To live in Brighton is to accept its many flaws, knowing that where you see characters others may see chaos.
It is not a perfect place to exist and for the great many shortcomings of the city by the sea this title will make no excuses. It is clear that the rents are too high, the level of homelessness is a scandal, students are sometimes too boisterous, there is an exorbitant amount of graffiti, drug taking is more normalised than in other cities and some of the denizens are less than wholesome.
Yet instead of seeking positive change on these fronts The Argus seemingly weaponises them for the purpose of division.
Having taken a break from giving front page wraps to the Tory party, the paper’s latest campaign for clicks appears to be hanging the homeless out to dry. At this time of global crisis, a time when we are all being urged to protect the most vulnerable in society The Argus appears set on framing them as a blight.
In a time when print media is floundering and The Argus itself seems to be getting a page thinner by the week, it appears that playing to the prejudices of its readership for ad clicks is the new fiscal plan.
Reports avoid direct attacks on groups one need but venture to the bile-filled comments section to see that these pieces have been apparently curated to illicit vitriol.
A recent report covers the cost of homing the city’s homeless and makes certain to note that this is “running into the millions of pounds” in the emboldened introduction. Whilst it may go on to include comments from various political persons – lo and behold the Tory first – the journalists behind it all will know all too well that readers tend to drop off after two or three pars (Have you ever wondered why the sharing and comment links are in between the image and intro?) happily seething from their latest knee jerk reaction.
On this report, as with many others, editors got their wish; 60-odd comments praying for plagues, workhouses and cullings.
If the cost of keeping people alive wasn’t contentious enough, The Argus decided to rile up readers by highlighting the fact that the destitute can’t self-isolate (shock horror) and sought out a number of St James Street shoppers who complained about the homeless population plainly being outside in lockdown.
This gutter journalism yielded that kind of reprehensible bile that the paper lives on. A number of those in the queue decried the amount of homeless people visible on the street and claimed to have even been spoken to by one of the great unwashed.
The Argus, naturally, lapped this up and sought to paint Brighton’s homeless population, one of, if not the most vulnerable strata of our society as a problem, something to be cleaned. The paper debased these human beings at the altar of middle class outrage in a sign of true contempt for those in need.
The homeless populace is but the paper’s latest stop on the journey to the bottom. In the past it has found no issue with chastising students, using the working class as a punch line and riling up the homophobes in its readership whilst wrapping itself in a rainbow cover.
The Argus Pub Spy is as guilty as any in all of this. A snide, bitter columnist that believes themselves some sort of Hemingway because they can search “tastes like lager synonyms” on Google once a week.
From misgendering the bar staff at The Hope and Ruin (whilst slating its decor with all the grace of a bitter drunk uncle) to pulling the patrons of the County Oak up into the gallows so that we may point and laugh at the working class.
The column may well have eased its tone since a change in writer – the original pub spy got axed in an editorial reshuffle – yet at heart it still works on the Argus principles of division and derision.
Besides endlessly pandering to its bigoted readership, the paper itself is also poorly written, poorly designed and its online presence is a cumbersome, pop-up-laden mess, seemingly modelled on the Daily Mail, which makes sense.
It’s social media accounts are emblazoned with the bizarre #therewithyou tag, which for a paper that appears set on turning its populace against each other is remarkably tone-deaf.
Yet therein lies the rub. With print revenues falling the vultures that own the title have been left to generate income through the virality offered by bigoted rage. A sad state of affairs and one that has irrevocably tainted a title once the voice of the city by the sea.
Brighton is a place of compassion, acceptance and understanding, not one of division and hatred. The Argus and it’s Newsquest owners are a vile cabal that has no place in our city.
Love Brighton, hate The Argus.