An old post for the New Year
Much of our media, most of the time, is now slavishly dedicated to making people feel jealous of others, to blame others for their problems, to hate others for their actions and attitudes. The post-Internet papers have created a kind of whingeocracy in which the issues for moaning about are published each morning, and then the radio and TV stations can moan about them for the next twenty-four hours until the next lot of whinges come round. “
(Campbell, Alastair (2012-01-12). The Happy Depressive: In Pursuit of Personal and Political Happiness)
As a book to read on holiday a study of happiness by Alistair Campbell sounds like an odd selection. Actually, as he himself acknowledges, Alistair Campbell sounds like an odd man to select to author a book on happiness as well. In fact, it’s a book I would heartily recommend to almost anyone. It’s possibly more radical than anything his his erst-while master wrote whilst leading the Labour Party. Campbell’s analysis of what is wrong with the tabloid press in the UK is brutal, accurate and rich with insight; when he says
“They feel they have to be negative because (wrongly in my view) they believe that is what sells (they have somehow failed to notice their decline has coincided with the addiction to negativity, and blamed it on technological developments out of their control). And they feel they have to get ever more negative to make the impact.” he echoes what I feel each time I read a British tabloid, that they are appealing to an ever diminishing market segment and have missed all the other things that were once good about British tabloids.
In a very real sense this matters to the authors of a blog about sex because we have to decide if our voice should ape the voice of the tabloids, or should seek to model the behaviours we think are healthier; behavious that lead to happiness.
Surprisingly to some, Campbell’s book also provides some interesting suggestions as to how to achieve contentment or happiness, including this five a day guide to wellbeing;
Connect with the people around you
Take notice – be curious and aware of the world around you
Keep learning – try something new
Give – do something nice for a friend or a stranger
It hardly seems the most remarkable or radical a set of suggestions, but if you think about how a blog works, there are no prizes for categories entitled ‘get angry’ or ‘be outraged’ or ‘make a bitter attack on someone you disagree with.’ That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get upset, or want to put an opposing view out there in the world; it means doing the healthy things as well as the others.
Thinking that made me think back to the tabloid newspapers I remember from my youth. The Daily Mirror was an exceptional paper in the 60s and even 70s when I got to know it; political but not tribal, capable of carrying major investigative or opinion pieces from the likes of John Pilger or Chris Mullin, the readable but slightly overrated (especially in his own opinion) Mirror journalist who became a Labour MP of limited impact and waspish diarist. The emergence of columnists like Fleet Street Fox suggests the Mirror is finding its mojo again.
But that Daily Mirror was also funny, and friendly; before he descended into self parody as a grumpy old man Keith Waterhosue was genuinely, satirically funny; there were cartoons that were whimsical and very English, and genuinely warm and readable columnists who shared a common view that people were, in general, decent and trustworthy. The friendly, supportive, critical but good humoured Daily Mirror of the past is a long way from the modern day tabloids, but, as Campbell might have observed, many of the lost tabloid readers might now be getting their fix of human interest, humour and decency from supermarket tabloid magazines that have beeen one of the few growth areas in periodical publishing, filling in part the gap left by the tabloids and the death of hardy old weeklies like Titbits and Reveille.
There’s another point to be made though. Before 1979 the Sun was a cheerfully filthy newspaper. You were just as likely to find it serializing the Joy of Sex as savaging politicians over immigration, and it was cheerily anti-establishment, The notion that the Murdoch press might have a unified editorial policy was almost fantastic. These were the days when the Sun was content to publish pictures of topless sixteen year olds, possession of which would nowadays get you arrested as the kind of filthy paedophile the Murdoch press love to despise, even as the Times was lining up with those factions in English society who believed that a military coup might be preferable to five more years of Harold Wilson,
The idea that there is no happiness at the heart of the British press, not even in the overwrought Islington world of the Guardianistas, is depressing, and this blog is, ultimately, only another way of making its authors happy, content and well. It should allow us to connect with other readers, to be activists in the world of sex and politics, exploring a healthy curiosity about sex and learning from others. That doesn’t preclude being angry, or bitter, or downright furious, but to be readable, and fun, and healthy, we need to do more than just that.
Here’s to 2014.