THE BLOG
07/10/2013 07:01 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Press Regulation is the Greatest Threat to Purveyors of Poison

As we await the Privy Council's announcement on press regulation, one might expect tabloid editors and proprietors to keep a low profile and try to keep wraps on their more extremist views.

Perhaps casting them in a more romantic aura than they deserve, I imagine them holed up like a gang of old villains, hiding from the authorities. If we follow this metaphor through, Paul Dacre opened the window of their sweaty hideout, shouted obscenities and exposed himself just as the police were passing.

The Daily Mail printing a stream of Miliband family slurs in the run-up to a decision on press regulation seems akin to organisational Tourette's. At the most tense point, confronted with the reality that the press is no longer trusted to regulate itself, an elder statesman of a tabloid rag did the equivalent of unleashing a string of expletives.

Actually the above characterisation is very unfair to sufferers of Tourette's syndrome, whose vocal tics are involuntary. Conversely, the Daily Mail carefully chooses what it communicates. However much like a drunken rant its pages look, every word, every headline, every image and the position of each article in relation to others is pored over by a number of obsessive hacks.

Many people despise everything the Daily Mail stands for but one thing can be said for those producing the paper - they know what they are doing. The Daily Mail does not accidentally vomit out poison in an unfocused way. It does it deliberately - like a startled bird vomiting as a defence mechanism. Unfortunately, the Mail is hypervigilant and gets its feathers ruffled easily - and so it does a lot of vomiting.

Over the last 100 or so years, the Daily Mail has been alarmed enough by so many things that is has relentlessly unleashed wave upon wave of vomit across Britain. Jews, single mothers, unemployed people, gays, Europeans, teachers, asylum seekers, Muslims, health workers, students and even non-native animals have all found themselves covered in the Daily Mail's putrid vomit at some point. In fact, the list of those vomited upon by the Mail is so long that it is surprising that it has any readers - or bile - left.

It is quite fitting that the Mail should be the tabloid to have a last spray of self-righteous vomit just before the decision on press regulation. For a long time - perhaps due to the Royal crest - many Daily Mail readers have believed themselves to be a cut above readers of other tabloid rags. The metaphorical grave-robbing of Ralph Miliband, in an attempt to find weapons to attack an increasingly popular Ed, demonstrated at just the right time that the Mail wallows in exactly the same filth that The Sun does.

Those who use ideologies about freedom to argue that the press should be allowed to publish whatever spite it likes are misinformed or deceitful - and often both. In a democracy it is important that news outlets have the freedom to raise questions about powerful people. This, however, is not the same thing as covering large swathes of the population with vomit.

Whatever decision the Privy Council makes, the best of journalism in Britain will be unaffected. Those threatened most by the forthcoming changes are those newspapers that have historically spread poison across our society with little sanction.

I would draw a comparison with drug production and dealing. The Daily Mail would no doubt acknowledge a difference between pharmaceutical companies that carefully develop medicines and producers and pushers of mind-altering drugs. The reality is that some newspapers have been allowed to do little more than spread mind-altering poison across societies. Despite their claims of self-importance, tabloid editors have more in common with drug dealers than they care to admit.

Grandiose claims that they are protecting democracy are a nonsense. Distorting the perceptions of voters by churning out misinformation, fabrications and spite does not support democracy. It encourages bigotry and conflict by playing members of society off against one another. The only beneficiaries are those who have the most power and therefore such journalism is actually antidemocratic and anti-British.