Quite often on Mondays, I write a blog about something that has caught my eye in the Sunday papers. I would do that today, except that I didn’t really read the papers yesterday, and I haven’t looked at them this morning, either.
We were away for the weekend. We were at a large(ish) three day party for a friend’s fiftieth birthday in a big house in deepest Dorset. It was lovely, thank you very much.
Rob hurtled off on Saturday and Sunday mornings to find a newsagent’s and buy the papers. It’s the sort of thing someone who worked for the foreign office might do. Frankly, it was the sort of thing that any of us might have done, but it was Rob who got to the task first. He returned with arms full of papers both days, everything from the New York Times (no International Herald Tribune, sadly - always my favourite crossword) to the Sun, and every broadsheet, berliner and tabloid in between. There were a couple of dozen of us, so it made sense to supply us with lots of reading matter.
We generally take several weekend papers when we’re at home, and for many years we did include a tabloid in the pile, generally the Mail on Sunday.
I remember the older dort returning home from school one day and telling us about a class she’d sat in where she was asked which papers her parents read. She reeled off the list, ending with the Mail. The teacher was surprised and said so, asking why we read the tabloid. The dort answered that she thought it was because I liked to have something to argue with.
She wasn’t far off the mark. More accurately, it was because I liked to be aware of the sort of nonsense that was being peddled to the anxious and unsuspecting, feeding their fears and ramping up their prejudices.
I honestly have no idea when last I saw the Sun.
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should you find yourself so inclined
Before I go on, I’m just going to say this. I’m going to say it loudly and firmly, and I’m going to tell you that I believe in what I’m saying, because what comes next will suggest that I don’t believe it for a moment. Here goes... I think that censorship is always ill-advised, detrimental to any democratic society and almost certainly harmful and even dangerous. Freedom of the press is essential to an open society where all subjects can be debated and where no one need feel persecuted for his political views, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender alignment or anything else.
I didn’t read the Sun, but other people at the table we were all gathered around did dip into it, and read bits out, or held up the paper and pointed out pictures or headlines, so I got the gist of what’s going on in its pages.
I understand, and I got this information second or third hand, that the Sun is making some sort of effort to become a family friendly newspaper. Well OK then. I haven’t seen the Sun for... I don’t know, probably decades... but I do remember page 3, and the topless girl that always appeared on it. It was often Samantha Fox or Linda Lusardi when I was exposed to the tabloid. I assumed that the page three girl would be a thing of the past in a family friendly newspaper, in any newspaper in the 21st century. Porn and papers don’t seem like a happy marriage to me in this new age of feminism. Apparently I was wrong. The girl was wearing a bra, but she was still right there, taking up about half of the page. Oh good grief! We really haven’t got past this yet?
There was a story about a girl singer on the X-Factor, accompanied by a picture of her in her knickers and a fur coat, for crying out loud.
There was also a reprise of the story of the woman who had a third breast implanted in order to become famous. I believe it postulated that it might have been a hoax... A-duh.
And, just for good measure, the story on the crisis in the Conservative party, after MPs were caught ‘sexting’ in a sting operation by one of the tabloids used the word WILLY in a sub-head... Not penis or even cock. I wouldn’t have minded so much if the sub-head had referred to one MPs major cock-up in texting porn selfies! for example, but WILLY... Really?
I’m not convinced the Sun was ever my idea of a newspaper, and I’m not sure it was ever what I might consider to be relevant in any society, and yet it continues to outsell every other newspaper on the stands: about 2.2 million copies a day this year.
Words fail me... OK, not quite, because here comes a bit more invective.
From my second-hand reading of this rag, as it was passed around our Sunday breakfast table yesterday, its agenda on sexual politics appears to be that women are for objectifying and ridiculing, and if the Sun can do both at once, that’s all to the good. If it can use women to ridicule and undermine the men it doesn’t like and give them rotten coverage in the press, the paper will find a way to do that, too.
It’s all rather grubby, isn’t it?
I’m not going to tell you what to read, and I know that Rob bought the Sun both because he’s professionally interested, and ironically, and I suppose it’s fine for liberal intellectuals to find it funny, but I’m guessing that more than 2 million of the 2.2 million people who buy the paper every day don’t get the joke.
So... What about them?