Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hate Mail

David Aarnovitch sounds off in The Times:

My [Daily Mail] coguest was essentially only a spoken version of her paper, in which all ministers are hopeless, taxpayers are being squeezed, public services are in simultaneous crisis, epidemics are imminent and have been badly handled and women falsely cry rape. A paper that is impervious to discussion or nuance and in which each necessary article is bent or altered towards this one conclusion, that Britain — once great — is now a toilet, and that Britons — once free — have been betrayed.

...Back on Daily Politics last week the second item was the Friday poll. Respondents had been asked to react to various statements, we were told. The first was “I feel better off today than I did a few years ago”. 53 per cent agreed, 47 per cent disagreed. Next we had: “The Government is to blame for people feeling worse off financially”, with which 61 per cent agreed.

I sat there, incredulous, as these figures were reported as being bad news for the Government. Did the results, for example, mean that the Government should take the blame for the 47 per cent, but could take credit for the 53 per cent? These results, on their own, were meaningless, but they were never questioned. It was a Mail headline in a BBC studio.

I know from the letters page of this newspaper that some readers consider any sort of suggestion that Britain isn’t in meltdown to be, as one correspondent described me, “Panglossian” (after Voltaire’s complacent character who considered that all was for the best in the best of all possible worlds). But in a country where, as The Economist pointed out this week, GDP per head has overtaken France and Germany, and which has the second-lowest unemployment figures in the EU, it seems perverse and dangerous to begin the discussion on what now needs to be done from the untrue premise that most things are dysfunctional.

Forget Pangloss, dear reader, our real enemy is his Dacrean cousin, Dr Pandreck. Embrace him and his box of false sighs, and we will head down the road to isolation, xenophobia and protectionism.

The political consensus on Blatcherism has had a number of strange side-effects. Not least, it has rendered the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ to mean essentially just anti or pro-American.

Because of this, The Daily Mail is not really a ‘right-wing’ paper any more. It’s just a strange, cranky old uncle of a paper. It has nothing nice to say, and it says it a great deal. It has always been the paper for the frightened and the angry: people who are angry at other people’s success, angry with a changing world they don’t understand, angry at getting old. It has no more to do with reality than the average Guardian editorial.

The founding principle of the Mail is that everything is worse than it used to be. Mostly, this is nonsense. But it is true about the BBC television news. The BBC television news has been dumbed down to a level somewhat lower than John Craven’s Newsround circa 1985, and it is a bizarre mixture of the Guardian and the Mail: crude and blatant anti-Americanism, and irrational bleating about how everything is worse than it used to be.


David said...

Now this sings to me. Since beginning blogging I've come to the deflating realization that, on most issues, I think we're doing ok. Some things could be better, some things could be worse, some current trends could end up being very bad, but mostly we're doing ok.

No one, and certainly not me, wants to read someone who says, "Eh, that's ok."

Brit said...

Very true.

Also, because there is such a consensus on social/economic policy, there is a lot of confrontation and bolshiness that has to spill out somewhere.

This might well explain the ferocity and lack of perspective in the domestic anti-war arguments re Iraq - a phenomenon which will, I'm sure, come to be seen as a real 'madness-of-crowds' oddity by future historians.

Duck said...

So what you're saying is that Peter is the "Daily Mail" of the PostJudd Alliance?

Peter Burnet said...

I heard that. If you didn't have me around to show you how you aren't nearly as happy as you think you are, you'd probably neglect your blogging duties and just waste time watching Big Brother.

Duck said...

My blogging duties ARE a waste of time. I should be getting my house ready for sale.

M Ali said...

Despite the propensity for extended oubursts, Peter's a genuinely nice guy.

The Mail is an odd hybrid of one half paranoid, bilious rants and one half celebrity gossip especially anything involving adultery.

"This might well explain the ferocity and lack of perspective in the domestic anti-war arguments."

And climate change.

Peter Burnet said...

The Mail is an odd hybrid of one half paranoid, bilious rants and one half celebrity gossip especially anything involving adultery.

That's right, M Ali. Not like Peter at all. No hybrid he, Peter's into half paranoid, bilious rants about anything involving adultery.

Duck said...

Peter, you say that like it's a bad thing! ;-)

You write the most eloquent bilious rants on the internet! We stand in awe of your magnificent powers.