Piers Morgan, demolished nicely by Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times today, is famous for being famous and if that fame crosses the border into infamy he’ll take that, and does. But he isn’t alone. The phenomenon of the “ shock jock” is all around – Syed’s newspaper has a few. The “shock jock” was originally the American disc jockey who shocked us with their outrageous views. Hence the name. They’re everywhere now on tv, radio and in print. The anti lockdown brigade might spout dangerous nonsense – but they get plenty of platforms on which to do it.
The problem is that people watch Piers in large numbers – bums on seats. And they read Rod Liddle and dozens like him. This is populism on Speed, but it generates sales. The “Leave” campaign in 2016 was driven by shockjockery of an extreme type. But why are so many of the Brexiteers also spokespeople for anti lockdown ? This has puzzled me but I get it now. It’s not the issues, which are unconnected. It’s the potential for more advanced shockjockery.
Vanity plays it’s part and no more so than with Piers Morgan. In this he resembles Donald Trump with whom he had a love/hate relationship. It’s now hate by the way. No surprise there. Fame is the spur because that is what the shock jocks seek. It’s an ego trip. But often a well paid one.
If they had no platform they wouldn’t bother us these noisy provocateurs. But they do get their newspaper columns, their radio talk shows and their tv programmes. Some are skilled at what they do, and Morgan is one of these. He may be a bumptious opinionated egotist. But he gets his lucrative platform because people watch it.
In truth the shockjocks are just actors on the stage and they signify nothing. The problem is not really with them, but with us. We pay the pipers, and they play the tunes we ask for. Fortunately for those of us who want more cerebral fare there are plenty of commentators around who offer it.