Press review: Monday 12 May, 2014
Thank heavens for the set-piece. Manchester City came to the rescue on a news day so quiet that the Sun and Star had to revert to Saturday night's Eurovision for their splashes.
Conchita Wurst's triumph with the sort-of Bond theme Rise Like a Phoenix had everyone scrambling to show how nonchalant and tolerant they were. A transvestite in golden sheath gown with lustrous hair, long eyelashes - and a full beard. What's odd about that?
Enough to make them thankful for the end of the Premiership season and celebratory pictures from Manchester. That meant the Sun and Star could use little pictures of Conchita on the front and the rest could consign her to the inside. Of course the line had to be the "bearded lady", recalling the circuses and freak shows of the 19th century.
The Star missed that and conformed to house style reducing Conchita to "bearded woman", which doesn't have quite the same ring.
For the Desmond paper, money was all. The Eurovision win could, it said, be worth £25m. But remember, this is is coming from a paper that splashed on Jordan lining up a £1m deal for the story of her latest divorce entirely based on a PR's estimate of what the story might be worth and in the face of an outright denial that it was up for grabs.
Today the £25m prediction comes from "one showbiz agent" who says the singer could easily make that within three years. The Express plucked a similar figure out of the air, with nothing from anyone anywhere to stand it up. Both likened her to Abba, which is plain daft. Abba were a group of musicians who could compose, play and sing. Conchita Wurst is a novelty act.
There's nothing wrong with that, but one night of Nigella and the Twitterati posting bearded selfies does not an international superstar make.
Eurovision gets crazier by the year and the politics more overt. The Sun went for Russian disdain and the hardliner Vladimir Zhirinovsky's pronouncement that the result proved Europe was done for:
"There is no limit to our outrage," he said. "It is the end of Europe. They don't have men and women any more. They have 'it'. Fifty years ago the Soviet army occupied Austria. We made a mistake in freeing Austria. We should have stayed."
Then we have a reprise of Russia's anti-gay stance and lots of positive comments about Conchita and her out-of-drag alter ego Thomas Neuwirth. There is even a panel headlined "Boost for tolerance" by Bernard Reed, who is apparently trustee of the Gender Identity Research and Education Society. He says:
"Much discrimination and harassment surrounds transgender people and they face a lot of challenges. So it helps to see a person as confident as Conchita being herself in front of all those people. It opens minds of those who don't always understand. I hope other societies will learn from the good example of nations like the UK and Austria"
Amid all this tolerance and gender correctness, the only sour note allowed was the fact that the British public vote went not to Conchita but to some suggestive Polish milkmaids churning away in a provocative manner.
The Times and Independent made this their main angle, as though there were some impropriety, but without actually saying as much. The subtext here was that the British people had opted for good old-fashioned heterosexual carry-on style nudge nudge, wink wink, but were overruled by officials with their right-on agenda.
Well not exactly. The voting rules gave the public the chance to give their opinions on the acts overall - entertainment value, style, talent, what you will - while the jury was there to judge the musical merit. The results were averaged out according to an agreed formula and hence Britain's douze points went to Conchita.
Kaya Burgess in the Times does have the grace to point out that while Conchita benefited from the system when it came to the UK vote, she suffered in the marking of some eastern countries where she was the popular choice, because the juries preferred another act. Swings and roundabouts then.
And who cares? Eurovision doesn't have a reputation for groundbreaking music or even for uniting the continent.
Of course it doesn't matter a jot. Talk of political fallout and multizillion-dollar recording contracts is all so much nonsense.
The fact is millions of people watched the show and the instant social media verdict - which is everything these days - was that Conchita was a Good Thing. So the papers today are all very right-on.
Progress? It would be nice to think so. But SubScribe doubts it.
Last year Richard Littlejohn wrote an opinion piece so cruel, unthinking and ignorant about a transgender teacher that it took your breath away. The teacher went on to kill herself. SubScribe wrote at the time that there will have been many factors at play and that it was wrong to assume that Littlejohn was responsible for the suicide. What was certain, however, was that he didn't make the teacher's life any easier.
At the turn of the year a respected scientist was gored by a stag in the Scottish Highlands. The attack, which put her life in danger, was sufficiently unusual for it to make the splash for the Mirror and for it to feature prominently elsewhere.
This week six newspapers have had to promise to mend their ways after the scientist complained to the PCC that not only had they unnecessarily referred to her as a transgender woman, but that some had compounded the offence by using the clumsy jargon 'sex swap'.
Have the papers mended their ways? Or are they pretending, uttering all the right phrases, while secretly rejoicing in the licence to poke fun that the Russian reaction to this competition has given them..
We're not there yet.
'Newspapers and their columnists should not underestimate the levels of tolerance and understanding in this country, especially among children, who are much more resilient than they are often given credit for.'
- SubScribe on Richard Littlejohn, the Mail and the death of a teacher last year
Last week's papers
"If Met chiefs don't want Press reports to mess up their Madeleine McCann search in Portugal, they should teach loose-tongued officers to shut up"
Those photographs of chickens dangling from hooks on a production line of death do not portray a process unique to halal.
It's what happens.
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