Wrapping paper and rapping a paper…

I’VE been following with half an eye the story about Paperchase apologising for doing a promotional deal with the Daily Mail.

Half an eye is probably all it’s worth. But something lodged behind that partly attentive eye.

In case you missed what happened, last Saturday the Mail had a promotional banner on its front page. This offered readers two free sheets of Christmas wrapping paper, said to be worth £4.75.

Hardly controversial, you might have thought. But complaints were stirred online, partly by the anti-tabloid pressure group, Stop Funding Hate. This group puts pressure on companies who advertise with tabloid newspapers, arguing that the money they spend funds nasty stories about women, gays, Muslims, immigrants and possibly ageing politicians called Jeremy Corbyn.

After customers complained online, Paperchase issued an apology, saying: “We’ve listened to you about this weekend’s newspaper promotion. We now know we were wrong to do this – we’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again. Thanks for telling us what you really think and we apologise if we have let you down on this one. Lesson learnt.”

The Mail was out of the outrage starting blocks, spittle-flecked and red of face. It spat out a statement, saying Paperchase had allowed itself to be bullied into apologising “to internet trolls orchestrated by a small group of hard-left Corbynist individuals seeking to suppress legitimate debate and impose their views on the media”.

Wow – all that from two sheets of wrapping paper. There is no yelp lounder than the sound of a bully being bullied. The Mail is a proud supporter of the free market, and yet it complains bitterly when a small pressure group uses the free market as a weapon. Stop Funding Hate clearly scored a hit in this skirmish, but whether it will ever win the battle is another matter.

Interesting, though, that the Mail should call the people who complained “internet trolls”, as that term is usually confined to nameless cowards who lurk at the bottom of online stories. Do they not understand this, or was the misuse of the expression deliberate?

Seemingly small issues take on a totemic significance in the cultural wars of our day. Where you stand on an issue of the moment, or even the minute, as we do live in fast-moving times, says something about you. What a comfort, then, to read that Piers Morgan – a one-man cultural war all by himself – had tweeted: “I hope @FromPaperchase understand that British people don’t like snivelling little cowards who let themselves get bullied into virtue-signalling bulls**t. I’ll buy my cards from @ClintonsTweet in future.”

When Piers plants his bovver-brogues in the opposite camp, you know you are keeping good company.

Campaigns such as Stop Funding Hate can be conflicting. I admire the aims, and willingly use what little power I have in the free market to choose never to buy the Daily Mail (although I sometimes glance at my mother-in-law’s copy).

I don’t like anything about the Mail, but I wouldn’t want it banned. It’s never encouraging to ban things. But using the free market to sabotage a proud supporter of the free market seems a smart enough approach.

Incidentally, there is a pleasing irony here in the name of the apologetic purveyor of expensive wrapping paper. Yes, Paperchase – for that might, if given a hyphen, be a name for a whole new anti-media pressure group: Paper-chase.

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