Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. A death tax is the fairest one. Yet now no voter will buy it (Guardian)

Peter Wilby argues that a "death tax" is the most socially just and economically efficient means of funding social care. But Britain's obsession with home ownership will make it hard to convince the voters.

2. Private lives should never belong to the public (Times)

The relentless desire for information about politicians' private lives could lead to terrible mistakes, writes David Aaronovitch. Had we known, for instance, that Mo Mowlam was suffering from a malignant brain tumour, she would never have held ministerial office.

3. Britain needs an Afghan exit strategy (Financial Times)

Britain must come up with its own timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan, writes Philip Stephens. It is hard to see how an open-ended commitment to keep British troops in there serves the national interest.

4. The brave and honourable spirit of Britain's soldiers will benefit us all (Daily Telegraph)

Elsewhere, Crispin Black writes that the authority and judgement British troops acquire from serving in Afghanistan will benefit us all once they return to civilian life.

5. Almost everything you think you know about the PM is untrue (Independent)

Steve Richards says that Gordon Brown's impressive interview with Piers Morgan has made the contest over personalities a lot more interesting and a little less predictable.

6. Why Mexico is the missing Bric (Financial Times)

Mexico should be one of the world's rising powers, but the country's drug war is blighting its future, writes Gideon Rachman.

7. Shame on those now sneering at the European project (Independent)

Denis MacShane argues that the Greek crisis reflects the weakness of the EU. The Labour MP says the Union's lack of economic authority allowed Greece to continue its clientelist and corrupt distortion of the public finances without any intervention.

8.. Bite the bullet. Kick Greece out of the euro (Times)

Elsewhere, Ruth Lea argues that, for the sake of the eurozone's long-term viability, the EU must evict Greece now.

9. While we brace for the pain of cuts, executive pay soars (Guardian)

The latest round of bonuses lays bare the myth of the trickle-down effect, says Deborah Hargreaves.

10. See evil, hear evil (Times)

A leading article says that the British establishment must come to terms with MI5's collusion in the torture of Binyam Mohamed.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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