Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Sun: thanks but no thanks.

I was looking forward to returning my free copy of The Sun this week, or using it to wipe my feet on, as our old doormat is a bit frayed at the moment. But we didn't get one. I don't know whether to be pleased or disappointed. 

On the news last night I had one of those moments when you think maybe you have passed into a parallel universe of unbelievable-ness, that someone's playing a joke and is going to get into legal trouble for creating a photo-shopped image of three main MPs in this country holding copies of The Sun. What a great joke, but surely that's illegal on TV, photo-shopping? Those guys are going to be really cross.

And then you realise it's actually true: the three leaders of the main political parties have actually agreed to be photographed holding copies of The Sun, thus endorsing a paper which relies on sensation and bare boobs to sell copies. I honestly thought someone had done a photo shop image, placing copies of The Sun into hands that were actually holding up something else. But apparently, yes, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats have endorsed The Sun on National TV. Because The Sun of course represents US ALL: 'OUR ENGLAND'... OUR BOYS.

Now I know it's a special edition for the World Cup, and I know (tellingly) that 'Page 3' has been omitted in this one. And I've nothing against football, apart from the fact that I though after the Olympics we were going to have more women's sport on the box...

But still...I went to bed last night deeply depressed and woke up feeling the same. Questions going round in my head included: has Ed Milliband taken complete leave of his senses? (he has since been forced to apologise to disgruntled Liverpool and other Labour supporters - what a surprise). Also: how can those 2 others sleep at night with excruciating photos out there for ever? Would a female MP stomach being photographed endorsing The Sun? The evils of mass media monopolies, etc. etc.

I suppose it was a moment when I realised (as if it weren't obvious anyway) who really holds the power in this country.

An argument for continuing to have 'Page 3' goes like this: it doesn't harm anyone; (some) women are happy to be photographed topless so why shouldn't they? Our readers can decide if they don't like it: those who object are mostly people who don't buy it and they don't have to.

Which is why I'm nearly always suspicious of phrases like 'each to his own', 'live and let die' and 'let the markets decide'. 

A sombre side to letting the markets decide, of course, is that the markets did decide in Liverpool, which boycotted the national Sun distribution due to continued resentment against that newspaper for its inaccurate and hurtful reporting of the Hillsborough disaster, in which thuggish fan behaviour was wrongly attributed to innocent victims.

If The Sun can leave out Page 3 for mass consumption, why can't it embrace the 21st Century and leave it out altogether? 

I'm basically imagining a day when an old copy is kicking around somewhere in an archive and one of my grown up grandchildren (still to be born) looks puzzlingly at page 3 of the 'newspaper' and asks, 'Granny, why is that lady topless inside a newspaper?' and I'll explain, slightly embarrassed, that I lived in a time when this was still thought to be entirely normal; and she'll look at me, and look back at the photograph, and look up to heaven as if to say, 'I can't believe they actually used to do that'.

The sort of 21st Century equivalent of parading a bearded lady round a circus ring. And for the sake of our esteemed political leaders, I hope my grandchildren don't stumble across an old photo of them gormlessly endorsing such a paper.

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