A free press has a huge responsibility to society.
In a way, it represents humanity. The editorials, the news reports and business predictions have enormous influence over our opinions, our decisions and our actions. Many investigative articles bring to our attention serious abuse of human rights, crises in health and education, the spread of disease, the threat of hostilities and the scale of corruption. It is said that you can judge a newspaper by its readers’ letters and its editorials. What about its columnists?

A popular British weekly newspaper has several good contributors on subjects such as history, economics, sport and politics. On the other hand it has a rather vulgar obsession with celebrities, trivial gossip and, most of all, with wealth. Some contributors prefer pretentious French words, such as “bien pensant”, ”ennui” and “longeur” where there is a perfectly acceptable English alternative. Why they don’t write their piece in French? There are two columnists who trash every person and every idea with which they don’t agree. Let’s call them R.Large and C.Short. As readers, we can only judge those hiding behind their pens by the way they write.

R.Large can be witty but uses his pen to launch personal attacks on anybody he dislikes or disagrees with. He is tediously predictable in his repeated adulation for Netanyahu and contempt for Diane Abbott, for example. He describes anybody with differing views as idiots or imbeciles. The obese are regarded as “lard buckets”, the misguided as “scumbags”. He has a particular problem with French and Germans, the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats. C.Short seems a bitter, humourless person whose pen hates everybody.

Plain looking, she criticises the appearance of anybody more attractive or successful than she is, which applies to most of the people she denigrates as “airheads”. She seems fascinated by bodily functions from defecation to masturbation and with body fluids and sexual organs. Her favourite words include “shagging”, “bum” and “tits”. Her language reduces the whole concept of sex to something dirty. It seems that, once a columnist takes a disliking to a person or disagrees with their views, everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon like leeches. Their prey includes Victoria Beckham, Diane Abbott, Megan Markle, Greta Thunberg, Bob Geldof and even Mother Teresa and Princess Diana.

Anybody who is either attractive or successful or who does their best to help others or tries in their own way to make the world a better place is fair game. None  of these people has harmed anybody. This is not an argument against fact-based criticism. The actions of national leaders such as Duterte, Maduro, and Orban– even Bolsonaro and Trump- may range from brutal persecution to plain misjudgement or incompetence. That, however, does not make them toe-rags!
If such intolerant journalists can only launch vicious, unprovoked personal attacks on their subjects, why don’t they pocket their pens?

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