I make a point of not reading the Daily Mail. It’s vile, apparently written by and for scaremongers and bigots. The New York Times summed it up perfectly last week, dubbing its unofficial motto “What Fresh Hell is This?” It saddens me deeply that the Mail has such a large readership, who presumably aren’t put off by its mix of misogyny, xenophobia and apparent editorial directive that once a week, the headline needs to reveal something else that’ll give you cancer.
And ranking even higher in my dislike than the Mail is its columnist Melanie Phillips. If you’re unfamiliar with the Mail (lucky you), it might give you a good idea what the paper’s like if I tell you one of its leading columnists doesn’t believe in global warming or that Palestine should exist as a state, and that being gay isn’t “normal” (that last one’s a link to the site – just a heads up if, like me, you try to avoid adding to their sadly increasing revenues. If that does sound like you, I recommend the very clever Kitten Block. Genius. No Mail, lots of kittens. What’s not to love?).
Hopefully understandably, I normally stray as far as possible from the Mail and Phillips’ writings. But when PolitiGal sent me an email on Monday titled “This made me very angry”, I couldn’t quite resist. Contained within was a link to a piece by Phillips, arguing that we’ve got the politicians we deserve because of society’s obsession with youth.
But that wasn’t what PG had taken issue with.
Later in the piece, Phillips directs her criticism at the leaders of the Coalition. Rather than pick holes in policy, she instead argues that the main problem is that Cameron et al. have no experience of the real world: this is because none of them appears to have done anything much apart from politics and PR.
Apparently, neither of these things is “the real world”. Those of us in these professions live in the gilded bubble of the political, PR and media club, and as such, have no idea of reality, of how businesses work, or what life actually entails.
They never got their hands dirty in the messy tedium of managing or being managed; never sweated over a business needing to break even, she says.
They never had their noses rubbed in the knock-backs and compromises, hopes and fears of those who give barely a passing thought to politics, but who struggle with finding a decent school for their children, or a hospital that won’t actually kill them through incompetence or an absence of elementary hygiene.
Well Melanie Phillips can take her gilded bubble and shove it.
Whilst I am well aware that a job in PR or media isn’t the same as hard, manual labour, it’s
still valuable - to individuals as well as the wider economy. Given that it inconveniently contradicts her argument, Phillips has ignored the fact that in every PR agency across the country, there are people managing and being managed. Sometimes, they’re wrangling budgets, making sure enough money’s coming in to be able to pay the staff and keep the business going. I know for a fact that PG, working in politics and someone who seems to spend her life working on campaigns that thoroughly get in the way of her social life, has seen her share of knockbacks and compromises.
More than that, these are people in PR and politics aren’t necessarily defined entirely by their profession and might even indulge in a bit of real life: they’re the same people who lie awake at night worrying about finding a decent school for their children, or a hospital that won’t give them MRSA when they need to go in for a knee replacement.
And sitting well inside her own gilded bubble, I’d wager that Melanie Phillips, a journalist for the entirety of her career, doesn’t spend every day managing a large team, or worrying about the nitty-gritty of how the publications she writes for manage to pay her wage.
I’m fed up to the back teeth of ‘PR’ being used as shorthand for ‘inexperienced’ or ‘naïve’ or ‘stupid’. We’re not. We’re well aware of how the world works, how businesses work, how real life works. We have to be – we’re paid to know how to communicate with people, how to relate to them, what will resonate. And maybe a career in PR doesn’t prepare a person to run the country - but what job does? And I’m pretty sure that a well-rounded PR person would make a better job of it than a one-speed hack.