Newspapers play an interesting dual role. On the one hand, they are there to inform readers about the world and the people and events which impact on their lives. To relate relevant news, though, they must appeal to the readers’ conception of their place in the world. A competitive free press offers readers a range of options, allowing them to select the paper which tells them what they want to know, in terms they can understand and in a tone that agrees with their preconceptions.
In this light, newspaper circulation figures reflect the identification of a readership with the sort of ideas that each newspaper conveys. At the time of starting this blog, the Daily Mail had around 2¼ million readers for its offering of cynicism and celebrities. This is a constituency happy to have their worst fears confirmed: the world in in decline, the government doesn’t represent them, the things that they have worked for are being taken from them and redistributed to the unworthy. Daily they choke on their cornflakes as they read stories of ever worsening crime, a tide of immigration eroding their way of life, public services collapsing, self-serving politicians, threats to health in everyday foodstuffs and the frivolity and waste of the rich. Then, turning to the op-eds, their cheer the brave souls who break the fearful silence of the PC-brigade to tell it like it is.
In some respects, this is no different from any other newspaper; this blog could, for instance, equally easily examine fears of the Apocalypse in the Independent. The Mail is slightly different though, partly because of the size of its readership and partly because its world is uniquely dark. It is a frightening world, and it is frightening that people believe in it.
This blog aims particularly at the columnists. As far as I can tell, the average newspaper pundit has no qualification for the job other than an ability to write something topical once a week in a way that provokes a reaction from the readership. Their job is to put the news in context, placing it within the wider landscape of the readers’ world. As such, they are the easiest and clearest window onto that world, and the most obvious way of seeing the inaccuracy and overstatement that litter it.
I doubt I’ll say much that is novel or insightful, or that isn’t obvious to anyone who doesn’t read the Mail. After all, my qualifications stretch no further than the ability to write a contrary position. Inevitably, what audience the blog ends up with will be those who find it confirms the opinions they already hold. Someone should say something though, and this is a start.