It's the Sun, it's what we do.
So impressed was I by Graham Dudman's bravura performance on Newsnight last night that it was well worth being made more easily available, as I suspect most of you were spending your time more wisely than watching Newsnight in the silly season, such as by sleeping. Not so much for what he said, which wasn't especially controversial or scandalous, more his fairly good summation of what the Sun sets out to do at 3:25:
"It's the Sun, it's a great story, we want to get people angry, it's what we do, we like to shock and amaze on every page, and that's what these stories are doing."
Nothing wrong of course with making people angry; after all, that's what all newspapers and indeed us bloggers set out to do on occasion. It's more that the people the Sun wants their readers to get angry about are in the vast, vast majority not those they've showcased as being worthy of outrage, and are instead those that are on either hard times or are genuinely sick. It's best in fact to quote David Cameron, who goes further than the Sun does if anything:
You know the people I mean.
You walk down the road on your way to work and you see the curtains drawn in their house. You know they could work, but they choose not to.
Yeah, those people. You know they could work, despite almost certainly not knowing anything about them. Their curtains are drawn; it's obvious, isn't it? It would be laughable if it wasn't so potentially serious: this is the basis on which the Sun is urging its readers to report their suspicions, and in Dudman's parlance the phone has been ringing off the hook, unsurprisingly.
The Sun could, if it wanted to, opt to make its readers angry about something else, like how a businessman and newspaper owner can wield so much political power while having in the past contributed as little as possible in the way of taxation to the country in which he demands to have a say. It could make them angry about how the government thinks another business person with a dubious record on paying his fair share of tax is the perfect man to audit the public finances. It could make clear how much is lost each year through active tax evasion, amounts which could substantially reduce the deficit without having to inflict savage cuts which will put even more people on benefits, from both the public and private sectors. Those are great stories, and the first two even have a human face on which the fury and exasperation of the nation could be focused on. It also then wouldn't fall on those who are trying to get by as best they can, who through little to no fault of their own find themselves in a position where they have to live off the state, however much they dislike it. It chooses instead the easy, obvious target, a far more apposite description of what the Sun often does than that given by Dudman. It kicks those who are down, and it does it because it can and because it's politically expedient to do so. It's the Sun, it's what it does.