We Need to Talk About Britain’s Toxic Press Culture

Why do they constantly throw sensationalised news stories at the public to the detriment of others?

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Photo by CJ Dayrit on Unsplash

fter sitting on the sidelines and observing troubling stories circulating in the media– occasionally ranting about it on twitter, I’ve decided it was time to put my thoughts together regarding the press treatment of Meghan Markle and other public figures. Here it goes:

THE UNITED KINGDOM HAS A TOXIC PRESS CULTURE.

Yes you read it right in bold. By now, pretty much everyone knows about the media’s behaviour with Meghan Markle and co, and more recently Caroline Flack. If you haven’t, well I suggest doing a quick google search to put you up to date with this area of conversation.

Throughout the history of the printing press in Britain and the formation of newspaper publications, the media has had the upper hand on many occasions in shifting public opinions and influencing the masses. From controversial to sensationalist stories, the power of the press is unparalleled. Whether over exaggerating on the number of deaths during the 17th century English civil war, fake news reportage of the arrest of Jack The Ripper, or hiding in the bushes in wait of ‘incriminating’ photographs of Princess Diana’s supposed ‘infidelities,’ the UK press has been front, right, left and centre in these reportings.

As an audience, we’ve become used to reading and seeing bad news daily to the point that it’s having a major impact on our psyche.

A vast amount of publications manage to interweave politics, sports and gossip so seamlessly together, forming a ménage à trois of sorts that can’t be ignored– even if grudgingly. Something that British painter and satirist William Hogarth would have critiqued on. It’s certainly quite an alien concept to international journalists. But at what cost?

We can’t deny that news reportage isn’t becoming gloomier and moronic by the day. Take the coronavirus coverage for example. We just can’t escape it. We’re bombarded by it and anxiously refresh our feeds to read the latest developments. People are losing their minds with panic. Fed with fearful stories by the media who are making money from our distressed state. It’s as if the four horsemen of the apocalypse are about to descend on us all. As an audience, we’ve become used to reading and seeing bad news daily to the point that it’s having a major impact on our psyche.

If we look at the recent issues surrounding controversial news stories in Britain, on one side of the coin, the case of Meghan Markle is steeped in racism. Other black personalities such as Diane Abbott, Stormzy, Raheem Sterling and more have also been vilified by the press but for the sake of keeping things brief, I’m focusing on Meghan.

A percentage of the white population of the UK general public have become blinded by their privilege that they don’t see, or refuse to see the huge problem in the way things are reported on black people and ethnic minorities.

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu was right when she said that it isn’t the job of black people and ethnic minorities to teach white people about racism. They should be doing the work themselves without continually making us exhaust ourselves explaining their ignorance when often, it falls on deaf ears.

Reni-Eddo Lodge’s bestselling book ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ discusses these issues. Having to constantly talk to white people that racism is bad is not only demeaning to us but it also distracts us from aiming towards our full potential as human beings.

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Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels

The news stories on Meghan are downright disgusting and ridiculous. I mean how is she the cause of a drought and human rights abuse from eating an avocado? Meanwhile the Duchess of Cambridge is oohed and ahhed from eating it to ease her pregnancy.

Remember Meghan’s hand on her pregnant belly fiasco? Reading comments about it online made me question the disturbed behaviour from these commenters trolling on someone they did not know. Anyone who doesn’t see it as a race issue, choosing to defer by saying that her apparently ‘megalomaniac’ personality is why such comments exist, need to take a long look at the mirror and ask themselves who fed them with this narrative.

ince Prince Harry took charge of the safety of his family away from the hungry, obsessive nature of the media, it’s as if the world had ended after announcing their move to Canada. The press lapped on this news like they’ve been parched for so long in the desert, talking about this ‘big royal problem’ when really, they should be talking about Prince Andrew’s connection with convicted paedophile and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

What Meghan and Harry decide to do is their own business. It’s so confusing to see and hear so many people talking about it as if they knew the couple in all their entirety and that Meghan owed them something. I’m sure the queen doesn’t know everything about the couple either so what gives people the right to become qualified psychoanalysts? They deconstruct everything that has been discussed by the media which often spins stories to suit their agenda.

The other side of the coin in regards to Britain’s toxic press culture, is of their incessant hounding of public figures. A recent case is of their treatment of Caroline Flack, who sadly passed away in February 2020. This behaviour is reminiscent of what they did to Princess Diana. The press were braying for blood. Remember what they did to Amy Winehouse and other media figures? Or the now defunct News of the World phone hacking scandal? Many have fallen victims from the parasitic nature of the tabloids.

It all looks like a horror show, so macabre. This energy used on the public, who like the journalists are hungry to get their hands on stories of people more famous than them, presents an image of a pack of hyenas waiting to feast on rotten carcasses. It’s become a national spectacle.

‘Why should they succeed, these ungrateful, spoiled elitists…’

What’s troubling to see is how these stories pretty much take over general conversations of the whole country. Everywhere you go, you just can’t seem to escape them. Why are the lives of public figures such a big topic? Why does it overtake everything else?

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Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

The UK is known to be a nation of moaners. We rather complain instead of confronting the problems head on or want something to complain about just because. There is a culture of critiquing people more successful and better than us which is rife in this country.

Some don’t want to see the success of other people. Rather than looking for ways to better their own lives, their ego hinders them from stepping out of this negative frame of mind, preferring to tear down someone who has made something of themselves. ‘Why should they succeed, these ungrateful, spoiled elitists’.

We don’t celebrate success like other countries. That’s why the tabloid culture thrives well in Britain. It’s ruined many people’s lives, even causing death. And yet it never stops. Why? Because some can’t get enough to satisfy their appetite from reading bullying stories of other people. In some twisted sense, it makes them feel good about themselves.

Like that kid from school who would bully others more vulnerable than them. It gives them this false sense of empowerment. When you look close enough, you’d probably find that they are going through problems outside of school. Taking out that anger on others, makes them feel better.

British tabloids fuel this toxic behaviour. Then cry crocodile tears when caught out on the act with their complicity, meanwhile making money from the clickbait.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels

After Princess Diana’s death, they said things would change but it did not. The phone hacking scandal in 2011 brought about new laws which were put in place to protect civilians. However, with the various stories, one can see that it hasn’t been strictly adhered to.

The British government needs to review all laws regarding press standards and hold media organisations accountable for their actions. Enough is enough. They can’t keep getting away with their abhorrent behaviour with just a simple tap on the wrist.

Update:

25 years after the infamous Panorama interview of Princess Diana where she admitted infidelity to journalist and news anchor Martin Bashir, allegations of misconduct are being made by her brother Charles Spencer (who secured the interview), and others. Bashir is criticised for taking advantage of Diana when she was at her lowest point. Charles Spencer has accused the BBC for their ‘sheer dishonesty,’ and blamed Bashir for using ‘yellow journalism’ to obtain scoops for the interview. The BBC has announced that an independent investigation will be launched to ‘get to the truth.’

Written by

Writer and visual artist // I write about societal issues, culture and politics~ Website: www.emieleode.com. Founder of www.instagram.com/arthistorytalks.

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