Brendan O’Neill

Stop Funding Hate has a simple aim: political censorship

Stop Funding Hate has a simple aim: political censorship
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Here’s a law of politics that is about as cast-iron as a law of politics can be: people who hate tabloid newspapers are snobs. Every time. Scratch a Daily Mail basher or those people who seethe daily about the Sun and you will find someone who’s really just scared of the throng and of what all this tabloid fare is doing to their brains.

From Nietzsche, who said a mass newspaper is what happens when the ‘rabble… vomit their bile’, to Noam Chomsky, who says popular papers ‘dull people’s brains’, to the feminist campaign against Page 3, which said the Sun’s half-clad ladies ‘conditioned’ men to have ‘negative attitudes’ towards women, people who are freaked out by tabloids are really freaked out by the rabble who read them; by the suggestible masses apparently being moulded into an army of dull-brained hate-mongers by alarming front pages and pics of women without their bras.

And it is in this spiteful spirit that Stop Funding Hate now follows. SFH is a painfully snooty campaign group, run by the kind of people who come out in hives when they see plebs reading the Star on the bus and who have sleepless nights thinking about what passions the Mail might excite in the masses come the dawn.

Its aim is as simple as it is sinister: to pressure big businesses to stop advertising in the Sun, Mail and Express in order to dent these papers’ coffers and potentially limit their ability to publish. That is, these panickers over what the little people and the lower middle classes read over their morning fry-up or muffin are cajoling capitalists to use their financial clout to punish the papers they find offensive. As I said: sinister.

This week, this tiny but loud clique had some success. They extracted an apology from Paperchase for the crime of advertising in the Mail. With extraordinary cowardice — not to mention a failure of basic business nous — Paperchase responded by saying: ‘We’re truly sorry.’ Truly sorry! You’d think it had been exposed as an employer of trafficked kids rather than simply a company that wants to advertise its wares in the nation’s best-read paper.

‘We won’t ever do it again’, said Paperchase — you absolute idiots — and then it said: ‘We’ve listened to you.’ Listened to who? The implication was that it had listened to its customers, but it wasn't its customers who were issuing shrill demands that it backtrack on advertising in the Mail — it was a small, utterly unrepresentative virtual gathering of elitists. There’s something worrying, not to mention anti-democratic, about a shop that’s patronised by hundreds of thousands of people apologising for advertising in a newspaper read by millions at the behest of a tiny quarrelsome mob that could likely be squeezed into one plush London branch of Waitrose (and which probably very often is).

Paperchase isn’t the only company to cravenly plead for forgiveness from this jumped-up Star Chamber of tabloid-haters. Under SFH pressure, Lego has promised to stop advertising in the Mail; Specsavers withdrew an ad campaign from the Express; Plusnet pulled ads from the Sun; the Body Shop has promised never to promote in the Mail again. Every time a big company turns away from the tabloids, the clicktivist snobs decorate said company with the brand of ‘decent’ and ‘moral’. So we can expect more businesses to follow suit, craving the blessings of this highly moralistic subset of the influential middle classes over advertising their products to the teeming reading public. The fools.

With extraordinary disingenuousness, SFH says it isn’t behaving censoriously — it’s simply encouraging businesses to do the right thing. Please. These are aspiring political censors. They target papers that back Leave, which have slammed ‘Remoaners', which are critical of mass immigration. They harry press outlets that hold political or moral convictions they disagree with. They want to wound these papers because of what they believe. They are the informal, agitating wing of an elitist instinct among the PC set to chill the voices of people on the opposite political side. They’re a menace to freedom.

But there’s something they fear even more than the ideas of the tabloid press: the gruff, uneducated heads into which they imagine these ideas are being pumped. ‘Drip by drip our society is being poisoned with headlines selling hatred’, SFH says. In short, a newspaper says something, its readers’ brains are fried by it, and hatred rises across society. Monkey see, monkey do. From Nietzsche’s fretting over mass newspapers’ ‘bile’ to SFH’s fear of their ‘poison’, the concern is always that the swarm will be warped by what they read. Every time. A cast-iron law of politics: those who hate the red tops hate the rabble.