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Wilby on the Mail

Peter Wilby has written (in this week’s New Statesman) quite a convincing piece relating to the Mail‘s continually shifting opinions:

His paper has conducted a furious campaign to persuade the government to stop deporting failed asylum-seekers to Zimbabwe. On their return home, these people face imprisonment, torture and possibly death, it reports. The Home Office, thunders the Mail, “is so focused on meeting ambitious targets for deporting failed asylum-seekers that it has lost sight of the true horrors unfolding in Zimbabwe”.

Excuse me. Isn’t the Mail vitriolically opposed to asylum-seekers? Aren’t the government’s “ambitious” deportation targets the result of intense pressure from the Mail and similar papers? Wasn’t the Mail, even after it started banging on about Zimbabwe, still berating Tony Blair for allowing too many illegal immigrants to stay?

You can try, if you like, to find coherence here… But if you carry on like this, you will give yourself a headache. The Mail doesn’t bother… Some newspapers still pay lip-service to their conventional role of providing information, analysis, argument and disclosure. But increasingly they have decided there isn’t a market for these things. So they offer instant emotional responses: indignation, pity, hatred, fear, admiration, and so on. If these responses sometimes conflict with each other, that is the nature of emotion, which is transient and irrational. As Andrew Marr said on the BBC on Saturday: “We used to have movements. Now we have moments.”

It certainly seems to work for the Mail – instant emotional reactions combined with short-lived campaigns against ‘gypsies’, ‘immigrants’, or whichever other group they wish to berate for a while. It’s clearly a fairly winning combination, and well done to them for finding it. We can only hope that the quality papers don’t follow it in their search for a wider readership (though The Times is already well on its way).

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

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