As if there were ever any doubt. Today’s front pages from the right-wing newspapers manage to stretch credulity, taste, truth and decency.
It’s in every newspaper editor’s best interests to pick a winning candidate, to maintain the assumption that newspapers are important in deciding the outcome of elections. The option is to buck against that trend to my going off-kilter, like the Guardian this time around, or dig in with sheer bloody-mindedness, like the Daily Mirror.
As expected, there’s the usual roll call of shame from the right-wing tabloids – ranging from the sheer brass neck and wrong-headedness of the Sun’s Obama rip of Cameron to the implication on the front of the Daily Mail that not voting for David Cameron will mean people being burned to death on the streets of the UK.
The Sun’s is by far the most noteworthy, because whoever greenlit that one – presumably bizarre/Bizarre man Dominic Mohan, currently, baffling the editor – has got it so wrong it beggars belief.
Why? Because very few Sun readers will get the reference. Because even the staunchest Tory will not believe the an ideology-free zone like Cameron will really bring anything new to the table. Because the whole thing is an insult to politics, to design, to typography, to paper. It’s truly abysmal.
I expected a typical Sun piece of crap, like Brown’s face in a haggis and GORDON CLOWN wirtten across the top. The sort of childish rubbish we’re apparently all expected to think is hilarious. But the Sun wrongfooted me, by being even worse.
The Mail’s is more insidious, and says much more about the paper’s relationship with its readership. There’s a clear insinuation that unless Cameron gets a strong enough mandate and starts cutting the deficit we’ll all be going to Hell in a handbasket, which uses a picture of someone actually on fire to try and frighten people into following its line. Which pretty much sums up the Mail.
The Express is more prosaic, ramming its message into the sheep-like minds of its readers. Vote Cameron, Brown a disaster, hung parliament a disaster. It’s only a surprise there’s no mention of cancer or Diana in there somewhere. It can barely be thought of as a newspaper any more.
The Telegraph dutifully falls into line with the Tory ‘hope over fear’ nonsense.
The Times is, on the face of it, restrained. There’s even quite a good cartoon, and the whole thing smacks of gravitas. But we all know that the editorial line of the Times is fatally compromised.
The truth is, they’re all compromised. By the lines forced on them by proprietors, by the need to pander to readerships, by the need to achieve a pay-off on back-room deals with media moguls.
This election has been the worst I can remember as far as the right-wing press goes, through their naked partisanship and by neglecting their greater roles as educators and informers.
Things have come to such a head that popular protests against the press were held a week ago. Laura Oliver, on Journalism.co.uk argues that new media may need to fill the objective void left by a partisan media.
The Guardian and Indie have chosen a meek ‘need for PR’ line, which will probably serve well to split the vote. Only the Mirror has come out with any fire in its belly, with a picture of Cameron in his Bullingdon attire.
I think it’s a powerful front page, and there will be some interesting discussions as to where the rights to that image may lie in the future – public domain, public interest? – but it’s still the old tribal drum-beat.
I suppose that an editorial line borne of ideology isn’t really as offensive as one for naked commercial gain, but looking at the selection of paper this morning I just felt depressed.
Depressed that it’s come to this; depressed for the parlous state of journalism in the UK; depressed at the hate and fear-mongering.
The 2010 general election: A willfully stupid, mendacious and depressing election.