All news is bad news. Or so the saying goes. Many Brits firmly believe this – and use it as a branch to beat their journalists, one of the more despised species in these isles.
It is, of course, untrue. There’s no better example of the media’s appetite for good news than the tsunami of euphoria with which they’ve greeted Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph on Sunday.
The English are feting Murray as a British hero. They’re calling for him to be made a knight of the realm to honor his prowess with racquet and ball, and his status as the first British singles champion at Wimbledon in 77 years.
Murray’s actually from Scotland. Many Scots view him not only as their hero – not England’s – but as the greatest Scottish sports star since they all wore kilts, and horned ginger-haired highland cattle were freely roaming their hills.
Why does this matter?
Because next year, Scots will vote on whether to stay in the United Kingdom. The possibility of Scottish secession is the subject of a fierce political contest between British Prime Minister David Cameron – who’s vowed to fight tooth and nail to save the union – and Scotland’s first minister, the nationalist Alex Salmond.
Salmond was at Sunday’s championship match, sitting in the Royal Box, behind his adversary, Cameron.
When Murray won, Salmond craftily whipped out a big Scottish flag, and joyously brandished it behind Cameron’s head in full view of the cameras – and violating Wimbledon’s house rules. We can expect to see that image many times in coming months, as the fight for Scottish independence gathers momentum.
Britain’s current appetite for Good News is not confined to sport. The cynicism and skulduggery of the British newspaper industry now comes hand-in-hand with a determination to peddle happiness.
The opening lines of a front page story in Rupert Murdoch’s usually hard-nosed Sunday Times, (published before Murray’s victory) captured this trend: “Britain is basking in unaccustomed sunshine, sporting triumph and the best spirits for three years this weekend,” it gushed.
Those who find this happy-clappy stuff a little stomach-turning better toughen up. More, much more, is to come: A royal baby is due in a few days.
The tabloids are already churning out stories about “Baby Cambridge”, along with maps of the royal maternity clinic. There are accounts of Kate’s Yummy Mummy Baby Group, and her penchant, during pregnancy, for vegetable curries and Haribu candies.
The birth will be marked by a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, popping champagne corks from the kingdom’s royalists, a hurricane of unctious guff from the nation’s anchormen and women, and world-weary sighs from a dwindling band of Brits … who’re discovering they actually prefer bad news.