Half the Daily Mail’s website is devoted to lamenting the degradation of our culture. The other half is devoted to softcore pornography. That is not, I fear, a great exaggeration. It’s almost comical how blatant their filth-purveying is. Yesterday, for example, they printed photos of a woman’s naked breasts and bottom, both of which were being fondled by a half-naked man. Why? Well, the bloke is on X-Factor. Hey, kids! You know you fear your parents catching you with nudie pics? Just engineer a tenuous means of presenting them as news and you’ll be fine!
What is creepier is their practice of sexualising barely pubescent teenagers. Tabloid Watch writes of a leering report – replete, of course, with photographs – on the “womanly curves” of a 14-year-old girl. “Flesh was on show,” it panted, as she wore a costume that “scooped to just above her derriere”. The report was edited but due to the outrage of readers and not professional ethics. As I’ve written, they have previously featured a 15-year-old in “mean-looking bondage heels”, who, they wrote, stared into the camera “lavisciously” before “slip[ping] into a pair of leather hot pants”. On a different occasion they reported on a girl who had modelled in a bikini at the age of twelve and inspired “a deluge of twisted emails from ‘strange men’”. They preceded to print the photos. It is clear that the editors have an amoral desire to appeal to any demographic they can reach. This apparently includes the dirty raincoat brigade.
Another socially conservative publication is the Daily Express. Their owner, Richard Desmond, likes to pose as an upright sort of gentleman. When the Irish Daily Star published photos of Kate Middleton topless he threatened to withdraw his financial support from it. Desmond is, however, also the owner of the Star, which is crammed with upskirt photographs and nipple slips. Infamously, his Northern & Shell company is also the parent to Red Hot TV and Television X. This week, the latter is broadcasting Fetishly Insane, Filthy Favourites and Fantasies of Rubber.
I think of this because I’ve been reading Alan White’s “open letter to Melanie Phillips”. He notes her observation that the U.K. “accepts — even expects — that the very young will be sexually active” and points out that she omits an important fact.
You fail to mention a relatively modern institution which appears to have done its utmost to promote the prematurely-sexualised culture which you describe. It is the website of the newspaper for which you write.
Even the most incisive of journalists rarely bite the hand that feeds them. Thus, conservative writers who work for these papers avoid reference to their sordid output and associations; preferring to rail against the bogeyman of liberalism.
Well, criticising liberals, on this and other issues, can be richly justified. It must be observed, however, that those responsible for many cases of moral and aesthetic corruption are not “liberals” or, indeed, people of any ideological inclination but “greedy, amoral bastards”. To fail to acknowledge this is not merely to undermine one’s own integrity but to render one’s oppositional efforts futile. I’m not going to lump myself in with staunch conservatives but on some issues we are of the same mind: the sexualisation of extraordinary portions of society, including children, is unpleasant and destructive. It annoys rather than amuses me that they are so hamstrung on the issue. How effective are moralists going to be if they are under the control of a bunch of pornographers? It’s like Greenpeace accepting donations from Shell. Or Neighbourhood Watch accepting it from Cosa Nostra.