Tabloid Moralising

Peddle your porn if you must, but don’t preach

Phwoar. This is the stuff. Excuse me while I loosen my tie and wipe the computer screen. It’s getting a bit steamed up in here.

As love scenes go, this prose certainly beats the hell out of that bit in the Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s up there with the business in Birdsong where the chap meets the lonely French housewife. In fact I’d say it’s even hotter than the opening of The Godfather, you know, with the bride’s eldest brother and the bridesmaid in the broom cupboard.

It’s – well, I am only about a quarter of the way through a massive 4,022 word dispatch from Sydney, Australia, and – boy oh boy – I don’t know how much detail you can take.

It’s a report about the famous film star who has it away with a Qantas flight attendant in the toilet at 35,000ft, and for all those tragic members of the male sex who have ever wondered how a gorgeous 5ft 9in blonde Australian air stewardess might respond to your overtures, here is the answer.

“He held my hands. Then he started kissing me. The kissing was very passionate and his hands were all over me. I just melted. He was caressing my neck, holding my head and starting to undo the buttons on my dress. The way he was going, he would have made love to me right there.

I was very turned on and so was he. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was touching his face and hair. He had beautiful skin. I was undoing his shirt as well ” – and then I am afraid it becomes frankly unsuitable for a chaste newspaper such as this one.

I can almost hear the marmalade dropping across the nation, and people asking me indignantly what my purpose is in recycling this filth; and the answer is that this bizarre piece of porn is in fact of great political interest and importance, because it is of a kind that appears almost daily in a certain tabloid newspaper.

The paradox, the mystery, is that this paper – let us call it the Beast – is just about the most savage and hysterical and reactionary paper in Britain. In common with some other tabloids, the Beast’s columnists and editorialists seem to believe that Britain has collapsed into a Hogarthian stew of licence.

They slobber and fume about marital breakdown and divorce and single parents and degeneracy of all kinds. They rave about swearing on television, and the casual pornography of the airwaves.

They denounce the daily exposure of our children to sexual material; and yet how do they stuff their news pages? They get their ace reporter to fly half way round the world, laden with hundreds of thousands of pounds, and they buy the story of some poor misguided girl who should have known better, and then they quote her in the manner of a Readers’ Wives column.

You want more? You don’t? Never mind: here goes. “Eventually I couldn’t bear it any longer. I just grabbed his hand and said, ‘Come in here a minute.’ By this time we had half our clothes off and I didn’t care about anything. I led him to the cabin lavatory next to where we had been sitting and locked the door ”

At which point I am afraid it becomes truly dirty, and the point is we would all be in blissful ignorance of this pornography if it had not been for the Beast’s decision to flex its massive cheque book, and we are therefore entitled to ask what on earth the tabloids think they are doing.

How can they cope in this bordello, all those moralising columnists of the Beast? How can they mount their pulpits, whilst simultaneously purveying these scenes of fornication?

There they are, these moral mullahs, lining up like the bearded women in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, to shriek and throw stones at the very practices so lovingly detailed in their own pages.

How can they do it? For the benefit of those people who have never read the tabloid press, and for all those sensitive foreigners who are appalled at the British media, let me explain.

The first thing to grasp is that these tabloids sell sex. That is the name of the game. Every day for the past fortnight, the Beast has been trying to boost sales with some red-hot DVD called Sins or Jackie Collins’s Guide to Adultery, or whatever; and every week these tabloid papers pry, bribe, lie and bug in order to reveal that human beings are sometimes engaged in carnal activity.

They then publish these titillating details, which are devoured across the land with a mixture of gratitude and self-disgust, and which are indispensable to maintaining circulation.

But you cannot just give the public a tide of sex. People don’t want to feel dirty, or that their baser instincts are being manipulated. It is therefore vital, if you are a tabloid editor, simultaneously to purport to disapprove of the filth you purvey.

That is why you also hire lots of columnists to engage in bishop-like finger-wagging, to legitimate the sexual revelations; and of course the more disapproval there is, the more titillating it all is.

That is the beautiful symmetry; that is the magnificent hypocrisy of the product. The moralising intensifies the pleasure of reading the revelations, just as Gladstone intensified his pleasure in encountering prostitutes by flailing himself later on. The exercise is therefore essentially literary, and to that extent it is not to be taken seriously.

Reactionary tabloid attitudes may often be justified. But they fulfil the same literary function as the articles about economics in Playboy – ballast intended to boost the excitement of the main attraction.

I make these points, because I sometimes worry that politicians care too much about these tabloid fulminations, when the editors don’t really mean to be serious, and don’t really have a moral position. If they did, we would all be obliged to investigate the private lives of tabloid editors, to see whether they could really pass judgment on the rest of us.

Did any tabloid editor ever have the slightest whiff of cannabis at university? Hmm? Come on, ‘fess up. On the other hand, maybe we just don’t want to know. Carry on peddling the porn, folks, but don’t expect us to listen to the hellfire sermon.

30 thoughts on “Tabloid Moralising”

  1. Well I laughed at this in the train this morning . Boris, I wonder at what point was it that you began to notice the terrible hypocrisy of the tabloid Moralisers. Was it a point in time roughly contemporaneous with you being caught with your giant elasticised pantaloons around your ankles. Was it once or twice I cannot recall ? Furthermore as I am myself pure in body and mind I have no reason whosoever not to go on enjoying this feast smug coated delicacies.

    I find it entirely acceptable to , on the one hand to enjoy salacious tittle tattle and on the other hand be shocked and mortified that my betters have feet of clay. Did I say feet of clay ? I think I mean underpants of Velcrome equipped with a quick release system and handy draw strings for back window escapeeism.

    You poor old Sausage Boris , like an elephant maddened with mosquitoes you plunge and buck at the bloody unfairness of it all but the rule are simple . Don’t get caught. Its much the same with drugs as you know so you are still ahead of the game , unless you really are a god awful prig.

    I do hope not.

    I fear you have only added to the merriment the nation with this sulking. When I wonder are you going to get back to the EU slicing and dicing that was your field of combat . Not until the election is safely won I daresay .

  2. I don’t think anyone really pays a lot of attention to the barefaced hypocrisy of the tabloids. However, I find it a bit alarming when they start believing their own pantomine piety. A case in point being when arch cretin Piers Morgan printed those fake photos of Iraqi prisoners being ‘tortured’.

    Worse still was his claim that it was acceptable because helped to highlight a serious problem. Well if you have to make stuff up to highlight it, it can’t be that serious! That said, we shouldn’t be too surprised that he took this line. Blair’s been doing it for years.

  3. I don’t much like adultery etc, but it’s not the tabloids business; I dislike the cultural lowness of the inability to sell a newspaper without using sex, so I try to only buy a newspaper now if the front page has nothing to do with sex anywhere on it.

    The newspapers are, of course, utterly hypocritical; as demonstrated in every single issue of Private Eye for many years now. I’d actually rather they didn’t peddle the porn, *and* didn’t do so much of the moral outrage.

  4. He had beautiful skin. I was undoing his shirt as well ” – and then I am afraid it becomes frankly unsuitable for a chaste newspaper such as this one.

    Gw’on. It’s not a newspaper here.

  5. Maybe it’s time to clean-up the tabloid press and bring some respectability into it. Take David Pecker’s lead, CEO of the media company that owns the National Enquirer in America. It’s the same old thing – Tabloid journalists’ obsession with exposing the hypocrisy of the rich and famous. Perhaps we should turn the cameras on them and turn their lives upside down. They’re a lot of over paid bullies

  6. Maybe it’s time to clean-up the tabloid press and bring some respectability into it. Take David Pecker’s lead, CEO of the media company that owns the National Enquirer in America. It’s the same old thing – Tabloid journalists’ obsession with exposing the hypocrisy of the rich and famous. Perhaps we should turn the cameras on them and turn their lives upside down. They’re a lot of over paid bullies

  7. < ‘But they fulfil the same literary function as the articles about economics in Playboy’ (Boris)<

    I never knew Playboy had articles about economics!

    < ‘I make these points, because I sometimes worry that politicians care too much about these tabloid fulminations’ (Boris)<

    Oh but they do politics too. Your average Richard Littlejohn fan has long since ceased listening to those hypocritical, doublespeak mongering freeloaders in Westminster. These rent-a-ranter columnists have far more chance of persuading the average bricky to vote Tory than the Bullingdon Club reunion ever will. They write what they think their readership want to hear, it’s hardly surprising if politicans jump on the bandwagon and start singing along in unison occasionally.

    < ‘Don’t get caught’ (newmania)<

    Don’t be famous more like. I shudder to imagine the headlines if I was silly enough to enlist on one of these reality TV shows.

  8. yeah boris! nice argument! just to agree with another comment – piers morgan is so big headed it’s scary! did u see him on hignfy?
    boris rocks! xx

  9. < ‘Of infinitely greater concern is the media industry built up around Big Brother, a wholly contrived life story doing immense damage to the nation’s morals’ (PaulD)<

    Not to mention the quality of conversation you can have these days with a 20 something girl whilst this rubbish infests the airwaves.

    The sad ‘reality’ of ‘reality’ TV is that most of the fairer sex become so obsessed with who’s going to get the boot this week that it does become ‘reality’, if you get my drift. It’s all they talk about. Luckily many years of being a geordie who can’t stand football has instilled in me the art of having a conversation I know nothing about.

    Personally I think ‘Big Brother’ is destined to end in the same tragic way that Noel Edmonds ‘Late, Late Breakfast Show’ did all those years ago. The contestents become more and more unstable every year, it’s only a matter of time before one of them completely flips out, and picks up the breadknife in anger.

  10. Private Eye wrote to all the Editors of all the news papers to ask them to make a comment on their drugs related experiences. None replied.

    Sorry you find 20 year Old women do boring Steven. .I find that if you look intently a woman`s eyes and remember to always return the subject to her , you can virtually tune out .You get much better results for being such a good listener. It’s a good point though , why do women like such awful dross, I have to prise Mrs. N from Eastenders although at other times she seems a sensible woman .

  11. “Not to mention the quality of conversation you can have these days with a 20 something girl whilst this rubbish infests the airwaves.

    The sad ‘reality’ of ‘reality’ TV is that most of the fairer sex become so obsessed with who’s going to get the boot this week that it does become ‘reality’, if you get my drift. It’s all they talk about. Luckily many years of being a geordie who can’t stand football has instilled in me the art of having a conversation I know nothing about.”

    Er, I am in my twenties and a member of the fairer sex and I do not even watch television. It is boring.

  12. k, you’re a good sort of right wing, lets get rid of these liberal left wishy-washy nation-dismantling idiots, I hope Dave C is a right of George W super-neo-con in disguise kinda girls though?

  13. I agree that the rot pedaled by some sections of the media has a lot to answer for. I think that Paul D is spot on about BB. Whilst I can choose not to watch it, I find it very difficult to avoid the asault to my eyes when visiting the newsagents in search of something worthwhile to read. The spin off sickens me.

  14. Thanks for you support on Big Brother, guys. I just hope the thing will burn out when everyone gets fed up with this ghastly programme. Unfortunately, it may take some time – and what follows could be worse.

    The elevation of trash like Jade Goody to national hero is a frightening symptom of our age. She has made an estimated £3.5m from being a loathesome nonentity.

    The one good thing to come out of recent BB is the hope that it will harden our resolve to ensure that the whole damn Chav culture, based as it is on selfishness, greed, ignorance and stupidity, is wiped from the face of Britain.

    How you achieve that is another matter.

  15. How come we are happy to pay people to fight on TV but not to have sex? I fail to see the moral superiority of boxing over pornography.

  16. Off topic, but last night’s news item about some kid who had fired an imaginary pistol at David Cameron has been keeping me awake.

    Is it an offence to possess an imaginary pistol? Or is it just an offence to actually fire such an imaginary pistol at a (possibly) imaginary politician? Was anyone hit by imaginary bullets? Are they being treated for imaginary gunshot wounds? Has the imaginary pistol been found and traced? How many imaginary pistols are there in the country anyway? Should there be an amnesty during which owners of imaginary pistols are encouraged to hand them in at police stations? Do the police have ways of disposing of imaginary pistols? Is there a danger that children will graduate from imaginary pistols to imaginary machine guns in a spiral of imaginary mayhem and violence? Should the police be armed with imaginary rifles to defend themselves against kids with imaginary pistols? Is there a danger of imaginary weapons falling into the hands of imaginary terrorists? Is this why there are so many imaginary tanks parked around our imaginary parliament in Westminster? Shouldn’t these imaginary tanks be shipped to Afghanistan, where they can be used to fight imaginary enemies? And with all these imaginary tanks rolling up and down our streets, isn’t there a danger of imaginary tank traffic jams? Do imaginary tank engines idling in imaginary traffic jams emit imaginary carbon dioxide causing imaginary global warming? How much imaginary carbon dioxide is there in the atmosphere already? Does imaginary carbon dioxide mix readily with real carbon dioxide? Or is there some sort of explosion, which generates combined real imaginary carbon dioxide? Is real imaginary carbon dioxide a contributor to real global warming, or just to imaginary global warming? Should we worry more about imaginary global warming than real global warming, or should we be more worried about the imaginary terrorists with their imaginary pistols? Or should I not worry too much, and leave it all to our imaginary climate scientists and our imaginary police? Why do imagina…

    I’ve been awake all night with such imaginings. Or did I just imagine seeing that news report in the first place?

  17. PaulD: I sat all the way through that, which is more than I have ever done BB, and it’s not really a fair question. It’s a bit like Picasso vs. Tracy Emin: Imaginative genuis excecuted through craftsmanship, vs unrestrained emotion and an unjustified sense of entitelement and importance ‘cos your arse is on TV. One is admirable, the other unintentionally hilarious.

  18. Yes Boris, I am in full agreement. I do not support the practice of those whose job is to perform one public service and use it as a platform to preach to me about my morality and how I should conduct my personal affairs. Of course this applies to politicians as well as journalists. So join me, Bozza, in condemning oily Dave and slimy Tone for telling me about “family values”, “the importance of marriage” and the healthiness of the way I live.

  19. I had rather mixed feelings, Paul. I think the news piece about that boy would have been hilarious had it not been true. It is instead a perfect illustration of a contemporary delusional mentality in which wholly imaginary dangers are conjured out of nothing.

    The very embodiment of this kind of delusional mentality is to be found in our present Prime Minister, who has convinced himself that Iraq is now, largely thanks to him, an almost fully functional democracy with the trains running on time. He also imagines himself to be wildly popular as he once was, and is currently engaged on what seems a never-ending TV farewell tour, dispensing nuggets of wisdom wherever he goes. But is he really going? If so, is he really the Prime Minister? Or is he simply allowed out of Number 10 to give speeches, while the real decisions are taken by others with a firmer grip on reality?

    He is not, unfortunately, the only delusional MP in parliament. There seem to be quite a few of them. Who knows how many there might be? Hundreds?

    The whole spectacle has an air of pervasive unreality about it, as if we were all living inside a fiction, only with our belief suspended, and watching the clock. It will only end when Blair finally steps down, grins and waves on the steps of Number 10, before climbing into the limo that will take him to Neverland.

    But when he has gone, how will be sure he has gone? The longer this goes on, the longer it will take for anyone to believe that he has gone. One will have to pinch oneself for days and weeks afterwards.

    Many pundits predict that he will be gone in weeks. The same pundits were saying the same thing months ago, and they were wrong. There is said to be a ‘timetable’. But has anyone seen it? Perhaps it has been lost. Or perhaps it describes an imaginary series of events, like a railway timetable. Who knows? All I know is that I don’t.

  20. Boris, I am sure you realised the hypocracy of the press well before you wrote the article, but well done for making a wider, and perhaps more ignorant audience aware! As for the steamy report, MORE PLEASE, although I’m sure it’s not a patch on the real thing!

  21. Boris, I am sure you realised the hypocracy of the press… (Jezzabelle)

    “We roundly condemn the publication of these shocking pictures. To help readers make up their own minds, here they are…”

  22. How many people read the ‘Beastly’ article after reading this?

    Sex sells. The problem is not those who write the articles but those who read them and take them as more than the moralising hypocracy they are.

    As for BB, it would go away if people STOPPED WATCHING!

Comments are closed.