CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. The Pope, the Prophet and the religious support for evil (Independent)

Johann Hari discusses the Danish Prophet Muhammad cartoons and the revelations about the Catholic Church's cover-up of paedophilia -- religion should not be above the law, or protected from uncomfortable debate or scrutiny.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. Darling's Budget could point the way for Britain's renewal (Guardian)

A vision for post-banking-crisis capitalism should be at the top of the agenda, says Martin Kettle, but no party has yet created one. Next week the Chancellor, now his own master, can do so.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. Lawyers have no place on the battlefield (Times)

The Court of Appeal's judgment shows no understanding of what soldiers do, says Richard Kemp. In the heat of battle, a commander can't worry about the Human Rights Act -- it would make war impossible.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. It really won't be the internet that wins it (Independent)

Talk of the e-election, the Twitter election, or the Facebook election proliferates. But, Mary Dejevsky argues, e-editors are mirrors, not creators, of the negative political climate.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

5. The Lib Dems are talking tough on debt -- but where's the beef? (Daily Telegraph)

Where are the details of the Lib Dems' planned tax cuts, asks Jeff Randall. Politicians won't tell the truth because voters have been infantilised by Labour to believe that it can keep demanding more and more.

6. Like all drugs, miaow-miaow should be legal (Times)

All drugs should be legally available to anyone over the age of 21, says Antonia Senior. Attempting to scare teenagers about the dangers is pointless because their brains are wired to take risks.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Obama should table a Middle East peace plan (Financial Times)

Binyamin Netanyahu is not interested in two-state solutions, says Philip Stephens. What is needed is open recognition in Washington that US interests -- and in the long term those of peace in the region -- would be better served by an even-handed approach.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

8. Europe should rethink its aid to Palestine (Financial Times)

In the same paper, Richard Youngs argues that it is time to stop funding feckless elites -- the way in which such funds have been delivered has deepened the debilitating lack of Palestinian unity.

8. Therapeutic retribution (Guardian)

Libby Brooks looks at a model of restorative justice that holds the offender directly accountable to the people he has harmed. Justice is a public health concern, too: offenders meeting victims can cut the trauma that crime causes.

10. Living and dying (Times)

The leading article applauds Debbie Purdy for bringing courage and optimism to the assisted suicide debate with her struggle to clarify the law, and her articulation of the case for changing it.

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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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