CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Speed up (Times)

Lord Adonis's plans for a new high-speed rail network have been a long time coming, says the Times leader, and the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Rail: high-speed vision (Daily Telegraph)

Telegraph View agrees that, despite our indebtedness, this will show that Britain has not lost the ambition exemplified by such a national project.

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3. High-speed rail is the right investment for Britain's future (Independent)

It's a full hat-trick -- the Independent's leading article is also in favour of high-speed rail, arguing that to see the economic and social benefits, we need only look at our European neighbours.

4. The British election that both sides deserve to lose (Financial Times)

The electorate has to choose between a government about which it knows far too much and an opposition about which it knows far too little. Neither side is convincing, writes Martin Wolf.

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5. The bankers lied. And Darling, a mere puppet on their string, knows it (Guardian)

Britain has paid a horrendous price for allowing the City to dictate credit policy, says Simon Jenkins. If the banking bailout was worth it, we should see the account. If not, someone should pay. Yet there is no inquiry, no questioning, only silence.

6. Generals must keep their noses out of politics (Times)

Vernon Bogdanor asks whether our armed forces are becoming politicised. Heads of the armed forces have made some outspoken criticisms of government -- but they cannot escape their share of the blame if soldiers do not have the right equipment.

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7. Palestinians should now declare their independence (Independent)

Johann Hari says that the Palestinians should make a unilateral declaration of independence, and we -- the watching billions -- must pressure our governments to make it a reality.

8. It's defeatist nonsense to talk of a crisis of left-wing thinking (Guardian)

The New Statesman senior editor, Mehdi Hasan, argues that progressives have been vindicated. The public is far ahead, and to the left, of government on the reforms that we need.

9. Turkey needs more from Atatürk's heirs (Financial Times)

Turkey lacks an effective opposition, says David Gardner. It desperately needs a regrouping of secular, liberal and social-democratic forces into an electable political party.

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10. A Democrat disgrace (Guardian)

Michael Tomasky discusses Barack Obama's health-care reform. It is stomach-churning, but because it is election year, some congressmen will sabotage the health bill to keep their seats.

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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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