That is an outrage! No, not Gary Glitter getting the Covid vaccine but Rupert Murdoch jumping the queue...

The Sun has an outrage machine round the back and makes its own to order.

Outrage is a tabloid currency but it’s almost always counterfeit; because as the newspapers splash it around on their front-pages, they’re also the ones manufacturing it in the back room. Yesterday’s Sun splash ‘Vile Glitter Gets Jab’ was a prime example:

This is the third bite of the cherry for The Sun on this particular story, after a piece back in December on plans for prisoners to be vaccinated and an ‘outrage’ splash on the killer Levi Bellfield being invited to receive a jab “before millions of vulnerable Brits”. Bringing Glitter — real name Paul Gadd — into the debate is a cheap trick to trigger the very ‘outrage’ that The Sun claims to simply be reporting upon.

A source quoted in the story — which may well be an imagined voice in the head of one of the two! Sun journalists required to write the thin piece — says:

Many have been jailed in recent years for horrific crimes dating back decades. You have some prisons where there’s a significant group of elderly sex offenders all in their 70s and 80s. Because of their age, they will get the vaccine first. But if you’re a prison officer looking after Glitter and you haven’t had the jab, you’re not going to be happy.

Glitter is 76 years old which puts him firmly in the age group that is now receiving the vaccine and while The Sun wants to give the impression that he is jumping the queue that’s clearly not the case.

There’s no doubt that Glitter — who was jailed in 2015 for sex offences including attempted rape, indecent assault, and child sexual abuse — is a vile individual. But the ultimate conclusion of The Sun’s argument here, put forward only to push its readers into a ranting, frothing state, is that the vaccine should be dolled out according to how morally worthy recipients are rather than medical efficacy.

And who would The Sun suggest makes those moral decisions? Its editor, Victoria Newton, who has been named frequently in court proceedings for allegedly illegally tasking private investigators during her time as The Sun’s Bizarre showbiz columnist? A panel of its most reactionary readers perched at the end of a bar explaining what they reckon? Or The Sun’s proprietor Mr Rupert Murdoch, who is an expert in jumping the vaccine queue.

In December, Murdoch, born Australian but now an American citizen, got himself the Covid-19 vaccine thanks to one of his many ‘second’ homes in the UK. At the time I wrote:

We’re meant to ignore the way that Murdoch, whose papers, TV networks, and radio stations have banged the drum for tighter borders and less freedom of movement for people he disdains, can slip between Australia, the United States, and the UK with such ease its as if his leathery bulk is fully buttered.

We are meant to imagine that Rupert Murdoch rocking up at a vaccine centre — regardless of his convoy of Range Rovers bringing him from his £12 million pound estate — is treated just the same as any old geezer getting the jab. It is gaslighting from a master of gaslighting, a man who bought his gaslights in such bulk that he has built his own gaslight factories.

While Murdoch was releasing this face-saving statement…

I would like to thank the keyworkers and the staff who have worked so hard throughout the pandemic, and the amazing scientists who have made this vaccine possible. I strongly encourage people around the world to get the vaccine as it becomes available.

… across the Atlantic, one of his rancid talking heads, Tucker Carlson, was telling Fox News viewers to worry about ‘bad vaccine reactions’ and to respond ‘nervously’ to the vaccine rollout ‘marketing campaign’. He warned them, with the doomy dramatic tone that Fox News uses to paper over the gaps where facts would be, that “it feels false because it is. It’s too slick.” While his ultimate boss was benefiting from the vaccine, Carlson was deliberately causing doubt among other old people who need it just as much.

The Sun’s Gary Glitter front page is equally as morally empty and dangerous. It wants its readers to rage at the very idea that prisoners might be given the vaccine and uses the extreme example of Glitter to push that. Because it also knows there are many people in the prison population who are there on remand — yet to be found guilty of anything — or found guilty of minor crimes. Glitter is an avatar for a particular kind of evil and that’s why his face is all over the pages of The Sun; it doesn’t want its readers to think, it just wants them to feel, to bathe in the lukewarm bath of outrage that it has run for them.

And once The Sun stokes the outrage, it is pushed out to other parts of the tabloid industrial complex — the other papers (The Daily Mail jumped on the story instantly), smaller websites, talk radio stations (some of them also owned by Murdoch) and daytime TV like Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine Show. On Vine’s programme yesterday, Nicola McLean, the model and TV personality, opined:

I’d give [Glitter] a lethal injection before I’d give him a Covid vaccine. I just think it’s absolutely ridiculous we’re giving a paedophile an injection before prison guards and key workers. I just can’t get my head around it. I think we’re way too soft on people. I just think the crime against kids, I’m sorry, I don’t care if he dies of Covid. I think I would like to see him die a slow, painful death. As I’m sure his victims would as well.

Of course, McLean’s comments were then fed back into The Sun’s outrage machine and the view of Dr Sarah Jarvis, an actual expert, on the same show was dropped in down page and given far less attention. Dr Jarvis said:

I’ve treated people accused of murder. I’ve treated someone who had just killed a child while drunk without a licence. The child was in one emergency room and I was in the other. A long time ago, but did I dream of not treating them? No. If I had, where do we stop? Do we say, ‘Okay, you smoke, I’m not going to treat you for lung cancer because you don’t deserve it, you brought it on yourself’? We can’t be in a world like that.

But Dr Jarvis is too rational for The Sun. Much better to give McLean’s ranting and bloodlust the headline.

Who cares if the vaccine programme only works if everyone who needs it receives it? Who cares if prison workers won’t be safe if the prisoners they guard aren’t vaccinated? Who cares, in fact, that prisons are particularly prone to outbreaks of the virus with deadly results? The Sun wants you to rage that one despicable man was included in a mass vaccination effort. Don’t think about it. Just feel. Just rage. Just write a letter to The Sun.