In a surprise decision, the Irish edition of The Sun newspaper has elected to cover up its ever-contentious Page 3 glamour girls, paving the way for classier, more upmarket shots to grace the infamously revealing section. A modicum of nudity will still be allowed, as illustrated with Monday's classic shot of Marilyn Monroe - skimpy but sans the nipples usually on display - but the announcement via the paper's Irish edition editor Paul Clarkson still cued cautiously optimistic celebrations from members of campaign group No More Page 3.
Reports suggesting that only one person actually complained at the decision seem fairly plausible to me. Given the endless sea of pornographic material available online at the click of a mouse, it seems disingenuous to claim that nudity is an integral part of a modern newspaper's appeal. 'Lads' mags' also proliferate the same soft-core entertainments, and as well they might; I have little issue with such magazines occupying shelf space.
What I do take issue with is the likes of Page 3 appearing in newspapers. The clue is in the title: newspapers are the media responsible for delivering the news. As much as one may like scantily clad ladies, they do not belong in this category. Therefore Page 3, mildly censored or not, doesn't belong in it either. There's absolutely no reason why the Irish edition's example can't be following by the British edition of The Sun in order to give the UK's number one selling paper a healthy dose of integrity and a progressive purpose.
Diminishing the objectification of women to the extent that they can no longer appear bare-breasted is of course a fine thing. But what concerns me far more is that this amounts to little more than drop in the ocean when placed next to the mind-numbing, anti-intellectual, fact deficient bloviating peddled by most redtops.
Dropping topless Page 3 girls is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound; it doesn't even come close to addressing the myriad moral failings of the tabloid press. The Sun and other 'newspapers' have detoured so far from their essential purpose that they barely deserve the title nowadays. The random, banal, meaningless - though admittedly entertaining - celebrity tripe which saturates them cover-to-cover does nothing to engender civically engaged, politically literate communities with a sense of the wider public good. By volume, the frivolities, headline grabbing, pointless human interest stories and uninformed bias - not to mention phone hacking and genuine criminalities - attributable to the lion's share of tabloids present a significantly greater cultural harm than the fact that Page 3 appears in them.
Redtops have more than one way to demean women, the poor, immigrants, the youth, and any other demographic they see fit on any given week. Half-covering the breasts on Page 3 won't change that. Bear in mind that an arbitrary attractive female will still feature on Page 3 of the Irish edition of Sun, and a topless one will still appear in the English one.
But the fact remains that no matter how well concealed are their breasts, snapping such charming ladies in a variety of provocative positions does nothing to inform or to educate the public as to the issues that really matter. And amusingly, it is the blowhard commentators at major tabloids like The Sun that are the first to complain when politics doesn't function as it should on these issues, despite representing media outlets that do their utmost to distract people from engaging in any meaningful political debate around them. They simultaneously fail to do their job as journalists by glorifying cultural wastage as opposed to holding power to account.
The reason cited for the decision to cull a topless Page 3: 'cultural differences' becomes irrelevant when you view Page 3 as just a symptom of these wider problems within the tabloid press. Every culture should have a press that strives to reveal and expose valuable truths, to frame society wide debates in the most honest way possible, and to furnish us all with the kind of facts that make for better, more informed decisions. That is their real responsibility. If papers like The Sun paid half as much attention to this as they did to Page 3 maybe we'd have the more civilised society they claim to want.