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  • The end of the world is Nigh! Don’t believe me? Pick up a paper

The end of the world is Nigh! Don’t believe me? Pick up a paper

Tom Hoctor

The result of the Oldham East and Saddleworth (OES) by-election was not quite, but almost, a foregone conclusion. For reasons best known to themselves a large portion of the electorate voted for the Liberal Democrats at the general election last May. Many of these were what are technically known as protest voters (although I prefer the term whingers), who would vote against a government no matter what colour of sheep’s clothing it wore. As the Liberal Democrats are now part of a government pushing through spending cuts, raising VAT, and generally being smug gits on television, these ‘whinge’ voters are continuously finding more obscure parties to vote for to show their displeasure (like Labour). One of the other near inevitabilities of the OES by-election was that the media would pounce on the result, whatever it happened to be, spin it like mad until it was dizzy and vomiting, and then use it as a club to beat us with. This essentially sums up the media’s general attitude towards political news in the last year. Rather than calmly reporting the news as it breaks, with some measured analysis thrown in for good measure, the media has become a cross between the many-headed Lernean Hydra and Norris from Coronation Street. Essentially a beast with a thousand ears that is constantly listening out for gossip and telling as many people as possible in the shortest feasible time.

We are all familiar with the term ‘media circus’ but the recent advent of coalition has led to a situation more like an all-singing, all-dancing, Andrew Lloyd-Webber production of Walpurgisnacht where the media demons howl 24 hours a day to anyone who will listen. Confusingly, this howling is also peculiarly direction-less. The upshot is that British media has become like a schizophrenic Cerberus spitting fire willy-nilly at government ministers, members of the shadow cabinet, student protesters and confused tourists. The effect on the newspapers of the recent coalition has been particularly amusing, as the various different publications try to reconfigure their fury at targets, which won’t alienate their readership. The Murdoch papers are overjoyed to finally have a Conservative prime minister, but are obviously unhappy that they are joined by Liberal Democrats as well. As a result a middle ground has been found whereby the Murdoch papers will never criticise a Conservative minister, but will happily denigrate any Liberal Democrat (other than their Emperor, Caleggula).

The wealth of poorly researched, misrepresented, pointless stories that seem to dominate popular tabloids really capture the public imagination. On the whole these stories are totally hysterical, and anyone who had spent half an hour with one of their newspapers could be forgiven for thinking that Britain was on the verge of total collapse into perpetual looting, cannibalism, and race war. The government’s spending cuts agenda has turned the Guardian, already a very smug, pretentious rag, into a sort of infuriating ‘I-told-you-so’ machine. Everyone from editor-in-chief to lowliest intern has apparently forgotten that the Guardian cheerfully backed the Liberal Democrats at the May election; in spite of the fact that even then it was obvious that Caleggula was an utter tosser. The Telegraph has decided to take a foray into the world of the Sunday tabloids by entrapping idiotic government ministers. These stories are of dubious public merit, but never mind, eh. This leaves sensible reporting to the Express and Mirror, as only five people and a dachshund read the Independent, which is a bit like asking a lame hamster called Lucy to hold up the sky.

Fortunately, circulation is declining so swiftly that soon nobody will even read these harpies of hysteria, and the only people left reading them will be people like me who still misguidedly care. It’s hard to know who to feel sorriest for: the politicians who are being pilloried or the general public who have to read about it. The entire situation is so fantastically tedious that I’m considering chucking in all this news business as a bad lot. The way I see it, there are two possible options instead: I could employ someone to follow me around all day intermittently shouting things about social breakdown and corrupt politicians. This would probably have an approximate impact on my mental health. Or I suppose I could just read something else.

Tags: End of the word, Paper, Politics, Tom Hoctor

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