The new web journalism allows you to discover what readers want by seeing how many hits an article attracts — and I wish it didn’t. I now know that if I want to impress my editor at the Observer — and what journalist does not want to impress his or her editor? — the easiest way to make my piece the most-read article on the Guardian and Observer’s comment site is to launch an attack on the Tory press in general and the Daily Mail in particular. The more vitriolic I am, the more filled with hate my prose becomes, the more, in short, that I write like the very tabloid journalists I am condemning, the more the readers will like it.
To make sure my piece is a success, I will imply or state outright that the Mail brainwashes its readers, reinforcing their sexism, racism, homophobia and contempt for the poor. When you assign that level of malevolent power to a newspaper the only logical conclusion is that it should be censored or banned. For how can you fight prejudice while allowing the propaganda that creates it to continue unchecked?
Equally if I were a columnist on the Mail or the Telegraph, I would tear into the BBC. I would say that it was a nest of moneyed hypocrites, whose managers spouted leftist opinions, while pocketing the taxes of hard-working licence-fee payers. The phrases “Hampstead liberal”, “fashionable views”, “poll tax licence fee”, “dumbed-down” and, above all, “bias” would dot my piece like parmesan shavings on pasta. ..