Sunday, March 02, 2008

Heat magazine: required reading for rapists and killers

Such at least is Mariella Frostrup's rather creative logic.

While Jemima Khan made headline news for allegedly neglecting to wear underwear (headline news? it was the first I'd heard of it), three men were jailed for heinous crimes against [women]

See there are all these gossipy, celeb sites which got very exited about Jemima's nether parts, and there are all these porn sites which features girls not wearing knickers and, if you ignore the fact that some of these cater exclusively to women and homosexuals and some of them don't, they're practically the same thing.

It may seem like harmless fun to check out Kate Moss's crinkly leg as featured on the cover of Heat, but being a model doesn't make her simply a selection of body parts put together for our delectation.

... If broadsheets struggle to separate Cat Deeley from Hillary Clinton and we all eagerly participate in a culture that judges women on their anatomy first, our society may not create rapists and killers, but it certainly contributes to the incubation.

I'm sure we are all guilty of judging Hillary Clinton on her anatomy first, but I'd like to think we live in a culture in which most people can, in fact, the tell the difference between her and Cat Deeley and can distinguish between tittle tattle and pyschopathy. But if we have a media culture in which showbiz types are urged to comment on serious issues and given the mistaken idea that they have a special insight to offer – say someone who evidently doesn't know what 'subprime' means writes a newspaper column on it, and it doesn't get spiked – a degree of confusion is understandable.

There is something of interest in Frostrup's article, however. It's the underlying belief that the media as a whole plays a vital role in shaping people's views. I'm sceptical as to the extent to which this is true. Put it this way, I don't think that anyone has ever put down a copy of the Daily Mail and said to them themselves: "You know, I thought foreigners were generally good sorts, but I now realise they are rapacious, blood thristy villains who are here to steal my job, leech on the benefits system and commit a range of shockingly newsworthy crimes."

Nor, I think, do the brains behind the Mail*. It's raison d'etre, after all, to play on and reflect its reader's fears about the wide, scary world ("a paper written by office boys, for office boys"). Smart editors know they have to give their readers something which reflects their interests and attitudes.

This could easily spin off into a philosophical cycle about how those interests and attitudes are formed and the role the media plays in forming them, so I'll go no further. Save to add this comforting thought: that it's quite possible Richard Littlejohn, Polly Toynbee and the rest of the commentariat – Mariella Frostrup included - are not going to change many people's minds about anything.

*Well done, Google. Even if Northcliffe's "daily hate" quote is probably a fabrication.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Quink said...

Oh I don't know. It wasn't until I had read the Saturday Guardian that I decided to show my solidarity with the Labour movement by wearing designer clothes, eating in Michelin starred restaurants, buying myself a third home, hiring several expensive interior designers and relying on nepotism rather than talent to get me on in life.

I used to be a really selfish shit before then.

4:41 pm  
Anonymous Mortdecai said...

Sorry, I'm still giggling at one part of the Wikipedia entry on Northcliffe's organ:

"A character in A Bit of Fry and Laurie says she is a Daily Mail reader because she prefers it to a newspaper"

Bill, was your tongue firmly in cheek when you used the phrase "the brains behind the Mail"?

10:05 am  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Well fuck me, the Mail and the Grauniad are morphing into the same beast at an alarming rate.

This is that old 'the media brainwashes us' argument, based on research done in the 1940's in Frankfurt. This theory, known more usually as 'the hypodermic model' isn't taken seriously by anyone anymore, except The Daily Mail, Westminster Council (which banned Cronenberg's dullest film, Crash, for fear it would inspire copycat behaviour, and now, dear Mariella.

Of course, when exponents of this theory talk about how the nasty media injects its pernicious messages and values into an unsuspecting public, they don't include themselves in that, oh no, they are far too sophisticated for that - they mean the rest of us, the proles, too stupid and naive to understand the difference between 'entertainment' and fact.

I need a sit down.

Puss

10:50 am  
Blogger bill said...

Mortedcai, never underestimate the Mail. There is, at least, a low cunning at work there.

A splendid rant Puss. Worthy of the finest traditions of the Daily Mail. I think lots of media types over-estimate that influence they have; natural enough, I suppose, if liable to cause delusions of adequacy if they're not careful.

This is also annonying when it leads to papers telling you what to do. The ethical columns in the Observer, for instance, make me want to go hunt whales and leave all the lights on.

2:49 pm  
Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Eminently sensible, Bill. Hunting whales in the dark is most troublesome.

Puss

4:16 pm  
Blogger dominic said...

Of course, it is the Indie than one refers to as "The Mail for those who recycle"

5:23 pm  

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