For the month of May, I’ve become a Daily Mail reader #FightTheEchoChamber

Since the start of May, I’ve been doing something I’ve never done before: I’ve been buying and reading the Daily Mail newspaper once a week. I plan to continue doing this for the rest of the month.

“Why?” you’re probably asking.

Well, the idea popped into my head a few weeks ago as I was reading a very different newspaper and my regular, the FT Weekend. As I sat there reading, I thought:

“This is nice. This is safe. What would rattle, even anger me, if I read it right now?”

“The Daily Mail,” came the reply!

I can’t stand most of what is printed in the Daily Mail but it’s popular – it’s Britain’s second most-read print publication after The Sun. Its website is the most popular English-language news site in the world. Whether I like it or not, many people I live close to, share the bus with, worship alongside, read it regularly – zealously, even.

I started to imagine the reasons for its popularity. Did people genuinely read it for its news? Are people really that obsessed with celebrity gossip, including the over 65s, the largest group of regular readers (45%)? Did readers enjoy being shouted at by Editor Paul Dacre through his headlines? How did they process the scaremongering, the hyperbole, the poison? I was intrigued.

It’s clear that all these questions reflect my negative view of the Daily Mail. And while I believe that a lot of my cynicism is justified, I remained curious about the paper and the people who read it. So, if you’re a regular reader of the Daily Mail, I’d really love to hear your thoughts. It would be refreshing to hear a positive case for the newspaper. And I hope it goes without saying: I’ll treat you with the utmost respect.

***

People read newspapers that express their worldview. Newspapers (which are consumer products at the end of the day) give readers pleasure and enjoyment, not just information. Often, this comes in the form of reinforcing ideas they already hold. And I’m no different. I enjoy the FT Weekend because of its centrist, internationalist, and pro-market stance. Among Britain’s newspapers, it comes the closest to representing where I’m at. But not just that: the FT does journalism well. Each issue of the weekend edition includes well-written, fascinating, and educative pieces from this country and elsewhere covering an array of themes: business, politics, technology, culture, and the arts. As a budding journalist, it’s a great source of inspiration.

Now regardless of the FT’s virtues, I read it because I (largely) agree with it and it (largely) agrees with me. Regardless of how right its/my ideas are, the FT and I have an “echo chamber” thing going on. In any democratic dispensation, and especially in the political environment we find ourselves in, this is problematic.

The political climate is so polarised, toxic even, that many of us aren’t hearing alternative voices. Not because all viewpoints are equally valid – no! But the people making those points are. They have an inherent and permanent worth that no one can take away. They are fellow citizens and they deserve to be heard. Yes, even Donald Trump!

His rise and the rise of other right-wing populists has taken us into new political territory – at least since the Second World War. In all this, it’s become painfully clear that we don’t know each other as well as we thought. The anger and bitterness is making us talk past each other like ships in the night. Harvard Professor Michael Sandel calls this “the lost art of democratic debate.

Recently, I was reflecting on this “echo chamber” phenomenon in my own life. As I’ve already said, I too have been living in a silo, not regularly encountering views that were odious to me, unwilling to step outside and view the world from the point of view of the other. I wrote:

“It feels like my daily life is one safe space. There’s very little to shock, to surprise, to disagree with. There’s hardly any room for the little Englander, the communist, the extreme liberal. If I’m honest, I spend most days cleaning, tidying, shining, and polishing my preconceived ideas like a chambermaid. An echo chambermaid.”

Regardless of your political persuasion, you’re most probably guilty of this too. We must all own up to it.

***

Glen Scrivener, a Christian evangelist and writer, observes: “The big problem with the world, according to the Bible, is not so much people doing wrong. It’s people who think that they are right. And if you are right, then everyone else has got to be wrong.”

One of the reasons for doing this project was to keep my own smugness and pride in check. In the current climate, I believe that we need to be willing to cross the aisle and try to see the world from the point of view of the other. That simple action is humbling.

But it’s also costly. One of the reasons for deciding to buy the paper and not just read it online or in a café was that I wanted to feel a bit of pain in all of this. I wanted it to cost me in a small way – and I don’t just mean £0.65 each week. Trying to see the world from the point of view of the other is painful.

With each issue I read, I’m looking for stories that are thought-provoking, interesting/informative, and weird. I’ll write something about the whole experience at the end of the month. In the mean time, I’ll be tweeting about it so do follow me!

And if you’re normally a Daily Mail reader, maybe pick up The Guardian tomorrow! Let me know how it goes 😉

An Echo Chambermaid

Openness is a virtue. This is our belief.

For progress to take place, for fresh ideas to flourish, for peace to reign, minds must be open. This is our creed.

The ability to look at the world from the point of view of Another is one of life’s greatest goods, so the liberal liturgical texts say.

I’m open-minded. Open to people of different colours, cultures, shapes and sizes. But open to what exactly?

Open to their right to exist? Yes.
Open to them enjoying life’s freedoms? Broadly, yes.
Open to them upending my life and ideas? If I’m honest, probably not!

The ability to look at the world from the point of view of Another is good and right. But what if I don’t like what I see?

I honestly can’t tell you when I last listened to a radio station, read a newspaper, attended a conference or festival that didn’t reinforce some idea I already held; or even made me feel surprised and vulnerable.

The ability to look at the world from the point view of Another is good and right. But do I really do it?

It feels like my daily life is one safe space. There’s very little to shock, to surprise, to disagree with. There’s hardly any room for the little Englander, the communist, the extreme liberal…

If I’m honest, I spend most days cleaning, tidying, shining and polishing my preconceived ideas like a chambermaid.

An echo chambermaid.

Book Recommendation: The Good Immigrant

The Good Immigrant is a rich and powerful collection of 21 readable – and very personal – essays by 21 non-white British writers exploring what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. These writers tell stories about trying to find their place in a world (read: country) where “the default is always white”. The book encompasses a broad and colourful sweep of narratives which include: a history of family names; ‘blackness’; being typecast as a terrorist whilst travelling; and TCK angst.

Continue reading “Book Recommendation: The Good Immigrant”

LUNGU-NOMICS: Zambia’s Post-Election Economy (by Hjoe Moono)

By Hjoe Moono, Secretary of the Economics Association of Zambia

History has been made once again in Zambia. Since Frederick Chiluba, President Elect H.E. Edgar Chagwa Lungu is the only president to be elected by a vote of over 50%. Marginal as 50.3% might seem, it speaks volumes, and indeed, congratulations are in order to the Head of State and his party, the ruling Patriotic Front. Continue reading “LUNGU-NOMICS: Zambia’s Post-Election Economy (by Hjoe Moono)”

Mugabe’s people have had enough.

evan mawarire

In a moment of deep frustration this April, Evan Mawarire, a pastor based in Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare, set his camera to record. Draped in the Zimbabwean flag, the emotional 39-year-old looked into the lens and spoke for over 4 minutes about his weariness at what he saw as the government’s failures and broken promises of liberation.As he posted the video online, he could never have imagined the response. Within a day, the video had reportedly been viewed 120,000 times and soon the hashtag ‪#‎ThisFlag‬ was trending as other Zimbabweans emulated the pastor in posting their own grievances.

Continue reading “Mugabe’s people have had enough.”

Why I Write and Lessons from Five Years of Blogging

This blog post is based on a talk I recently gave to a small group of people from my local church. It was part of an event we run for those in their 20s and 30s. The event is based loosely on the TED Talks format. Each speaker seeks to challenge and encourage those listening to learn something new: a practical skill or some piece of knowledge. We believe that God is Lord over all Creation therefore he doesn’t look down on bike fixing, or gardening, or even writing. In fact, he cares about these things. The big aim of my talk was to encourage my listeners to begin to take the first steps towards writing publicly. I did this by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learnt from my five years of blogging. Continue reading “Why I Write and Lessons from Five Years of Blogging”