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We live in momentous times. Brexit may shortly become a reality. The left and right of the Labour Party are at each other’s throats on a constant basis. Political chicanery has tainted the election campaign for General Secretary of Britain’s biggest union, Unite. The recent violence outside Parliament reminds us that, for all the promises about dealing with terrorism, our leaders have failed to actually do so. Syria is locked in a bloody, brutal civil war and the United Kingdom might someday soon start to disintegrate.
Enter the Daily Mail, supposedly 2016’s Newspaper of the Year according to the London Press Club Awards.
When Prime Minister Theresa May met the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon it was a meeting of two women who have, like them or loathe them, reached high office in a traditionally male-dominated environment. They were also meeting amid much speculation about a second referendum on Scottish independence. You might think, therefore, that the Mail would have chosen to cover the meeting in something resembling intelligent, grown-up terms.
Rather than offer the decent coverage you’d expect from the Newspaper of the Year, the Mail chose to turn this important meeting into a Miss Lovely Legs competition worthy of a cheap 1950’s holiday camp, behaving as though feminism simply never happened. Not for the Mail was there much serious reporting, just a comparison of their legs. It’s as though Benny Hill had been reincarnated and given the editor’s job for the day.
It’s fair to say that it was childish, puerile, juvenile, thoroughly sexist and worthy of nothing more than scorn and derision. Social media, especially Twitter, provided plenty of both and not just from those the Mail would offensively describe as ‘Feminazis.’
It’s bitterly ironic, that a paper once so fond of “Our friend, Chancellor Hitler” and his fellow Fascists General Franco and Benito Mussolini (“Hurrah for the Blackshirts” being another legendary Mail headline) should smear feminists of any and all stripes by comparing them to people they were once so fond of.
The Mail’s latest gaffe is almost standard practice. So is its abject hypocrisy regarding the treatment of women and its faux moral outrage over some of their antics. Young women doing what many young women do, going out on Saturday night, drinking, dancing and having fun while not wearing as much as they might be is, in the Mail’s eyes, a bad thing.
It’s as though wearing heels and a mini-dress and having a few too many Lambrinis definitely will result in the downfall of Civilisation itself. The Mail’s respect for them and concern for their well-being, however, stops short of not photographing them on the pavement and running the story as though it was news.
For every piece bemoaning young women going out skimpily dressed, drinking too much and causing Saturday night mayhem there’s another showing yet another reality TV ‘starlet’ or some other publicity-hungry nonentity going out and possibly behaving badly, probably while skimpily dressed. The reason is simple; It generates money for the Mail and they hope, amid an endless blizzard of click-bait masquerading as news, that nobody has noticed.
The Mail’s history of demeaning attitudes, hypocrisy and, especially in the age of click-bait, the endless flow of webpage-filling smut and innuendo interspersed with fake news could make for a more accurate accolade than ‘Newspaper of the Year,’ namely:
Rarely news that’s fit to print, and lots of trash that isn’t.