There’ve been a number of events that have drove me to put a project together examining the stigma and comedic attacks that Daily Mail readers face, and how such attacks are not only unoriginal but exhibit intolerance and snobbery of high order. But these events also demonstrated that people might be calling bullshit on all strands of media and their loyal readers, and not just the ones dictated by panel shows and guest-writers of the New Statesmen. The Future is bright.
Take a recent commute on the Metropolitan Line, somewhere between Finchley Road and Wembley Park, in a carriage full of pissed up Scots on route for a friendly with England. Typically not the place I’d expect to find some alternative free-thinking and certainly not from the lairy Scottish lady from East Fife leading the chorus. While chanting, swigging and ambushing anybody who didn’t join her in song, she lent special consideration for one middle-aged white Lady who sat defiantly reading her paperback.
“Oh look here, you enjoying your book Missy?” She asked [I’m not doing her accent] leering in “I bet you’re a very well to do Lady? And I bet you’re a good upstanding Guardian reader?” – this got a much louder cheer from her fellow fans than any rendition of I Would Walk 500 Miles could’ve ever mustered.
The Yuppie shrugged it off with nervous laughter and a seat further up the train. But I was more taken back by the term “Guardian Reader” being used with negative connotations, insinuating that anybody who isn’t up for drunkenly abusing commuters on public transport at 5.30pm on a Wednesday evening must be too prim and proper to understand real people, and therefore probably reads the Guardian. In chapter 2.1 of this project, “The Unoriginality of it all”, I suggested any comedian who uses Daily Mail readers as a polemic was as characterless as a Southerner who supports Man United. But a Guardian Reader getting abuse from somebody other than from Louise Mensch? I was intrigued by this person. Who is her influence? Who is Scottish Lady’s muse?
For the record, I don’t have a single newspaper of choice (in the days of the internet nobody should commit to one news source). However, disgusted at the news that Southbank skate park is earmarked for development into another Boris Building (you heard the term here first; tall, glass, hazardous to skyline and/or local heritage), I felt it appropriate to share a story from The Guardian on Facebook that emphasized the case against this happening. Though to add gravitas to the sincerity of my act, I did so with the caveat “I know every man and his dog feels the need to post links to The Guardian nowadays, but this is a good piece about a very sorry state of affairs”. Few days later I was congratulated by several free-thinkers for this approach, who too had felt somebody should say something. They also disagreed with the Southbank proposals.
Are the tables turning? Will all the people who incessantly litter my Facebook feed with links to the left-wing press (contributing to the feudal system by enlightening the ignorant proletariat) soon be demonized and ridiculed for their over-reliance on one form of media, just as the Daily Mail readers have been before them? If this is the case, I wanted to be at the forefront of it. Will the gambit “well, according to The Guardian…” be met with the same set of rolling eyes?
Given intellectual comedians know their audience are predominantly young and receptive to multimillionaire comedic revolutionaries, it’ll take a while for this to filter through to the panel shows, but as the inebriated Scottish Lady demonstrated the common football fan is quicker on the uptake.
It’ll be unlikely that all fractions of society will stop attacking the DM, and the above paragraphs only suggest that people are increasingly questioning all newspapers and readership personas. The attacks will unlikely dissipate, but using them as vehicle for alternative comedy will eventually wear out– given, some years too late.
But when it all kicked off during Daily Mail v Ed Miliband, the vast bulk of hysteric uproar was aimed at the paper and its editor Paul Dacre and not the readers, who I was pleased to see, were spared the majority of the onslaught.
I think people, including Gordon Brown’s former advisor Damien McBride (though he appreciated the papers coverage of his infamous book), have realized how daft/damaging it is to smear a group of people for the paper they buy.
Another key milestone event that drove me to play devils advocate in defending the paper of Dacre took place during a conversation I had on New Years Eve 2013 atop the roof of an Islington houseparty. What was being billed as the first free-thinking conversation of the year (albeit just amongst the four us), one guy cracked a joke about the much-scoffed Daily Mail reader. Nobody laughed, which allowed me to fill the void with a monologue that described the unoriginality, snobbery and intolerance of his remark. Not a single person disagreed with me nor did anybody see fit to give this guy his comedic moment. I was surprised but inspired for this was New Labour heartlands, with an intellectually-rich audience on the side of my critique. The future is bright.
If we stop tweeting, retweeting and instinctively nodding with the inner circle posing as the proprietors of #donttrustmedia and the Second Enlightenment, and pay more attention to the grassroots champions of thought, we may just find the latter are on to something more applicable to the wider and greater good. Bash a news vendor for sure, but bash em’ all.
Right, now, where’s that remote control?