Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

Archive for the ‘daily mail’ tag

A very British coup

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I speak not of Gordon Brown’s parting shot in the 2010 election – his pledge to resign to facilitate a deal between the Liberal Democrats and Labour – but of the extraordinary reaction by the Tory press to the news today.

If Brown thought he had endured the worst the assembled frothing, tweeded, spluttering, luv-a-duck rent-a-mob of assembled gobshites and nutcases had to throw at him, he was wrong.

Throughout the last couple of weeks, and through various twists and turns, one thing has become clear. The assembled weight of the media has been thrown well and truly behind Cameron and the Tories to almost unimaginable proportions.

The Tory press today suggested that no less than a coup was being perpetrated right under the noses of British subjects, and appears to be calling for its own in return.

What else to make of the claims that Brown is perpetuating a ‘sordid’ coup; or that Clegg has behaved ‘treacherously’?

Yesterday, says the Mail, was a ‘squalid day for democracy’. Inside, Richard Littlejohn railed against ‘nothing less than an attempted coup’, a ‘cynical putsch’ and a ‘naked power grab’.

He went on to state that Brown might as well have ‘ordered the tanks to roll down Whitehall and train their guns on the meeting of the Parliamentary Conservative Party’.

If he pulls off a Lib-Lab coalition, ‘democracy as we have known it in Britain will be shattered – possibly beyond repair’.

Astonishingly, Littlejohn even dares to have a pop at the ‘desperate Labour propaganda sheets’, while taking a pot-shot at the ‘the State broadcaster, the BBC’ for broadcasting lies about the Conservative party, the true hallmark of all swivel-eyed columnists.

To my mind, all of this goes well beyond anything the Tory press has managed before. The sheer brass neck, the hypocrisy, and the deliberate ignorance of parliamentary process. The right-wing press seems to have lost its grasp of the facts at hand.

The electoral system that they all back has produced a hung parliament, the mess that is responsible for all this back-room chicanery, but they want to keep it. (Note to Kay Burley: People did not ‘vote for a hung parliament’).

Brown, constitutionally, has the first right to try and form government, but allowed Clegg and Cameron to have the first shot at it, despite the resulting power vacuum.

The Conservative Party did not win the election. Combined, the Labour-Lib Dem share of the vote dwarfs the Tory share of the vote. Combined, Lib-Lab seats would eclipse Tory seats.

British politics in the 20th century is littered with unelected Prime Ministers, mostly Tory, as would be the case under a new Labour leader in a progressive coalition.

This is how hung parliaments work, this is how our electoral system works, this is how the constitution works. This is how politics works.

I’m personally dubious that a Lib-Lab coalition is the right result to come out of this election, but I’m not clear on what is the right result. No-one, to my mind, has a mandate. There is no victor.

But a Lib-Lab coalition would be perfectly constitutional and perfectly reasonable. It would be no more of a coup than a minority Tory government or a Lib-Con coalition, which is to say that it would be none at all.

The irony is, in complaining about Brown’s final act constituting nothing more than a ‘coup’- with all the talk about ‘treachery’ and ‘sordid’ politicking – the right-wing press appears to be calling for nothing less itself.

In a more fractious political, social or economic landscape, the language and tone deployed by tabloid editors and columnists across London screaming for Brown’s head could be explosive – and horribly irresponsible.

As it is, despite all the promises that the markets would not tolerate a hung parliament and that people would be burned to death on the streets, subsequently proved to be baseless, the press just looks like a spoiled child denied its way.

Brown may be affording himself a smile.

Election Day front pages: A predictable roll-call of shame

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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.

Wot will win the 2010 election?

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There’s been something awful about this election, beyond the stuff that’s usually awful about elections.

Alongside how utterly hopeless the media at large have been in actually reporting the issues – as opposed to some things David Cameron has said, some suits Nick Clegg has worn and some mistakes Gordon Brown has made – there’s been the most naked display of vested interests for nearly 20 years.

The likes of The Mail and The Express adopt frothingly bigoted political lines because it’s what helps them sell papers, and it reflects the unpleasant ideologies of their respective owners.

The Torygraph backs the Conservatives because it’s read mainly by retired Brigadiers who remember the Boer War. The Star… well, who gives a flying one what the Star thinks eh?

As for The Sun and The Times, well, they back whoever proprietor Rupert Murdoch tells them to back, based on various deals with whichever party he reckons will win the election and deliver the goods.

This time around it’s barely even a secret that Murdoch, or rather his son James, wants to open a new front against the BBC, and has promised David Cameron his backing in exchange for crippling the Beeb.

The Sun always makes a big deal of wanting to look like its support is the deciding factor in an election campaign, but in reality Murdoch backs whoever he calculates is most likely to win.

In years gone by, back to 1997 and throughout the 80s, this was fairly easy to predict. The only recent blip was 1992, where the Sun pulled out all of the stops to virtually suggest that Neil Kinnock was insane.

‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It,’ gloated the Scum, so we know who to thanks for the following five years of the dross from John Major’s crumbling government.

’92 is an election regularly debated by students of psephology – a smart word for voting behaviour – because all the polls suggested that Labour would win. Could it have been the rabidly hostile Tory press than won it for Major? Tough to say, but I’ve never been in doubt as to the potential power of the media in politics.

One need only look at the last 18 months of absolute slating Gordon Brown – like Major, a decent man – has endured from the Sun, Mail and Telegraph; the results of which are that most people in the country now despise him without actually knowing why.

Anyway, 2010 should provide another clue as to the power of the media in elections because, having backed Cameron, the Murdoch press now faces the possibility of their man not actually winning. What will that do for the Sun’s habit of picking a winner? Or Murdoch’s latest ambitions?

The palpable desperation emanating from the front pages of the Sun recently has been almost pitiful, culminating in today’s risible front cover where Simon F’in Cowell appears to give his support to Cameron.

Delve inside the paper (if you can bear to) and you’ll find article after article telling us how much Sun readers love Cameron, and how a hung parliament will mean that Britain will fall into a volcano. Except, that’s not what Sun readers voting in polls on the online version have been saying.

Malcolm Coles has shown as much with some number-crunching on Sun polls, which show that its readers believe that Clegg won the third debate; Sun readers aren’t fussed about a hung parliament; and that a poll apparently showing Mums to be swinging behind Cameron shows nothing of the sort.

The Sun has gone into Cameron overdrive, barely stopping short of suggesting that WebCameron’s cock is bigger than Brown’s and Clegg’s put together, and offering a kind of non-stop tabloid blowjob to the Photoshopped Tory leader.

The rise of Clegg has also sent shivers down the spine at News International, so a full-scale assault was subsequently launched on the Lib Dems.

Unlike the US, where Fox News is basically a propaganda arm for the lunatic US right wing, the UK broadcast media is bound by strict rules of impartiality. Bad news for Murdoch Junior, who wants to extend Sky into a kind of Death Star of the media.

But this election campaign has brought the first whispers that Sky’s news coverage has not appeared to be quite as straight down the line as it should. And David Cameron has appeared to suggest that broadcasting regulations may need an overhaul. What can it all mean?

People have told me that Murdoch Senior is actually fairly left-of-centre, as far as his personal politics are concerned. What’s more he’s fairly friendly with Brown, and hit it off big style with Tony.

But Murdoch doesn’t let politics get in the way of business, and having been persuaded by son James to back Cameron, has had to throw the combined News International weight behind Cameron and the Tories.

What will happen? For the first time since 1992 I have no idea, as far as the election goes. As for the press, it’s been fascinating to see the Sun frantically attempting to shore up its man, knowing that its reputation is at stake. Indeed, the FT suggests that the Sun’s backing for Cameron has had the opposite effect.

A defeat for Cameron may mean that the rise of multimedia and the web has neutered the power of the papers in this regard, and with it the power of print media barons.

A win could open up a new front in partisan media, via Sky News and the humbling of the BBC, because Murdoch’s help won’t come without strings. Then, maybe, it won’t be the Sun wot wins it in the future, but the Sky.

That TV leader debate reporting in full

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After the rollercoaster thrill ride of three men disagreeing with each other and an off-camera man occasionally shouting, I’ve compiled this exhaustive list of newspaper and website coverage taking place both during the debate and over the next 24 hours.

• Debate clearly won by Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg

• Tiresome analysis of clothes worn by three candidates

• Article on Richard Nixon / JFK Presidential debate

• Infographic making inexplicable use of shapes in three primary colours

• Daily Mail picture of Gordon Brown looking sweaty

• Analysis of various ‘blunders’ by three party leaders

• Composite images of three leaders with mouths open

• Tiresome ‘Have Your Say’ section with numbingly tedious and/or ill-informed user-generated content

• Hopelessly unfunny sketch by Simon Hoggart/Rod Liddle/Amanda Platell

• Shit Sun mock-up of Gordon Brown looking like Compo from Last of the Summer Wine

• Dull profile of Alistair Stewart

• Live blog from short-straw reporter in pub in Hartlepool

• Millions of links to Twitter feeds churning out pointless quotes

• C4 blog by Jon Snow’s tie on what Brown, Cameron and Clegg were drinking backstage

• Swing-o-meter-style mock-up based on how many times each man says ‘change’.

• Live panel quizzed throughout debate consisting of white-van driving racist, muesli-eating hippie and boring middle-aged woman

• Plaintive whinge from Alex Salmond, live from reactor building in Dounreay

Now with added Clegg!

It’s a week later, and I deliberately spent the night cycling, editing photos and watching cricket. Anything really to avoid the dreaded leader’s debate and the ensuing media volcanic ash torrent of drivel. If you did too, here’s what you missed.

• Lots of articles and reports about end of two-party hegemony

• Right-wing press fall in line to paint Clegg as nutter/shirker/gay/gyppo/foreigner-loving liberal who is, quite possibly, a maniac

• Some of the broadcast media inexplicably start reporting rumours they’ve heard about Nick Clegg from hostile briefings

• Someone from Keane backs Nick Clegg

• Lib Dem supporters wonder how much further ahead they’d be with Charles Kennedy

• DPS Observer interview with Vince Cable called ‘The man who would be King’, trailed with front page lead headlined ‘Cable to bring City to heel’

• Marina Hyde writes shit sketch about how she fancies Vince Cable. Called The Cable Guy.

• Sue Malone writes poisonous article about Miriam González Durántez’s wardrobe

• Scratchy radio interview with Paddy Ashdown, saying how great Clegg is, and what a bastard Tony Blair is

• The Sun mocks up a shit photo of Nick Clegg heading down a hill in a tin bath.

Written by Robin Brown

April 15th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Twitter delivers instant karma to Jan Moir

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At a guess Jan Moir has had about 10,000 tweets devoted to slating her intelligence, appearance and humanity today, following a nasty little article in the Daily Mail about Stephen Gately’s death.

Moir managed to get to the top of Twitter’s top trends, normally reserved as a kind of telegraph system for broadcasting death notices of celebrities, for a good couple of hours today – probably giving her the kind of widespread publicity most journalists would pay for.

Moir Twitter

In the article Moir states that there was ‘nothing natural’ about Gately’s death; writes a couple of hundred words of innuendo and speculation about the supposedly sordid final hours of the Bozone singer; and ends her article with the implication that all same-sex civil partnerships are doomed to end in an early death.

Another real sadness about Gately’s death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.

For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see.

Moir, whether deliberately or not, conflates homosexuality with ‘dangerous’ lifestyles and ‘dark’ appetites, also dragging the death of Matt Lucas’ former partner into the argument.

It’s the kind of thing that the Mail, its columnists and readers revel in so it comes as no surprise to me. However the Twittersphere has seen things differently and sent tens of thousand of volleys of personal abuse the way of Moir.

Moir is the kind of self-righteous female columnist lampooned by Private Eye who make a habit of furiously attacking other women for their appearance, tread the tiresome ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ line and exist in a world where every crapulous observation is accompanied by an equally terrible pun.

They’re mean, spiteful and full of themselves, and newspapers lap them up. Here are some previous greatest hits:

• ‘Eating a ham sarnie causes cancer? These ham-fisted food fascists are just pig ignorant’ – Moir knows more about cancer than the World Cancer Research Fund

• ‘Oh, dear! That was a total dog’s breakfast’ – Moir slates Alastair Darling and his wife for their appearance

• ‘Jade was a unique and very brave girl. But let’s not pretend she was a saint’ – Moir criticises the freshly-dead Jade Goody

The Gately article is nasty, insidious stuff but it’s kind-of par for the course for these kind of columnists.

Where this case differs is that vast amounts of people can now access their work via websites, which were previously accessible only to newspaper buyers.

So, Moir becomes the most-insulted person on Earth for a day. But I strongly doubt the Mail will take the article down, with all the traffic and link juice such attention-seeking articles garner.

It’s the same reason The Grauniad’s Comment Is Free section keeps printing articles designed to specifically bait its own readership.

Inbound links, hits, ad clicks, user-generated content, publicity. They’re all likely to outweigh any negative publicity. And the Mail’s readership are hardly likely to see anything wrong with the article.

I suspect Moir herself will lap it up – she’s the kind of columnist that thrives on hatred.

Then again, it’s not every day one gets to see someone on the receiving end of such comprehensive come-uppance, so my gratitude to Twitter for its amusing and heartfelt outpouring of hatred.

• There’s already a Facebook group demanding a retraction and a suggestion that the article breaks several PCC rules. You can view the form here.

UPDATE: Well, I didn’t see this coming

UPDATE 2: Moir has apologised, though it’s a decidedly mealy-mouthed half apology:

“The point of my column – which I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all. Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.

“In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages. In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”

This was exactly the kind of ‘what a lot of fuss over nothing’ response I’d expected, but it seems that if you hit papers where it hurts – in the wallet – even the likes of the Mail are forced to backtrack.

Written by Robin Brown

October 16th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Twitter bums Daily Mail Online

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It goes without saying that the Daily Mail is one of the world’s worst newspapers, but its website is something else entirely.

I have a grudging respect for the team behind the website, as its a slick operation that is as attractive as it is sticky.

My admiration for its content is muted, however, by the fact that it’s responsible for some of the worst hate-filled bile on the internet – although I’ve been told by journalist friends that many Mail journalists hate themselves for the rubbish they have to put out.

This mainly comes from the reader comments, but they’re stoked up by the content and the way it rather subtly plays to its readers’ worst fears and excesses.

The Mail Online’s polls are particularly notorious, constituting absurdly loaded xenophobic or daft Little Englander questions and generally beyond anything any web parody could muster. Here’s a random sample:

Should we give up more power to the EU?
Should immigrants be forced to respect British culture?
Should wheelie bins be scrapped?
Should Prince Charles keep his opinions to himself?
Will Brown’s Iraq inquiry just end in a whitewash?

The Twitter community is fairly diametrically opposed to the Mail’s political outlook, and I’d say it’s generally left-leaning and progressive.

As such the order of the day on Twitter at the moment is supporting democracy in Iran and slating Sarah Palin.

Brilliantly, the Twitter community has also harnessed its own mischievous spirit and predilection for railing against intolerance by mounting a campaign to deliberately skew the Mail Online’s latest polls – its most odious yet.

Daily Mail Online Twitter poll

This particular poll is actually titled ‘Should the NHS allow gipsies to jump the queue’. Normally any such poll should be a red rag to a bull for the Mail’s readership, but the Twitterati are currently responsible for a 93 per cent vote in favour of ‘gipsies’ jumping the NHS queue.

I suppose there’s probably some kind of serious point to be made on this, but I prefer to simply point and laugh.

EDIT: A bit of digging reveals the original article the poll is based on, written by Richard ‘Fat cunt’ Littlejohn, which contains the following charming sentence:

The actual numbers of proper raggle-taggle, Romany gipsies in Britain is minute.

Most of these ‘travellers’ are Irish tinkers, itinerant scrap-metal merchants, scruffy hippies left over from the 1983 Glastonbury Festival, or dubious waifs and strays from Eastern Europe doing a bit of freelance begging.

It’s not hard to predict the conclusion Mail readers were likely to come to.

Predictably the Mail has taken the poll in question down, but with any luck the severity of the bumming will make the Mail wary about posting such absurd polls in the future.

Then again, maybe not eh?

Stupid Daily Mail muslim poll

Written by Robin Brown

June 19th, 2009 at 3:13 pm