Billy Bragg has written many great songs, all delivered in his distinct clarion style. Many continue to be as relevant as ever, with one of the songs early from his career currently ringing loud in our ears: It Says Here.
Sure, it speaks of a time when the “Tory press” was an identifiable movement, a blocker to the left’s attempts to advance. And, sure, the Tory press was really the Murdoch press, the News International machine that has come to dominate British media far beyond the old days of newspaper magnates. But it still has significance (even if that has gone beyond the Left/Right divide – see Tom Baldwin’s memo to the opposition front bench: http://order-order.com/2011/07/06/what-happened-to-baldwins-memo). And Bragg’s polemic seems so very appropriate, even nearly 30 years on.
As the News of the World has been forced into a kamikaze tailspin, we have seen a sudden politicisation of celebrity views. It’s funny, isn’t it: people whose professional lives necessarily rely on the exploitation of the wider populace have become vocal opponents that very exploitation that has actually been part of their careers.
This isn’t an excuse of the ethics – or lack of – of the red top press in its insatiable need to sell more and more stories of celeb tittle-tattle, but the fact that, as outraged as Hugh Grant may have become on Question Time
or Steve Coogan getting all righteous at Paul McMullen on Newsnight
may be, the creation of the celebrity as we know it today, and with it the influence, money and lifestyle of that culture, has grown handsomely with the filth and fury of the tabloid press.
But, rather than getting so conveniently indignant at the News of the Screws, ought we to examine both the willingness of celebrities to milk their public for all they’re worth and the rapid and rabid consumption by the people of so much of these celeb’s output. Celebrity Dancing on Ice, anyone?
And, of course, celebrity indignation and sanctimony seems only to have become conspicuous following the revelation that News Corp’s finest had stooped to feeding voraciously off the distressed voicemails left for an innocent.
So, should we align ourselves with Grant and Coogan to condemn the viciousness of the gutter press, or ought we to remember that they too are part of that cynical “money and numbers” game?