3 reasons why burning right-wing newspapers on election day is a daft idea

It's worse than futile.

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Twitter users are posting pictures of piles of right-wing newspapers they say they have bought from local newsagents and disposed of, either in an attempt to supress their evil message or simply as a protest.

Some are burning them, others are binning them, and some say they plan to use them for even more unpleasantly symbolic purposes.

Given the way newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Sun have behaved during the election (and for a lot longer than that), it’s not a huge surprise people on the left are a little angry. The media will be blamed by many Labour supporters if the polling averages are right and the Conservatives win an increased majority. They won't be entirely wrong to do so.  But while the dominance of the UK press by the right is a challenge for everyone on the left, as a tactic buying up and disposing of their newspapers is worse than futile. Here’s why:

1. You are giving your money to the very organisations and people you despise

You may think Rupert Murdoch pursues political power because he is simply evil. You may think Paul Dacre writes fearmongering headlines about immigration because he hates immigrants. You may even be right.

But the main thing driving those men is not some political project, but a desire for success. And the way they succeed is by selling newspapers.

So when you walk into your local newsagent and hand over wads of cash for every copy of the Sun, or Mail, you aren’t landing a blow for freedom, you’re funding the newspaper barons you hate. All three newspapers would have expected a bump in circulation during the election anyway. Every lefty who goes out and cleans out a shop’s stock is simply making the day all the sweeter for them.

2. A sold out newspaper seems more popular

If a Sun or Mail reader walks into their newsagent and finds that there are no copies of the paper they buy each day on the shelves, are they just going to forget what they’ve been reading for the last six months? No, but they might wonder why the views they’ve been consuming have suddenly become so popular on election day.Newspapers may well sway the way people vote, but the views of those around you in your neighbourhood, and your network (be it online or off) are as, if not more, powerful. An empty news rack simply suggests that the newspapers that are no longer there, and the views they contained, are popular and valued by those around you. 

3. It's patronising

Let’s leave aside the obvious similarities between burning newspapers and certain German rituals of the late 30s (Sorry Godwin’s law), there’s another reason this tactic stinks.

Sure, you can accuse the right-wing press of smearing Jeremy Corbyn, cheerleading for the Tories and doing everything they can to stop progressive politics advancing. But trying to deny people the ability to read these newspapers doesn’t just suggest censorship, it is censorship. It’s actively taking away people’s access to information they want. And if anyone thinks they are protecting the poor befuddled Sun or Mail readers from the noxious views contained in those pages, they should probably consider quite how patronising that is.

If we really want people to break free of misplaced right-wing views, to lift the veil placed over their eyes by the right wing press, then we should probably be talking to them. And if they're allowed to buy the newspaper they want, we'd actually have a pretty handy way of working out who to talk to.

Jasper Jackson is the New Statesmans digital editor. He was formerly assistant editor of Media Guardian, and editor of TheMediaBriefing.