When Sex Sells

Though I loathe the capitalist politics his political party promote, I can’t help but feel sorry for Mark Oaten, (left) the Liberal Party MP, publicly embarrassed and his career and family life in tatters following a New of the World revelation that he had paid for sex with male prostitutes.

Sorry, but this really is a private matter and bugger all to do with anyone outside of his family. He’s paid for sex? Big deal – so have 10% of all UK men, according to the New Statesman.

Sunday’s Observer carried a timely special report entitled “Sex – Britain’s quiet revolution.” It revealed that 40% of people had cheated on their partners, that 39% per cent had two relationships going at the same time, that 15% percent had same-sex relationships, that 65% of all people interviewed believe prostitution should be legalised. With these statistics in mind Oaten seems just like your ‘average man in the street’. What on earth is his crime? Did he harm anyone? Did he stop loving his family? No!

The simple fact is that here is a newspaper that has little or nothing to say and is aware that the vast majority of people are interested in sex and so run page after page of sex-related stories. The paper is generally perceived as catering for people of a limited intellect, incapable of forming a political opinion on their own and who are inclined to pigeon hole politicians according to their sexual preferences.

As Max Hastings writes in Monday’s Guardian: “Sex offers a lazy way of passing judgement on a public figure, sparing us the difficulties of assessing their work.”

And he’s right. The NotW never bothered asking his constituents if he was a decent MP, whether he held regular surgeries, answered queries from his constituents or campaigned on the issues his voters had elected him to campaign on – which, to be honest, is what really matters – rather, they knew this was a story that would sell papers (or rather expose its readership to a hoard of advertisers attracted by a juicy story, which is what papers are all about) and ran with it.

Hastings went on: “For the media to investigate misgovernment requires endless labour for uncertain results and often little thanks from readers or viewers. Uncovering sexual lapses is incomparably easier.”

Again, Hastings is right. There are endless stories to investigate and report about – war, famine, hunger, poverty, crime and a million other problems rooted in the insane way we organise our world for production…Christ, the list is endless. But no, the seedy little sex story can be secured with a bribe in a minute over the phone and recouped when the big advertisers, getting wind that a big scandal is about to break, take out half-and full-page adverts in anticipation of a huge audience and consequent profits.

So we whittle the public humiliation of Mark Oaten and his family down to its lowest common denominator: Sex scandal sells newspapers, advertisers are attracted and the money pours in. Or: who gives a shit if we ruin someone’s life, break up their family? There’s profits to be had, goddammit!Get one thing straight! – newspapers are not there primarily to provide us with news. The news is a sideline. They exist to make money by exposing us to advertisers. If a newspaper lost its advertisers it would fold within a week.

That rant out of the way - and on a lighter note - it does seem that some politicians just never learn:

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