Since Chris Morris first lampooned the conservatism, pomposity, sanctimony and sensationalism of the media the news gathering powers that be have reacted only by coming to resemble The Day Today and Brass Eye more and more. Serious news reports and commentary on the likes of Strictly Come Dancing, Big Brother and The X Factor are now standard and Jeremy Paxman’s performance has been informed by Morris’s caricature of him. But Morris has been quiet in the last few years, and Frankie Boyle apart, there are not many about who produce the kind of stuff that is going to attract the ire of the permanently outraged readers of The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mash, a website offering spoof coverage of news, politics, sport and culture, was launched in 2007 as a British version of The Onion. It was set up by former business editor of The Scotsman Paul Stokes and Neil Rafferty, who was once a political correspondent for The Sunday Times. Given that the media occupies the place that going to church once did in our lives, anyone who subverts its banal, predictable, bland, inoffensive, safe and comfortable nature, and that’s only when it’s trying to be ‘edgy,’ becomes a modern apostate.
A challenge to blind assumption is the last thing people go looking for when they turn on the news or read a paper. Nor are they looking to laugh. Yet the overwhelming gravitas of it all, particularly in broadcast journalism when the vital seriousness is combined when the sound and light extravaganza of digital technology, makes it inherently ridiculous. This makes The Daily Mash a much better waste of time than Radio Five Live because it is at least trying to make you laugh at it. Although it doesn’t quite match the linguistic invention of Chris Morris, or Charlie Brooker in his TV Go Home days, it is, nevertheless, very funny, uniformly irreverent and wholly committed to the absurd.