Hate is a strong word. But, great heavens, the paper is bloody irritating. Irritating in the way of a bright teenager who plays the idiot in class, fearing that to expose his intellect would make him seem less cool.
Snooty people who don't read the Sun love to portray it as a comic written by imbeciles for imbeciles. They couldn't be more wrong. It is put together by intelligent people who don't talk down to their readers, readers who are too often discounted as layabouts with IQs in double figures.
Yes, there's a lot of soap, showbiz and sex - plus, of course, those women in varying states of undress. But this is a paper with an extremely high story count - and many of its stories are important. Some of them even relate to foreign affairs.
Politics and business are treated seriously. The employment page offers practical guidance to the jobless; health and diet advice is commonsense. Critics are knowledgeable: the Something for the Weekend Friday arts section covers sophisticated music and film, not just chart fodder and blockbusters.
Efforts are also made to explain in plain English the background to issues that suddenly burst into the public consciousness.
Today, for example, it looks into fracking in Lancashire. This is something the paper supports, but local planners are seeking to block Cuadrilla's application to mine shale gas in the area. The coverage is opinionated and too one-sided. But, then again, the coverage is on the opinion page.
Quite, detractors might say. The paper's so rightwing, so biased.
Dur, yes. Its editorial stance is conservative, anti-Europe, pro-market, reflecting the view of its proprietor. Isn't that what papers do? Reflect the views of their owners? That's how it works, folks. Proprietors are hardly likely to appoint editors and executives with diametrically opposing views, are they? But when the proprietor is Keith Rupert Murdoch, that becomes a sin.
The Telegraph, Mail, Mirror, Express, Guardian all follow the agendas set by their owners. Some do it in a po-faced way, some stridently, some have built a business on outraged disdain for the very people they sell to. The Sun at least has warmth and wit. It understands and relates to its readers.
We have, however, seen the all-pervasive influence of the Great Satan, influencer of politicians, wheeler of deals.
| || |
Last Monday the woman on page three was wearing underwear. On Tuesday the Times reported that the topless feature had been "quietly dropped", after 44 years, on orders from on high in New York. The story made headlines on BBC radio news bulletins all day - in some instances ahead of the Isis threat to kill two Japanese hostages if a ransom were not paid.
Twitter went wild. No More Page Three campaigners celebrated victory. The rest of Fleet Street went into overdrive, hauling into service any and every female commentator it could find (men, apart from the Independent's Simon Kelner, were apparently not allowed a view). The Guardian ran a highbrow voxpop that included soundbites from the likes of Katharine Whitehorn and Polly Toynbee. Comment threads ran into the thousands.
And all the while, the Sun kept its counsel. No comment, no comment, no comment. "It's wild speculation."
Today Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth appears in the usual slot, braless and winking under the heading "Corrections and clarifications". The presentation and caption writing is pitch perfect.
While the heavies are left huffing and puffing, the Star will be mourning the loss of what seemed a golden opportunity to pick up disaffected Sun readers. Its front page today declared "We love page 3" and to prove it there were 12 breasts on the first inside right-hander.
"I'll never believe the Sun again," one woman tweeted. Excuse me? The Sun didn't say it had dropped page three boobs.
And to those campaigners who saw Monday's paper as a victory, how great a difference is there between women parading their bosoms unrestrained or bursting out of a basque? Are they not equally demeaning? (If you need assistance in this judgment, compare the pictures on SubScribe's OpEd page yesterday.)
SubScribe thinks that Rosie in her bra and suspenders on Monday was the support act, sent on to test the audience. We may have to wait for the headliners - but not for long.
The Sun now has the results of its free market research. We can be pretty sure that bare boobs will vanish from page three, but they will do so without the paper appearing to have surrendered to a "spoilsport" campaign.
In the meantime, the Sun has had a bit of fun. And that's what it's best at.
Editor's blog: The beginning of the end?
SubScribe: Women of note
PostScript: There is, of course, a far more serious side to the production of the Sun, as seen today by the decision to order a retrial of four of the paper's journalists on charges of illegally paying public officials for information.
The four men were arrested between 2011 and 2013 and have gone through a three-month trial based largely on evidence provided to the prosecution by News International, now News UK. Two of their colleagues were acquitted during the proceedings at Kingston Crown Court and all four facing retrial were cleared of at least one charge.
The defence argued that the six had been "thrown to the wolves" by their employers. Rebekah Brooks openly admitted to a committee of MPs that the newspaper paid police officers for tips on stories, and successive trials - which resulted in both guilty and not guilty verdicts - have heard that, as editor, she took control of cash payments.
Neither Brooks nor her deputy and successor Dominic Mohan has been charged in relation to these historical payments, which all now accept were wrong.
In the light of all that, and the cost to the public purse, is it really in the public interest for the Sun four to go on trial again?
SubScribe: "Staff sacrificed to save Brooks and NI"