I was going to blog about the Mail on Sunday’s piece* about Trussell Trust foodbanks that ran this weekend. I was going to point out that their account of a reporter being given food ‘no questions asked’ actually details the range of questions they were asked. I was going to rant a bit about the faux outrage that someone had had more than the usual 3 food parcels per year, as though it’s neither possible nor plausibly justifiable that individual circumstances might fall outside normal expectations. I was going to point out that as an exposé the whole piece is entirely misplaced. The Trussell Trust is a charity – so long as it’s acting legally and within its own constitution it isn’t governed by the need to avoid snivelling outbreaks of faux public offence. I would probably have finished by bemoaning the overall tone of the article – the view of humanity that says ‘these people who are different from me are out to get something, and they much be stopped.’
And at that point I decided to stop myself. Rather than expending anymore mental energy decrying the inhumanity of the Mail on Sunday, I’m going to take another path. I’m going to focus on offering some suggestions for how we might best deal with the Mail’s (and any other papers treading a similar path) spluttering fury in future. Essentially, the Mail (both Daily and on Sunday) is best viewed as an elderly and increasingly confused relative. The modern world scares them, and they’re becoming more and more convinced that the nurses are trying to take their jewelery. From time to time that confusion and disorientation comes out as anger, xenophobia, sexism and racism. The best response to this, given that we are dealing with a confused elderly person probably showing early signs of dementia, is to pat them politely on the hand and continue our conversation as if they’d never said anything at all. We could try to argue, but they won’t understand, and it would probably only add to their increasing paranoia and sense that there is some great rainbow-coloured evil out there that’s out to get them.
So that’s my new resolution, from now on I will view faux outrage clickbait articles in the media with a sort of weary patience. I refuse to get angry, because anger, like agreement, is a response, and it’s a market where any response at all translates into profit. Page hit figures don’t record whether readers were nodding in agreement or rolling their eyes. So instead of doing anger and outrage I shall do happiness and positivity. I shall remember that most people are perfectly pleasant and far too preoccupied with their own lives and families to be interested in hurting anybody elses. I shall remember that most people who use food banks do so because they’re in a really desperate situation and are thankful for whatever help they can access. I shall remember that most people who migrate to this country do so because they want the sort of stability and security that most people who already live here view as fundamental rights, and the accident of being born somewhere on a different side of some ocean shouldn’t remove those rights. And finally I shall remember that the nurses have no interest in stealing my jewelery.
But then, at some point, I’ll trip over some other article in some other rag that presents bile and venom as if they were actual news, and all my good intentions will fall by the wayside and I’ll be ranting on twitter with everyone else. And even though I’ve just established that that is Wrong, it will, in its own way, also be Right, because occasionally you do have to get angry and not turn a blind eye. Sometimes you do have to point out loudly and clearly how completely out of order a particular point of view is. It’s deciding when it’s worth the energy that’s the tricky bit.
*The article is here (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608606/No-ID-no-checks-vouchers-sob-stories-The-truth-shock-food-bank-claims.html). I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to click the link. It’s a click bait article, so if you’re clicking in order to be outraged remember that that’s what the paper’s publisher wants you to do.