Superman vs the blogosphere

My money's on the blogosphere.

Yes, Clark Kent, the humanoid alter ego of benign alien Christ-figure Kal-El, is leaving the inky empire of the Daily Planet to type away in the spare bedroom. 

I can understand Kent's reasons for binning newsprint in favour of the electronic world. We've all been there, Mr Man (or may I call you Super?), working for a faceless and relatively evil corporation, hacking away at deadlines, crafting exquisitely delicate articles about Very Important Things, only to see them spiked in favour of some lightweight pap.

I feel your pain. You may be able to stop a speeding bullet, but you can’t seem to get a front-page lead for love nor money.

Superblogger’s arrival is a timely boost for the public perception of our craft. We're all too easily stereotyped as tragic, forlorn figures frenziedly tapping out our little rants while softly weeping about our hopeless lives - so the arrival of a bona fide superhero in our ranks might up our profile a little.  

Maybe it says something about the parlous state of the industry that one of its leading fictional lights is swapping the press for the blogosphere. Will we be able to call the death of traditional journalism as the date that Superman decided to go it alone? Or is it just a plot point that will see Superman arguing with random strangers about semantics when he really ought to be solving crimes and saving the world? 

I warn you now, Clark, it’s not an easy business being a blogger. Sure, you think it’s probably a piece of cake compared with juggling your busy life as a crime-fighting superhero with finding scoops at the Daily Planet, but let me tell you: blogging is a proper full-time job.

You’ve not experienced true heroism until you’ve fought off a swarm of angry commenters taking you to task over your latest blogpost. You’ve not known kryptonite, my friend, until you’ve written something about racism or the Middle East.

Don’t go thinking, either, Mr Man, that this is going to be some kind of liberating experience away from the newsroom. Far from it. If you’re going to be running your own blog, you’re going to have to forego the security blanket of sub-editors and proofreaders: from now on, every single word you write will come under scrutiny from the most bloodthirsty pedants in the galaxy.

One error in punctuation; one ‘their’ instead of ‘there’ and you might as well go and hide in the corner for the rest of the afternoon, rocking yourself to sleep as the tears roll down your face. Did they teach you about grammar Nazis on Krypton? I doubt it.

Poor Superman. You can just imagine him, in his unwashed costume, surrounded with takeaway cartons in a room only dimly lit by the glow of his battered laptop screen. He mutters: “I really should save those brave kittens from plummeting into the vat of boiling acid... But someone just called me a bad feminist for not being intersectional enough and they're plain WRONG!”

I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, let alone a superhero. 

Superman quits journalism. Photograph: Getty Images

Patrolling the murkier waters of the mainstream media

GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images
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Leader: The wretched of the earth

Britain must accept more asylum-seekers - and create a sustainable plan for their integration into wider society.

The quality of our public discourse on asylum is lamentable. The Conservative government, preoccupied with its absurd immigration caps and targets (all missed), has shown little leadership on the issue. In an excellent speech on 1 September, Yvette Cooper correctly denounced the “political cowardice” of ministers for failing to respond adequately and compassionately to the plight of asylum-seekers fleeing turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. She contrasted the government’s inaction with Britain’s proud traditions of welcoming incomers and the most desperate refugees.

Yet those who agree with Ms Cooper should also accept that admitting large numbers of asylum-seekers – she suggested that Britain should take in 10,000 people fleeing the Middle East – would pose considerable challenges to public services, housing and social cohesion. It is not enough to accept more asylum-seekers. There must be a plan for their integration into wider society, by helping them to learn English, find work and pay taxes. Above all, what is required is not a panicked, short-term response to the immediate crisis but an EU-wide solution for the long term.

The British government, however, does not seem interested in helping to find one, which was why Ms Cooper’s call for a country of 65 million to admit 10,000 asylum-seekers seemed so bold. For all its difficulties, Britain is richer than most other countries in the EU. It can afford to do far more than its intransigent approach to admitting asylum-seekers suggests. Between 2010 and 2014, 15 EU countries admitted more asylum-seekers per head of population than the UK.

In 2014, the UK granted asylum to just 14,000 people, compared to the 47,500 taken by Germany. This year, as many as 800,000 are expected to apply to Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the refugee crisis “will concern us far more than Greece and the stability of the euro”, and German regional leaders have agitated for greater federal funding and faster processing of asylum claims. Such an approach is absent from much of the rest of the continent: many European nations seem to have resolved that the best way to deter asylum-seekers is to treat them deplorably. The Dutch government has announced plans to cut off the supply of food and shelter for those who fail to qualify as refugees.

Nor has the EU distinguished itself. A proposal made in May for member states to admit 40,000 asylum-seekers between them has collapsed. The EU has also failed to engage other nations in a larger multilateral response to alleviating the crisis: the wealthy Gulf states, which keep their borders firmly closed to the desperate of Syria ought to be shamed into action. As many as 2,500 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year; across the EU, the number of applications for asylum reached the record figure of 626,000 in 2014 and it will be even higher in 2015.

David Cameron can legitimately say that he is operating in a climate of great hostility to migrants and asylum-seekers – just read the tabloid headlines. Yet leadership is about informing public opinion, not merely following it. The Prime Minister has a rare opportunity to shape a more enlightened and compassionate public discourse.