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A Cruel World? – Cartoon Logic

More newspaper coverage this week, and this time, it’s the Daily Express. I really don’t like the Daily Express, and I’ll tell you why. Its major problem is that it sits in the ‘middle-market’ group of newspapers. The godawful middle-market group. You see, you’ve got the ‘quality’ papers at the top. The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent, amongst others. Regardless of their political leanings, you can usually expect quality journalism from these papers. Usually. Then, at the bottom, we have the redtop tabloids. The Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Star. These papers are horrible, almost entirely, almost without exception. They publish nothing of any consequence and border on the worthless. But they don’t take themselves too seriously, and that works in their favour; they don’t pretend to be proper papers. Case in point, The Sun recently published this Mary Poppins-style front page headline: “Softy Calais goes ballistic… Frenchies are atrocious!” I know, right? Unbelievable.

Herein lies the problem with the middle-market papers; they publish tripe under the veneer of quality. They look like real newspapers, but they’re not. It’s the content of The Sun in the clothes of The Guardian. In this group are the dreaded Daily Mail (which I laid into back in August) and the appalling Daily Express, which is the paper I want to talk about today. In particular, I want to bring up the back page of Monday’s Express. As I’ve said before, I like to write about something that’s annoyed me, particularly something that’s annoyed me recently. And as I boarded a train on Monday, I spotted someone holding the Express and I spotted the sports headline.

‘A Cruel World’ it said, above a picture of a Scottish rugby player and the referee from Sunday’s Scotland-Australia match. Now, I know as much about sport as the editor of the Express knows about balance, but just think about this headline for a moment. I understand that there was a controversial refereeing judgement regarding a penalty in the last few minutes, but seriously? ‘A Cruel World’?

Let’s step back, and imagine a universe in which an alien race visits Earth, and for science fiction type reasons, demands that we fully explain and defend the back page of the Express, or face vaporisation. Let’s say they don’t accept the ‘it’s just a saying’ argument, which, to be honest, I’m not sure I do either. Think about the implications of this ‘saying’. The conversation might go something like this:

Human: Ok, the Express thinks that humans live on a cruel world, because Scotland lost a rugby match in possibly unfair circumstances.

Alien: What’s rugby?

Human: Oh, it’s a sport in which–

Alien: What’s sport?

Human: Well, it’s basically competitive physical activity that aims to improve ability while providing entertainment to participants and spectators.

Alien: It’s competitive physical activity. With a winner and a loser. Inevitably, someone would win that match and someone would lose. And your world is cruel because someone lost?

Human: Well, yeah, but it was possibly unfair.

Alien: The paper communique claimed your planet was cruel. We’ve been watching your planet, and we thought the awful war you have in your nation-state of Syria is cruel. We thought famine in the continental mass known as Africa is cruel. Perhaps the outcome of a sporting match isn’t actually one of the things that make your world cruel?

Human: Yeah, but it was a particularly unfair last-minute win. Australia snatched victory from the jaws of defeat–

Alien: Of a sporting match.

Human: Of a sporting match, yeah.

Alien: Not a war.

Human: Not a war, but fans really care about whether their particular team wins or–

(Alien vaporises human)

Alien: Yeah? And how fair is that, huh? Is that cruel, being vaporised? Do you like that, eh? Do you?!

Get a grip, Express. I mean, there’s hyperbole and then there’s offensive hyperbole. Imagine if a refugee from the Syrian war, who has had their home literally blown up and has had to literally run away from terrorists and a murderous regime, saw a copy of that Express back page. The world is cruel because Scotland lost at rugby. That’s it. That’s the great injustice that we face.  I wouldn’t have cared if they’d gone for ‘A Cruel Match’. Even ‘A Cruel World Cup’. But no. ‘A Cruel World’. What, all of it?!

Perhaps it’s that I don’t care about sport in any way. Maybe that’s why it annoys me. It’s just a headline after all. But no. You know what? I’m not just going to let it slide. If the Express thinks that a rugby defeat is sufficient reason to describe the world as cruel, then they’re a bunch of idiots. And if you agree with the Express in any sense, you’re a bunch of idiots too.

That basically sums up what I hate about the middle-market papers. They report in a way that encourages either outrage, or some sense of unfairness about the trivial, or both. It’s sensationalism. And we don’t need it. It pollutes the national consciousness with irrationality and bias. Need I remind you that the Express is the paper that consistently prints front page conspiracy theories about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales? At one point, it did this with such alarming regularity (every Monday, without fail, even in the week where other papers covered the otherwise insignificant matter of Saddam Hussein’s death sentence) that you could set your calendar by them.

I suppose my ‘too long; did not read’ conclusion this week would be ‘don’t let the Express warp your worldview’. The Express has the fifth highest circulation of any national British newspaper. It beats all the quality papers, except The Daily Telegraph. And you know what? If Scotland losing at rugby is reason to call the world cruel, then so is that. The world is cruel.

(Alien vaporises columnist)

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