The Sun – should we love it?

first_imgAgainst: Paul Sagar, a first year PPEist at BalliolThe Sun is offensive. It offends women, immigrants, asylum seekers and also those whoare simply offended when others are offended: those who do not wait till they personally areattacked before believing something to be abhorrent. No matter how good The Sun’sfootball coverage may be, it in no way compensates for its odious nature. With such anissue, we would all do well to heed the words of Mill’s Harm Principle, that one is free to actas one wishes until their behaviour causes harm to others. I can hold no objection tosomebody purchasing The Sun with their own finances and reading it in privacy. However topropose that it be bought with collective finances and displayed in a JCr cannot bepermitted, because no matter how great the pleasure derived by the readers of The Sunmay be, if even one person is offended by the material printed within it, the offence caused,which I would go so far as to say constitutes harm, far outweighs that pleasure gained. It seems best to begin by refuting the three most common arguments for stocking The Sun.Firstly, that it makes for a more diverse JCr. The thrust of this argument seems to be that allthe newspapers currently stocked here in the Balliol at least, are of the same sort. Howeverone can easily point to the presence of the Independent, the express, the Guardian, theMirror and the Morning Star to cast serious doubt upon this argument. Furthermore, thereseems something odd about championing. The Sun as a source of diversity: let’s not forgetthis is a vehemently right-wing publication, has repeatedly targeted ethnic minorities andimmigrants. The Sun is the antithesis of diversity, to claim otherwisewould be twisted logic indeed. Secondly some argue that the presence of The Sun willdiminish Oxford’s eliist image. This argument rests upon the view that the enoughpeople will visit our JCrs so as to convince the entire nation that because we read The Sun,we’re all very normal. even if one accepted this as a possibility (albeit an unpleasant one,as our JCrs, and not just our quads, would all be full of camera-wielding tourists), then onemust accept the other implications that go with it. While people may think that Oxfordstudents are more “normal” than the current stereotype allows, they may also think that as acommunity we condone some of the other features of The Sun, for example misogyny andsexist attitudes. I’m all for the world knowing we’re not snobs, but I don’t want to beconsidered a chauvinist either.Finally, it’s argued that all papers have agendas and tell lies, from the Telegraph’saccusations against George Galloway to the Mirror’s faked Iraq photos. The crucialdifference is that whereas both these papers picked targets that could defend themselves,The Sun chooses to victimise minority groups who cannot stand up to the press, and whoare further marginalised by the stereotypes printed in its pages. The Sun categoricallyshould not be stocked in our JCrs. Firstly, the hegemony of the Murdoch press is a worryingdevelopment in national and global media and is bad for freedom of expression, freedomof ideas and freedom of information. Most JCrs already stock the Times, so there seemslittle justification for further financing the growth of the Murdoch empire. To quote nickCohen, “the only thing that sells better than sex is hate”, and The Sun is an expert at this. In1989, following the Hillsborough football disaster, The Sun ran an article stating that thecrush that killed 96 people was deliberately started by Liverpool FC fans, who then urinatedon people’s bodies and stole their belongings. an inquest later dismissed all theseaccusations, but the fact remains that The Sun lied to make money. Indeed The Sun is wellversed in spreading hate: the infamous headline “Gotcha!” to announce the sinking of theargentine ship Belgrano, which had been sailing away from British waters, is a starkreminder of its callous and offensive nature. The Sun is not just “another newspaper”: itspreads hate and bigotry specifically to make money. I for one do not support that. do wewant JCrs where members of our community are offended because some are too selfish topay for an offensive publication themselves, or JCrs where the protection from offence, evenof a minority, is considered more important than the desires of a few? I leave it to you.For: Andrew Mason, a second year reading Physics and Philosophy at BalliolI believe that press representation in JCrs is an excellent thing. newspapers aregenerally not provided to us by libraries and that JCrs fill this informationaldeficiency is a testament to the general engagement of our students with the outsideworld. nobody should be excluded from this fundemental service. and yet, twice now,substantial majorities at Balliol JCr meetings have blocked the provision of The Sun to thatproportion of its members who want to read it. We have just as much right as any othermember to find the newspaper we want in the JCr – telling us to go buy it ourselvesmisses the point dangerously. Excluding anyone from core JCr services needs a goodreason. Moreover, omitting sections of the press creates informational gaps: if those‘opposed’ in some way to The Sun read it occasionally they may appreciate its work forsocial integration and breakdown of racial prejudice in the poorest, stupidest sections ofsociety. Balliol JCr is arbitrarily excluding a minority from service provision in a shamefulway.Consider this: a sizeable minority of a JCr affiliates to a certain political viewpoint that ishighly unpopular with their peers. Wanting to access the JCr newspaper service, they take amotion to a meeting requesting that the JCr orders their political newspaper, and themotion is defeated. Surely the reader agrees that a bad thing just happened, that thisminority ought to access this JCr service just as everyone else, regardless of politicalaffiliation. For is not the protection of such minorities precisely what constitutionaldemocracies like JCrs are designed to guarantee? At both Sun debates powerful caseswere made that spending JCr money on the newspaper would mean an endorsement ofwhat people perceive to be its values, including but not limited to murder, racism andhomophobia, gypsy-tipping, rape and pillage and general societal mischief-making. This isfair enough, and admirable in its way. But it’s also completely misguided. If I buy every kindof chocolate in a shop, one couldn’t say I endorse anything whatsoever (exceptcomprehensive chocolate buying!). If a JCr buys newspapers supporting every possibleviewpoint, how can it endorse one in particular? Moreover purchase of a newspaper entailsno endorsement at all. London Underground commuters bemoan late trains, dirtyplatforms and endless upgrades on the Circle Line, and certainly don’t endorse their modeof transport, yet tomorrow they will buy tickets as normal: it’s the only way to get to work. Noeconomic choice is being made. JCrs choose to provide newspapers that members wantto read, not to provide certain newspapers and not others. A clear case for politicalnewspapers, but The Sun is not quite the same. Whilst some object to The Sun on politicalgrounds, the majority object on grounds of distaste. and can we say that the potentialoffence of a majority of a JCr is good reason to deny a minority access to a newspaper?Those who gladly read their own preferred newspapers but do not allow another minority toread theirs are guilty of a critical failure of ‘doing unto others as they do unto you’.nevertheless, JCrs are small communities, and application of such principlesis not always appropriate. If twenty of its members get really upset at the very sight of theirpeers reading the newspaper they want to read, then no matter how ultimately petty weconsider their objection is, that still constitutes a serious welfare issue. But Oxfordcolleges that do receive The Sun contain no population of the really upset, even exeter,which until recently received two copies (now reduced to one to accommodate Private eye).doubt not: if Balliol received The Sun already, those same people who blocked it at two GMswould read with a sneer or a smile and without objection. and in the possible world whereSt Hugh’s didn’t get The Sun, and a member of the JCr proposed to a meeting that theyshould, then of course there is name-calling, JCr hysteria and shouts of derision. Makingthings upset us is easy: changing that is not. I contend that society is always a better placewhen we swallow our own upsets and let people do what they want. In the real world, takingoffence at others’ activities is called intolerance and the very last thing we do is let it restrictthe activities of others. I don’t care if you think I’m just a dirty bastard wanting to lookat tits. Iam a member of Balliol JCR – can I not have access to its services?ARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005last_img read more