Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Sun Newspaper

I learned on the six-o-clock news last night that the "Sun" newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is going to support the Conservative Party in the coming general election, which is almost certainly going to be held in May 2010.

Though Murdoch, the papers owner holds hard-right views, the "Sun" has refused to endorse the Conservatives in Scotland, because they are unpopular there. If the "Sun" had told its readers in Scotland to vote Conservative, sales could have drastically declined, just as they may have in England and Wales if they had taken this stance for the 1997 General Election.

You may think that this stance represents a damascene conversion of a newspaper that has finally had enough with a tired and discredited government. Think again. Despite what the "Sun" might tell you, this decision was reached because Murdoch now a USA citizen, and who hasn't paid income tax in the UK since 1987, thinks that the Tories are going to return to power. The "Sun" was not a radical, socialist tabloid for the previous 45 years. It unequivocally and vociferously supported Margaret Thatcher during the General Elections of 1979, 1983 and 1987, and the Conservative party between May 1979 and November 1990. It vehemently supported the police and the Thatcher government during the 1980's miners strike, and made misleading or even outright false claims about those on strike.

The Sun strongly supported the introduction of the controversial Poll Tax and labelled those attending public protests opposing the tax as "thugs". It fiercely attacked those who opposed Margaret Thatcher in the November 1990 leadership contest in which she lost power. Though it frequently expressed its disillusionment with John Major after Black Wednesday, the newspaper repeatedly called the implementation of further right-wing policies and promotion of hard-right ministers, with leaders such as attacking the government for not going ahead with Post Office privatisation (November 3, 1994) and demanding social security cutbacks, with leaders such as "Peter Lilley is right, we can't carry on like this" and "We want more of the Redwood, not deadwood", and calling for Michael Portillo to become Prime Minister.

As late as January 1997, the Sun attacked the planned "Windfall Tax", calling it wrongheaded. Then a month later, it attacked the National Minimum Wage and Social Chapter. By this stage however, it was blatantly clear that there was no chance of the Tories returning to power, so it switched sides to Labour, who were proposing many of the policies the "Sun" was attacking! Four years later, the Tories went into the 2001 General Election with a hard-right manifesto. The manifesto of the Tories during that election campaign, and political views held by the "Sun" were almost identical. It was a case of spot the difference. Yet the "Sun" backed centrist Labour as opposed to the hard-right Tories. Why? Because the Tories were unelectable in 2001, and the "Sun" would have been seen afterwards to have called for the election of an unelectable rump

I am a solidly working-class Aspie. No matter how rich or successful in life I become, or how far I sink, I will always be working-class, and will always be an Aspie. Both are essential ingredients of my character. I am not a middle-class "Guardianista". Far from it. I come from a mining and steel community. However, because I am working-class, I resent how I am stereotypically supposed to read newspapers like the Sun and Daily Star.

What makes the Sun think that it holds such great influence anyway? We live in a multi-channel, Internet age. 2009 isn't the 1980's. If anyone does vote for a political party because a newspaper tells them to, then they are dense, ignorant and stupid beyond belief.

Here are some other examples of the "Sun's" lies or two-facedness.

* Attacking Benny Hill for having topless women on his shows whilst having topless teenagers on page 3! I didn't find Benny Hill funny but that to do that strikes me as gross hypocrisy

* In 1983, during the general election campaign, the Sun ran a front page featuring an unflattering photograph of Michael Foot, claiming he was unfit to be Prime Minister on grounds of his age and appearance, as well as his policies, alongside the headline "Do You Really Want This Old Fool To Run Britain?". If the Sun had attacked Foot's policies, then its attack could have been credible, but it was personal. Foot was born on Wednesday 23rd July 1913, so he was nearing his 70th birthday when this personal attack occurred. Even Margaret Thatcher blocked a proposed advert by Saatchi and Saatchi referring to Foot and his age, saying that it was "Too personal".

A year later, in 1984, the Sun made abundantly clear its very strong support for the re-election of Ronald Reagan as president in the USA. Reagan was born on Monday 6th February 1911. So if Foot shouldn't have been elected as Prime Minister on account of his age, Reagan shouldn't have been re-elected as President on account of his age either.

* In April 1989, the "Sun" wrote, four days after the Hillsborough stadium soccer disaster, in which 96 football fans were crushed to death: "Some fans picked pockets of victims"; "Some fans urinated on the brave cops"; "Some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life". The story accompanying these headlines claimed that "drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims" and "police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon".

I am not the most socially skilled person in this world, but even if this had really happened, and it didn't, publishing a story detailing it, only four days after the disaster had happened, was tasteless and insensitive in the extreme. Even I can F**king see that. The Sun apologised in July 2004, but to this day, many people in the Liverpool area refuse to buy the Sun as a matter of principle, and the paper's sales figures within Merseyside are even now, very poor.

* In July 2003 the Sun lied about Asylum Seekers killing Swans and planning to eat them. All swans belong to the Crown. Injuring or killing one means a £5,000 fine or six months in jail. I am against mass, uncontrolled immigration. I am against it even more now we have a severe recession, and any asylum seeker committing a crime must be deported as soon as s/he has finished their sentence, but I am also against lies told about asylum seekers.

* On Monday, 22nd September, 2003, when the ex-World Heavyweight champion boxer Frank Bruno, who had been admitted to hospital after suffering a breakdown, the Sun carried headlines saying "Bonkers Bruno Locked Up". However, they changed it to "Sad Bruno in mental home" due to an adverse public reaction.

The "Sun" purports to be a working-class paper. It isn't. It has, for the last 30 years at least, supported policies which have mainly benefitted the elite in society, and have harmed the poor and working-class. It showed its working-class credentials recently, when it told the Postmen to return to work and stop striking!

Whatever the faults are of this present government, and they do have a few, I remember what it was like when the Tories were in power in the 1980's and 1990's, with 3 and half million unemployed, the poll tax, the destruction of communities with mining, steelworks and mill closures, attacks on local government, single parents, massive tax cuts for the rich, all of which the Sun vehemently supported. The Sun said that money would tricke-down from the rich to the poor. However, human nature is very selfish, and it never really happened.

Under the Tories there was no minimum wage, no free bus-pass for the over 60's, no free TV licenses for the over 75's, free-market policies, agency workers not being paid holiday pay and sick pay, no government intervention, and an internal NHS market. All of this will either go or return when the Tories will probably return to power, and there will be further cuts in the welfare state, and public spending, to pay for tax cuts for recession causing bankers and the rich. Yet the Sun is telling the working-class to vote for this? The irony of this of course, is that the working-class will suffer through such measures.

Working-class paper? My arse, as Jim Royle would say. More like a hard-right, war-mongering, big business supporting, union-hating, bigoted (Pulpit poofs and bonkers bruno), unprincipled, lying rag.

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