The Angry Mob

I’ve been meaning to write about the title of my blog for some time because it appears a few people just don’t understand it. The premise is simple: I took the title from the Kaiser Chief song ‘Angry Mob’ that included the lyrics:

We are the angry mob
We read the papers everyday day
We like who like
We hate who we hate
But we’re also easily swayed

Therefore the Angry Mob does not refer to me, the writer of this blog, nor does it mean that I am more than one person. Some people seem to think that Angry Mob was chosen because it refers to a group of people writing about the tabloids. No, it refers to the tabloid readers, the mob who read the tabloids solely to have their buttons pushed, to be fed who to like and who to hate.

I chose the title of the blog after working with an organisation that had the Daily Mail delivered everyday. I had never paid much attention to tabloid journalism before then, I thought it was all irrelevant, beyond a joke and that no-one could really take it seriously. However, seeing the same people crowd around each new copy of the Daily Mail at the start of the day really opens your eyes to the reality of what tabloid newspapers do.

Barely a day would start without the same people getting instantly angry about one minority group after another: ‘bloody immigrants’, ‘bloody gypsies’, ‘bloody gays’, ‘bloody fat cats’, ‘bloody young people’, ‘have you seen how much they get’… and so on.

Two things struck me:

  • 1, you don’t have to be an abhorrent person to repeat abhorrent views
  • 2, you can have a strong view of a group of people or issue about which you know nothing

I therefore began reading the Daily Mail with increasing disgust at the lies, hatred and just pure negativity that dripped from each story. Britain was broken, we need to return to a mythical vision of the 1950s seemed to the be the overarching ideology around which the newspaper was based. Attacks on women, gays, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the poor and the young were regularly wheeled out as evidence that things in Britain were really bad and getting worse.

Yet I just didn’t recognise the world being painted. It bore no relation to where I had lived, or where I currently live. It didn’t bear any relation to the world in which my colleagues lived, which in some senses shone light on the issue: if they don’t know any immigrants, how can they counter what they read in the paper? But that is perhaps missing the point: it seemed to me that they took a perverse pleasure in being angry. They enjoyed picking up the Daily Mail because they wanted to put the world to rights amongst friends at the start of the working day. They didn’t want to stop and think about whether they were rightfully angry, they just assumed that was the case.

In a strange way the Daily Mail provided them with some kind of comforting familiarity. No matter what was happening in their personal life – positive or negative – they could rest assured the good old Daily Mail would give them the chance to rant about something. And this happened every day, I would sit quietly at my desk and listen to the morning rant against whichever target the Daily Mail had picked that day.

I once made the mistake of trying to interject during one of these rants, only to immediately regret the futility of such action. I remember it so clearly, it was during the Mail scare stories on ‘increasing’ knife crime and the reader commented: ‘It’s awful, and it’s always them* doing the stabbing and committing the crime’ (meaning ethnic minorities). At this point I quietly pointed out that you can’t possibly say that all crime and knife crime is carried out by ethnic minorities, as we know recent cases for example have involved white offenders. ‘Oh I know they said.’ Followed by a reflective pause: ‘But it is though isn’t it?’.

At which point I sat stunned at the act of self-deception and the power of having no experience of a certain issue and allowing yourself to fully swallow the Daily Mail perception / deception. Instead of replying or arguing further, I created Angry Mob. A blog title not about me, but about the Angry Mob buying tabloid newspapers to give them an excuse to vent hatred towards other people.

And this brings me rambling to the point of talking about this now; the recent attacks on Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. People, including myself, are curious as to how this will pan out: will it destroy the Liberal Democrats’ election bid, or it will it boost it? Tabloids regularly change their targets of attack and readers are happy to go along with them. However, not many people outside of the hardened readers really take them seriously and a significant proportion of people see being the victim of a Daily Mail smear campaign as a badge of honour. If your values conflict with the values of the Daily Mail, then your values are obviously worth supporting.

I don’t believe the tabloids are a fraction as powerful as they used to be, and I believe that social media is starting to have a significant impact on people’s willingness to do what they want. Twitter for example, isn’t as much as a mob as is depicted. Rather it is a system that allows you to interact with people with whom you share common values, beliefs and opinions. Because it is easy to follow people who are like yourself gives you confidence that you’re not alone, you’re not necessarily wrong and that you shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to stand up for what you believe in. You might be surrounded by tabloid reading racists, your parents could be die-hard Richard Littlejohn fans; but it doesn’t matter if you’re able to share ideas, opinions and arguments with people who don’t think this those that physically surround you.

A simple retort to this idealised view would be to point out that a collection of people agreeing with you does not mean your views are correct or even desirable (Facists can just as easily unite on Twitter as Liberals). But this ignores how Twitter works: generally you exchange evidence as much as opinion. If you write rubbish on Twitter it is easy to link to articles that demonstrate that you’re writing rubbish. If you use Twitter you often have a blog, again, blogging is evidence based, linked and sourced in order to avoid being destroyed by other bloggers. This makes Twitter a better barometer of informed opinion because the uninformed are easy to weed out or correct through the sharing of evidence.

It gives me great hope that Twitter seems to be disliked by the Daily Mail, precisely for the same reason that the Liberal Democrats should be pleased to be attacked by the Daily Mail: because neither shares the abhorrent values of the Daily Mail. Increasingly it seems people are prepared to choose hope over fear and evidence-based reasoning over stereotypes, conditioned irrationality and misplaced faith. The Daily Mail and the Conservative Party can continue to demand we be ever tougher on crime as a society; with longer sentences, more prison spaces and more people sent to prison. Yet we can see that such an approach just doesn’t work; it might please the Daily Mail (which is why Labour tried it) but it doesn’t reduce crime and upon release prisoners are highly likely to re-offend, so what exactly has been achieved?

It seems to me that people are fed up with the same tired old policies, wheeled out by politicians who are not ordinarily the right people to be making these decisions. Take for example the Labour government ignoring the evidence from drug experts when classifying cannabis, they ignored the experts and listened to the Daily Mail. They choose irrational fear over evidence.

If the Liberal Democrats get into power as a result fo this election there is one thing that we can be certain about: they will not need to pander to any of the tabloid press during their reign because their election would have nothing to do with them. When they have already had their leader treated as if he was the devil, what notice would they take of the Daily Mail and co on other issues?

It seems to me we will only have true democracy in this country when policies are selected and driven forward because they are in the best interests of the country, and drawn up by those in the best position to make those decisions. The current system allows any ray of hope or fairness to be crushed by newspaper smears; as politicians back down to appease the editors they have always needed to get elected or to serve another term.

Vote for the party whose policies you like*: the rest is just hype or smears.


* Incidentally, if people voted just based on policies the results would be as follows (according to 161,465 completed surveys):

  • Green Party 27%
  • Liberal Democrats 18.11%
  • Labour 17.70%
  • Conservatives 16.50%
  • UKIP 10.85%
  • BNP 9.84%

Now that result would really drive the Daily Mail mad…

7 Comments

  • Graeme says:

    I can’t believe those stats – it just shows that Britain is the leftie greenie country that I always thought/hoped it was – despite the nasty newspapers

  • Gordon says:

    We Brits love nothing more than a good old moan. I think the Daily Mail and co appeal to that side of people. Starting off the working day with a cup of coffee, blabbing with colleagues “Oh, the bloody immigrants/foreigners/women/gays/elfnsafety mob/feral yoof, did you see what they did now?”

    I think the Daily Mail knows this, which is why it can create any boogie man it wants and the angry mob would turn on them. They could even start to write negative views on David Cameron and the next day the mob would return to work speaking about that Bloody Cameron guy. People don’t care what they’re moaning about, as long as they’ve got something they can drone on about :)

  • Mr Crocus says:

    My personal view on this is that it feels like a race which is nearing its end. I’m conscious of a feeling that the reactionary frothing nonsense of the Daily Mail et al is spreading among the susceptible and becoming ever more desperate and blustering. On the other hand I feel that the guff spouted by the DM is coming under increasing scrutiny and being exposed to a wider audience for the falsehoods it creates. The Daily Mail’s circulation is only just increasing (+0.17% 08-09 – the only other increase is the Star) but tabloid media is on its way out. I’m hoping that eventually the Mail will get found out – this is why it doesn’t like Twitter, because Twitter is immediate, intense scrutiny, not from knuckle-draggers but from balanced, reasonable people.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Unimpressed says:

    “They enjoyed picking up the Daily Mail because they wanted to put the world to rights amongst friends at the start of the working day. They didn’t want to stop and think about whether they were rightfully angry, they just assumed that was the case.”

    And your own blog and its readers are different in what way, exactly?

  • Fruitbat says:

    Because this blog and its reader don’t simply assume that they’re rightfully angry, they actively try to prove it through research and evidence. Any article on this site, or on any reputable blog, will include at least one link, often several, to back up its claims. When your work is on the internet, there is no excuse for not linking to your sources (especially since so much makes its way online; just check out Google Scholar).

    Go to the Mail’s site; where are the links, the traceable citations? Hell, where are the citations full stop? Absolutely nowhere. Unless you dig deep you have nothing but their word to trust that this person said that, and that that report said this. Richard Littlejohn is paid £700,000+ a year to spout out whatever reheated old drivel he chooses, and do I see a single link? Nope. So why the fuck should I trust even a word he says? Especially given that dozens of blogs rip him to shreds every time he commits pen to paper, and even if you disagree with them it wouldn’t change the fact that they cite their research with instantly traceable links, something that should be standard nowadays and that the tabloids fail to do in absolutely everything they publish, and that makes amateur bloggers working for nothing far, far more trustworthy than well-paid ‘journalists’ because penniless nobodies are proving to be better journalists than the journalists themselves.

    That’s why this blog, and many others like it, are different to that tabloid trash.

  • Hound says:

    I thought the ‘angry mob’ title was unambiguously obvious. Weird.

  • Uponnothing says:

    Thanks Fruitbat for saving me the trouble of rebutting ‘unimpressed’ face-palmingly stupid response to this post.

    As you point out, their is a big difference between rightful anger that I often direct to a complete lie printed to increase the hatred towards a minority group, and a bunch of idiots picking up a newspaper and complaining: ‘Oh my god, immigrants have taken EVERY new job since 1997′.

    This blog might not be perfect, and I’m liable to mistakes as any other human being, but I do try to link to sources and create credible arguments to support my case. I could not analyse or criticise the ‘Angry Mob’ if I didn’t act differently. The whole point of this blog is to take whatever current story is upsetting Mail readers and to do a little digging to see whether they are right to be angry or whether the whole thing is just a made up pile of shit.

    Normally it is made up, hence the reason this blog still has targets after existing for over a year.

    In response to Hound, I thought the title was unambiguous as well, but you’d be surprised how many Mail fans accidentally find this blog and completely misinterpret it.