The Daily Mail Freaked Out: Who to Hate More?
It’s widely acknowledged that the Daily Mail doesn’t like a lot of people. Women? Not great. Gay people? Not a fan. Ethnic minorities? Don’t really get them. Immigrants? Not their cup of tea. Ed Miliband? Oh PURLEASE, that guy? And so it has been with glee that I watched the paper over the course of the Scottish Independence campaign freaking out over whom to dislike more – Ed Miliband or “yes” campaigners.
You see it became a bit of a pickle for the Daily Mail. On a recent trip to Scotland, Ed was heckled and threatened by some from the “yes” camp. This meant that the vocal group of campaigners the Mail doesn’t like, don’t like the guy that they don’t like… it’s basically my enemy’s enemy is my friend. And so it was with reluctance and a heavy heart that they grudgingly (kind of) supported Ed during the last week of the campaign in relation to his hostile reception north of the border. As well as this being amusing to watch (as articles appeared that didn’t slag him off at every opportunity like normal), it also shows how pointless the Mail’s attitude is in general. To brand a whole group, (or one man) as a two-dimensional figure of hate is not an intelligent standpoint and does not lead to useful debate. It whitewashes actual issues and reduces opinion to playground level (well I don’t like you so mehh) discussion.
This is not just evident in their reporting of Miliband and the “yes” campaign (Andy Murray has now been added to their list after coming out in support of independence) but with a whole range of issues. The most dangerous consequence of this two-dimensional reporting is that it reduces people who go against or do not fit the Mail’s opinions to the sum of their parts. Women therefore become reduced to how they look: “Esther the Queen of the Downing Street Catwalk (14 July 2014)”, gay people reduced to their sexuality: “Homosexuality is a departure from the norm (April 2012)”, and minorities to their ethnicity or religion: “Britain the country of choice for feckless Poles (7 November 2006)”, “Muslim bus drivers refuse to let guide-dogs on board (19 July 2010)”. And then there’s this charming attempt to justify racism: “Racism is hardwired into the human brain (26 June 2012)”. In short, people are demonized for not being straight, white, rich, right-wing men.
This is not just unpalatable, but it is dangerous. In his essay “The Matter of Whiteness”, Richard Dyer argues that only non-white people are “raced”. White people, therefore, are not only seen as “normal”, they are seen as “just human”. This is also true of gender and sexuality: to not be male and straight is “different” so only straight men are “just human”. There is no more powerful position to be than the socially constructed ideal of “just human”. You are not reduced to the sum of your parts, you are instead defined by your opinions, your successes…your voice.
The Daily Mail needs more confusing weeks where it is forced to choose whom to hate more. Out of this, maybe, just maybe, it will realise that branding individuals or groups with the same brush does not work and is not helpful. Yes, the Mail have got their knickers in a twist and that is amusing, but what it reveals about their simplistic attitudes to serious issues is worrying. It is lazy and dangerous journalism. It keeps the nasty cycle of “other” making spinning and reinforces sexist, racist and homophobic stereotypes. The Daily Mail? No thanks.