It is a standard part of the mythology that newspapers tell their readers what to believe – and the readers believe them. This is why the left keeps shrieking about the barons controlling the press, it could only be that poisoning of the minds of the proletariat which keeps said left from sweeping all before it in politics. The actual study – you know, science – of how this works is that newspapers follow the prejudices of their readers. The Sun is not socially conservative and rightish in its views because Rupert Murdoch is so but because a large portion of the British working class is so.
Or, as we might put it, the reason the left doesn’t sweep the board with the votes of the proletariat is because large numbers of the proletariat think the left either don’t represent them, or are aware that the left are nuts.
Not that Polly Toynbee has got this:
Asked for the winning formula of his Daily Mail, Lord Northcliffe replied: “I give my readers a daily hate.” No one has kept that flame burning more brightly than Paul Dacre, poisoner of the national psyche, bully-in-chief, whose iron whim has terrified prime ministers for a quarter of a century, and who has announced he will be stepping down as the paper’s editor in November.
Like all bullies he targets underdogs, imposing on the country racism, homophobia and philistinism, and shunning complexity and evidence. His sheer bully-power often frames the national debate by warping broadcasters’ news agendas, because they know the Mail makes politicians quake. Theresa May – his candidate – caves in to him every time, as paralysed on paying for social care as on Brexit. His legacy is the great Brexit divide that has torn the country in two.
No, it’s not Paul Dacre that has gifted such to the nation. The truly horrifying thing about the Daily Mail is that a couple of million Britons do actually think this way. Equally, there are three terrifying people who agree with The Guardian if I’m reading these sales numbers correctly.
All of which leads to an interesting little test:
Geordie Greig is to be the new editor of the Daily Mail, putting a staunch remainer in charge of one of the most pro-Brexit newspapers in the country.
The current Mail on Sunday boss will replace Paul Dacre, 69, who is stepping down in November.
Lord Rothermere, who controls the two papers, said: “Geordie has been an outstanding editor of the Mail on Sunday, and I am delighted that he will continue the high-quality journalism that Paul has made a hallmark of the Daily Mail for more than 25 years.”
A source with knowledge of the discussions told the Guardian that Greig’s appointment was part of a process of “detoxifying the Daily Mail” after Dacre’s editorship.
Any change to the Daily Mail’s editorial line on Brexit could have substantial implications for the government.
What appears in the editorials isn’t really the point. How news coverage gets slanted, the choice of columnists, that will. And thus our little test. How much are those selections and slants going to change? A radical and major change would argue in favour of what I’ve called the left’s delusion of how it works. Not much, a tad of shading here and there, would support that scientific result.
We’ll see, eh?