One of the things I dislike about my very right-wing daily newspaper (I buy it mainly for the daily crossword) is that it panders to the emotions of its readers quite as much as the ‘gutter’ press. In the latter case, the popular newspapers show some scantily clad . . . lady on the front pages more often than not. In the case of the Daily Telegraph, it does the same with royalty. Hardly a day passes without a photo of one or other of them appearing there.
The emotions that are tapped into by quality and non-quality papers depend upon quite different instincts but they are — as much as it’s possible to judge — equally powerful. In the case of the popular paper, the sexual instinct is obvious. The reason why the photos are nearly always women and not men is, I suppose, because, traditionally, it was always, or mostly, men who bought a morning newspaper on their way to work wbhile ‘the wife’ stayed at home. Even though the men probably turned first to read the sports pages at the back, the front cover gave them the right sort of morning stimulation.
The Daily Telegraph appeals to the deferential instinct — the “Everybody loves a Lord” syndrome and the reason why even extreme socialists bow or curtsy before the Queen when she’s handing out shiny gongs. They bow and cursty all the same just as if they were well-practised aristocrats themselves.
Why are people so credulous? Why, for most of the time ( so long as they;re not treated terribly badly), they always do as they’re told? Why are they so subject to peer pressure, particular if ti comes from on high? Why do hysterical beliefs and social fashions sweep through nations? It’s because our emotional genes have shaped us this way for millions of years. Once our predecessors elected a leader or allowed an ambitious person to become leader of their group, he then had to be obeyed implicitly. This was the only way of peace being kept internally or, if fighting a war with a neighbouring group which wanted your territory, you had to do as you were told or you’d be defeated.
Today, it’s Prince William on the front cover. who, because of the most exceptional circumstances of the Fifa corruption scandal and the fact that he attended the Cup Final yesterday, was allowed by his courtiers to make a political comment. He has hit out at Fifa. “Play fair and put fans first,” says the Duke of Cornwall.
Normally, royal courtiers never allow the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh or Prince Charles or his wife — or any of them — to say anything in public that is remotely political. But this time it’s safe because the corruption in Fifa is not in the slightest bit controversial — at least in England, even if it still is in Africa or Thailand or Indonesia.
But as long as newspapers continue, then the Daily Telegraph will have royalty on its front page most days of the week, and The Sun will have a beautiful girl with ample ‘presence’ on its front page (every day in its case!).