Stop Press: Truth Stranger Than Fiction!

The only newspaper I read is The Guardian every Saturday. I’m pretty comfortable with its broadly liberal, slightly left-of-centre viewpoint. And there’s so much to read it lasts me well into the week.

On a bus the other day I picked up a discarded copy of The Sun, a right-of-centre tabloid. I flicked through it and found myself torn between laughter and horror at its unhealthy diet of salacious gossip and prurient titillation. Not for the first time I found myself wondering whether this rag – you can’t call it a newspaper because it has little actual news or analysis – creates or simply confirms a narrowly philistine and frankly nasty mind-set in its regular readers.

Aha, I think to myself, let’s cleanse the palate with another post set in my fictional town of Bafflesby. The spoof tabloid can be called something alliterative – the Bafflesby Bullhorn, maybe, with a silly motto like ‘We Shout Louder Than You’ – and sending this garbage up will be a walk in the park …

Wrong! As screwed-up pieces of paper piled up on the carpet, it began to occur to me that this stuff is beyond satire. Who would ever believe me if my headline article was anything like the one they actually printed:


Jet perv films up BA girl’s undercarriage


A FIRST Class British Airways passenger has been arrested amid claims he used a phone to film up a stewardess’s skirt at 30,000ft.

Businessman Martyn Mennis, 61, is alleged to have pushed the handset under the 26-year-old (Continued on Page Four)

There is nothing else on the front page. I would remind you that The Sun, unlike the Bafflesby Bullhorn, is a national newspaper at a time when major domestic and international events are coming thick and fast …

One confession, though, I did change the names. Maybe I will be able to do a parody, after all, but my satirical target – The Sun – has set the bar pretty high … or should that be low? The prospect of writing it makes me feel a bit grubby. I wonder if Sun journalists feel grubby, or do they just get used to it? Perhaps they’ve all got thick skins to begin with …

Image result for cartoon airplane



10 thoughts on “Stop Press: Truth Stranger Than Fiction!

  1. I once knew a journalist on a local newspaper. He told me that most of the journalists who work on the tabloids also work for the broadsheets, they just change their writing style accordingly. I don’t know if that tells us whether Sun journalists feel grubby or not.

    1. An interesting point – if you wear your writing style like a cloak, at least you can take it off. The tabloid cloak is composed of puns, jingly rhymes, alliteration, sneery epithets, clichés, hyphenated words, weak jokes, violent verbs, colloquialisms and plenty of italics! But it’s one thing to analyse it, quite another to produce it. Maybe this is the answer …

  2. Bafflesby only thinks it’s fictional. In reality it is real. Truth is stranger.
    I believe the worrying thing about the likes of the Sun, Express, Telegraph and their ilk is that they constantly churn out a diet of exaggerated stories, lies and xenophobic twaddle verging on racism and have done for decades. That is their agenda. People subjected to such bullshit absorb it by osmosis and psychologically shift to believe it is true. It is how the populace is controlled. The right-wing is extremely devious. It’ is, in my opinion, the only way that the Tories ever get elected. They convince people that they represent them when in fact they only represent the top 5%. That is who they were inaugurated for.
    The tragic result of this endless dripping of venom is Brexit.
    While most intelligent people occasionally read such twaddle and find it laughable, most intelligent people wouldn’t buy it. The people who do buy it, and are swayed by it, are too stupid to see through it.

    1. As usual, Opher, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. You capture this insidious process best in the phrase ‘endless dripping of venom’ – people really don’t know they have been poisoned. Have you seen this, which makes a similar point and suggests one way out of the quagmire? (I got the URL by putting the cursor to the video and clicking on the right button.)

  3. Tom Lehrer was asked why he stopped writing satirical songs. He said that he had done all the important subjects. Real life, like Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize, was becoming “un-satirisable”. The recent events in the UK would not have been believed in a work of fiction – and are almost beyond sending up.

    One solution to the evils of drip feeding the population with hateful rubbish is decent thoughtful education (moderate stupidity and ignorance with knowledge and empathy) – but that has not been encouraged by any recent administration. One might almost think that they want a pliable electorate. What a prospect!

    If ever you get tired of the Guardian you might like to try “The Week”. It abstracts from world press publications, but does not often print pieces from the Sun.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful and measured comments, Mike … and spot-on about education, what a relief it would be if politicians took a step backwards and reflected on what could be achieved with some common sense and a deeper understanding of how kids learn and develop. Tom Lehrer was a marvellous teacher/entertainer. Can you get ‘The Week’ in UK shops or do you have to subscribe?

      1. The Week is available “at most good newsagents” as they used to say! I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

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