CommentPlus: pick of the papers

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

1. Nick Clegg was the winner in this historic leaders' debate (Guardian)

Martin Kettle discusses last night's leaders' debate, concluding that Cameron disappointed, Brown held the line, and Clegg came out on top. If nothing else, the debate brought the election alive by confirming that our political parties also have something serious to argue about.

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2. Election 2010: Clegg uses first TV debate to best effect (Daily Telegraph)

The Telegraph View agrees that, while the debate didn't live up to its hype, it gave a much-needed lift to a lacklustre campaign. Brown waffled, and although Cameron came across as articulate and energetic, it was made apparent that Clegg could be a barrier to his premiership.

3. We saw the new masters in action... (Times)

...and they turned out to be us, says David Aaronovitch, who argues that the real significance of the debate was that it showed how the power is shifting from rulers to the ruled.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. A little desperation? Bring it on (Independent)

Andrew Marr claims that philosophically, the three main parties are breaking apart, ideologically, from the middle ground. The divides are real, and how we vote this time matters hugely.

5. Call it loyalty. Call it tribalism. At the ballot box a magnetic force kicks in (Guardian)

In the end, the policies count for little, argues Julian Glover. Voting for a party is a matter of the heart, much like support for a football team -- loyalty is the underappreciated force shaping this election.

6. The shameful, bloody silence at the heart of the election (Independent)

Johann Hari asks why the Afghanistan war has been left out of the election debate. Hamid Karzai is threatening to defect to the Taliban and still we won't discuss it.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

7. Justice mocked (Times)

The leading article says that the UN tribunal should curb the delaying tactics of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader. He has a right to be defended, but his actions are a bleak and unconscionable farce.

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8. Pope Benedict has turned his back on a church in crisis (Financial Times)

Philip Stephens examines the pope's response to the crisis in the Catholic church. The pontiff is a globaliser -- the pews may gather dust in Europe and the US, but in societies more respectful of authority, business is booming.

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9. Libel laws: a lethal muzzle of medicine (Guardian)

The chiropractors' absurd pursuit of Simon Singh is over, says Ben Goldacre, but libel laws are still a real health hazard. In the medical world, reasonable criticism should never be stifled, because of the enormous potential to do harm regardless of good intentions.

10. Ridicule is a weapon against terrorism (Financial Times)

Jamie Bartlett and Richard Reeves make the case for allowing radical messages to circulate freely. Terrorism has become "cool" and rebellious among young Muslims. We must "toxify" the al-Qaeda brand; not by making it seem dangerous, but by exposing it as dumb.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

 

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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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