How the tabloids preach hate for profit

Voltaire, 1694-1778.

Voltaire, 1694-1778. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the digital domain, only hatred and outrage rival sex for profitability. Hatred encourages outrage and outrage motivates readers. In pursuit of web traffic, tabloids have honed their skills to preach hate and outrage for profit. The hatred and outrage they stir about people on benefits is probably their largest earner to date.

No pain is so great that tabloids cannot make it worse.

The benefits system has changed dramatically over the past 5 years. Any change was going to be difficult and painful for those who were used to the old system. The previous Labour government proposed reforms of benefits system[1] and the Coalition government has implemented much of it. The results have been mixed. The government has not realized all intended savings.[2] Those who depend on these benefits have suffered from the uncertainty and the changes. Lives have been made difficulty and some people have suffered serious personal tragedy as a result. Through it all, the tabloids have harvested the hatred and outrage they have sown.

The tabloids sow outrage for both sides of the debate

The tabloids have sown the hatred and outrage. If we consider this article from August 2010[3] The Sun declared war on benefit scroungers we can see that they, not the government, declared war on “scroungers.” Even though the government does not use this term or this rhetoric, the public quickly assign it the government. The tabloids know that emotive language, language that will inflame and incite people to react, sells their content. They also know that nuance undermines outrage,[4] which means they simplify the message. The government’s benefit reforms are simplified to be a “War on Scroungers”. Their language appeals to those who believe benefits are for “scroungers”[5]. The articles become fodder for those who may not support reforms, but hate the “scrounger”. What is overlooked is the same rhetoric serves to rally those opposed to benefit reforms as well as those who have suffered as a result. They use the tabloid’s language. They buy into the hate to oppose the government’s policy. They become the unwitting tabloid agent when they circulate it and amplify it.

Even those attacked by the tabloids buy their message.

The tabloids harvest the hate from those they attack. They profit from stories that decry the “war on scroungers”. The Mirror’s September 2014 article claims 212,000 benefits recipients have been beaten up for being demonized as benefit scroungers. The article blames the government. “Devastating research reveals that four years of Tory-led war on the poor. “ The rhetoric is toxic. When a person on benefits dies, it is often traced back to the government’s policies. Every individual’s tragedy is fodder for the greater tabloid outrage narrative. The tabloids never mention they created the hatred and outrage. They created the war on “scroungers” and blamed the government. Despite their complicity, the public buy and repeat these stories because it confirms their prejudices about the government.

The UK has deported hate preachers in the past; perhaps it is time to deport the tabloids.

[1] The Freud Report from 2007 provided the framework for the reforms for the new collation.



[4][4][4] The Sun and other tabloids reduce the detail and nuance in their articles. They simplify the message and use words to inflame and outrage readers.

[5] The report shows the negative media coverage has been constant since 1995 and it has done much to create the hatred and outrage for those on benefits.


About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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