind of press that they want. It is not sufficient to shout in protest against the phone hacking involving a dead schoolgirl simply because the chance to do so presents itself. Nor is it sufficient to close one newspaper only to have it reopen under a different name some months later.
If things are really going to change with regard to the British press generally and the tabloid press in particular, it is up to the British public to stop paying for the nonsense produced by the companies responsible. Any other action will only deal with the symptoms, not the cause. The responsibility of cleaning up the British press lies with the British public first and the proprietors and editors of newspapers second.
The unlikely partnership of a responsible press and the freedom to hold governments and others to account is not an easy one to achieve but it can be done and indeed has been done in other European countries and even in the United States. The real cesspit of journalism exists almost exclusively in the United Kingdom and in Britain in particular. It follows therefore that it is the British public that must take control of the situation and the easiest way to do that is to refuse to pay for the sordid, disgusting and often destructive contact that the tabloid press so often throws at us.