You refuse an offer from the Daily Mail at your peril, as the winning team in the latest round of the upmarket quiz show University Challenge discovered when they declined to have anything to do with the paper. Students from Balliol College Oxford were asked by the paper’s reporter Laura Lambert if they would get in touch with her. Their replies incurred the displeasure of the Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre.
Panellist Benjamin Pope told Ms Lambert “As a team, we won’t be interviewed by the Mail. We know it’s not your fault, but we must ethically boycott that hateful publication”. His colleague Freddy Potts went further, replying “Hi Laura - I have nothing against you personally, but equally I have nothing to say to the fascist rag that employs you”. Refusing the offer, and rubbing the Mail’s nose in it - this required punishment to be administered.
So it was that Ms Lambert, unable to secure even a comment from the winning team, did what all good Mail hacks do when they have no story - she invented one. “Student equality campaigners slam all-male University Challenge final blaming 'hostile' world of quiz societies” read the headline. Yes, the Mail, that last bastion of anti-feminism, had been reduced to pretending to be feminists in order to dole out a punishment beating.
There was only one problem with this approach: it made the Mail look even worse, if such a thing were possible. But help is never far away with so many of the media bottom-feeders out there, and now has come an apologia exceptional only in its lameness from the convocation of those who will take a contrarian stance on any issue, providing someone will pay them for it. Yes, the clowns at Spiked have run to the Mail’s rescue.
“The University Challenge winners’ Mail boycott is pathetic” whines Guy Birchall, which proves at least that there is someone out there who is not Brendan O’Neill. Birchall clearly suggests that the Mail had some kind of not just expectation, but also entitlement, of a contribution from the winning Balliol team, given the paper and Mail Online had devoted so much copy to University Challenge. That is Birchall’s first research fail.
As any fule kno, the Mail, in using the programme to generate cheap copy, is sponging off the same BBC it also hates with a passion. The paper and its website is seeing which way the prevailing social media wind is blowing and then using that information to score sales and clicks. That entitles it to little more than Sweet Jack.
Having gone wrong at the start, Birchall continues in the same vein: “This was more pose than protest. Now all the world knows that Potts and Pope are not only astonishingly clever, but their politics are bloody well right-on too”. What is “right-on” about knowing to avoid talking to the Mail? But Birchall is not finished just yet.
“Never mind the fact that the increased popularity of University Challenge is partly down to the coverage it has received in ‘hateful publications’ like the Mail”. Bullshit. It is wholly down to the programme being on telly in the first place. So, having gone wrong all the way, he finishes by, er, going wrong: “How pathetic. Having a pop at the Mail is the most boring virtue-signal there is”. It’s not virtue signalling. It’s someone making a decision.
Nor is it, as Birchall claims, “PC”. And this tiresome guff still won’t get him a job there.