Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Great Rightwing Media Implosion

Some articles from different British newspapers. First of all, a story from The Daily Mail, about Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper:
Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe has been signed off as low-risk and could be released from Broadmoor, it was revealed today.

Doctors at the top security hospital have told lawyers for the killer - who murdered 13 women and tried to kill seven others in the 1970s and 80s - that he was no longer dangerous.

If Justice Secretary Jack Straw agrees with the classification, it could see him moved to a medium-security facility and eventually released, according to the Sun newspaper. (1)
And this absurd story, from the Telegraph, about calls for religious books in library to be shelved high up as a mark of respect:
Librarians have been told to move the Bible to the top shelves in a move designed to appease anger in the Islamic community.

Robert Whelan of the Civitas think-tank told The Daily Mail: "Libraries and museums are not places of worship. They should not be run in accordance with particular religious beliefs. (2)
Incidentally, the headline of that piece is "Bible moved to library top shelf over inequality fears," whereas the URL title is Note the difference in wording. By there URLs shall ye know them.

And finally, another piece from The Telegraph, describing the sexual humilition of a suspect in custody under terrorism laws:

Fahim Ansari is accused of helping to plan the attacks in which 173 people were killed in November.

His lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi, has filed legal papers with Mumbai magistrate's court, claiming the "white woman" removed all his clothes and showed him pornographic films.

In the papers, he claims that three foreigners, including the woman, sexually abused him, causing him "severe itching and wounds" on his body, including his genitals.

Mr Ansari, a devout Muslim, claims this amounts to torture because it is against his religion, The Sun newspaper has reported. (3)

Note the commonality - all three are sourcing stories from each other.

I don't know if this is something that has been going on for ages and I've only just noticed it (I have been drinking a lot of coffee, lately, and am a bit more alert than usual), but it seems very weird.

THe papers involved are all rightwing. The Sun is brazenly populaist and geezery. The main is more restrained, preferring to try to reflect petite bourgeois prejudices. The Telegraph likes to present itself a a dignified old duffer, maybe not as collected these days as of yore, but still holding true to the real British values of empire, navy and the flag.

Finding the three of them borrowing from each other is like stumbling upon some sordid tryst in the woods, involving a loudmouth bit of rough trade (I've always suspected The Sun's loudly proclaimed heterosexuality to be a front), a repressed accountant with a secret likeing for the BNP and a doddery old colonel.

While I couldn't give a flying fuck about the journalistic standards at The Mail - you can't care for something that doesn't exist - it is sad to see how the Telegraph has fall apart. After Conrad Black was revealed to be a typical Tory crook, the Telegraph was bought by Barclay Brothers, and since then it has been becoming more and more Mailesque. Unsurprisingly, it turns out Barclay Bros hired an ex-Mail man to run the show for them (4), and Simon Heffer, ex of the Mail, is assistant editor (5).

Can we expect to see more of this sort of thing as the credit crunch bites and papers scrimp and save. It must be pretty bad already, if The Telegraph can't afford to hire a meeja studies graduate to make a few phone calls and spare the poor old fellow the shame of having to acknowledge a tabloid as a source.

What is the place of The Sun in all this? It is owned by Murdoch, and while it could be an example of the Demonic Solidarity of the Oligarchs, I'd have thought they would have been more interested in smiting each other's circulation than combining. That said, The Telegraph's editor, Will Lewis (6), worked as Business editor of The Sunday Times for three years before switching to his job at The Telegraph. Murdoch does own The Sunday Times, so maybe the Demonic Solidartiy of the Oligarchs is the right one.

This combination does raise an intruiging possibility, however. It seems The Sun is becoming an ever more significant arbiter of rightwing views and opinion in Britain. Having ruled the gutter for years, is it now creeping out into respectable society, tainting the pages of The Mail and The Telegraph with its lurid tittle-tattle? If so, how will it affect the readership of the papers it is colonising.

It is a shame that when we really need a diversity of opinion we're getting less and less. Even rightwingers deserve a decent press - how else will they ever learn the error of their ways?

People need to find challenging ideas and new point sof view in newspapers, stuff that will make them think and question their assumptions and prejudices, not comfortable pander to them. We're getting less and less of it however, as the business of selling adverts to consumers strangles journalism.
1 - "Yorkshire Ripper 'fit to be released from Broadmoor'," unattributed Daily Mail article, 18th of February, 2009. (
2 - "Bible moved to library top shelf over inequality fears," by Lucy Cockcroft, published in The Telegraph, 18th of February, 2009. (
3 - "Female FBI officer 'tortured Mumbai terror attacks suspect with sex'," by Ben Leach, published in The Telegraph, 12th of February, 2009. (
4 - "Memo to Gavin O'Reilly - why have you deleted Glover's Telegraph column?," posted by Roy Greenslade on Greenslade Blog, 19th of January, 2009. (
5 - Wikipedia entry for The Daily Telegraph, sub-section 'Recent History.' Viewed as of 19th February, 2009:
6 - Wikipedia entry for William Lewis (journalist). Viewed 19th of February, 2009:

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