On Paper …

Anyone who follows test cricket will, no doubt, remember the “Sandpapergate” scandal of March 2018. It still makes Australian cricket lovers shudder, and gives the rest of us a stick with which to beat them.

But if, dear reader, you don’t follow test cricket, and you have never heard of “Sandpapergate”, permit me to enlighten you regarding one or two of the salient points.

Three Australian cricketers – the captain, Steve Smith, the vice captain, David Warner, and a junior member of the team, Cameron Bancroft – were involved in a conspiracy to cheat in a test match played in Cape Town, between South Africa and Australia, by dint of sanding the ball in order to change the way in which it behaved. As a result, Smith and Warner were stripped of the captaincy and vice captaincy respectively, and were banned from playing cricket for a year. Bancroft received a nine month ban.

An unintended consequence of the whole mess, was a joke which circulated on social media. “You can tell a lot about a man by the paper he buys. If he buys the Guardian paper, he’s a liberal, leftwing lovey. If he buys the Mail paper, he’s a rabid, rightwing reactionary. If he buys sandpaper, he’s an Australian cricketer.”

For an English cricket lover, any digs at Australian cricketers certainly bring cheer to these cold, winter months. Even cheap laughs like the above. But as well as providing a cheap laugh, it poses an interesting question. Can one really determine things about a person based on the newspaper they buy?

On the face of it, yes. Prior to the end of the second world war, the Manchester Guardian, as it was known until the 1960s, supported the Liberal party. However, after 1945, there was a move to the left, and it became largely supportive of the Labour Party. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that its readers are of a similar political opinion.

Likewise, The Daily Mail has, and always has had, a populist, rightwing agenda. Indeed, it was The Mail which, in 1934, published an infamous editorial in support of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, entitled, “Hurrah For The Blackshirts” – a reference to the garb worn by BUF members. Although it no longer supports fascists, it is not a publication aimed at moderate Conservatives.

But whilst the joke points out the political difference between the two papers, it doesn’t allow for an entirely fair comparison. There is a considerable difference in the intellectual heft of both. As The Guardian is part of the group of newspapers known as the “quality press”, its rightwing equivalent should really be The Daily Telegraph, whereas The Daily Mail’s leftwing analogue is The Daily Mirror. Some people might suggest that The Times is The Guardian’s rightwing counterpart, but as it has supported all three major UK parties over the years, I’m inclined to disagree. It is broadly supportive of “the Establishment”, rather than of any political dogma or ideology, which suits my personal brand of political discomfort. My wishy-washy uncertainty as to whether I’m a conservative Liberal, or a liberal Conservative, can be somewhat testing. It does allow for a degree of flexibility though. But I digress.

Things can get complicated though. One of the things that we can all easily forget, is that one’s political views are not everything. In the high and far off time of my schooldays, I studied politics at A-level. We were encouraged to keep up with the happenings of the day in as many ways as possible. Not only were we to imbibe the objectivity of the broadcast media, but we were advised to get access to as many newspapers as possible. Different points of view would inform us, and hopefully increase our understanding of a given issue.

But we must also remember that politics are not everything. No, honestly. They’re not. I know a man, for example, who has, for many years, bought either The Times or The Telegraph, despite the fact that his politics are very much of the Left. The reason for this apparent contradiction? He loves sport. In particular, cricket and cycling. Both papers cover them more thoroughly than any which may have what he would consider to be more acceptable political views. Other people will read a particular paper because they like the theatre critic, or the lay-out of the television listings, or the crossword, or the restaurant reviews, or can more easily find jobs advertised in their particular fields, and a whole host of other reasons.

So, can we really tell things about someone from the paper they buy? Not, I suspect, very easily.

One response to “On Paper …”

  1. <

    div dir=”ltr”>interesting. not being from the UK, I find th


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