I’ll be glad to see the back of The Jeremy Kyle Show ~ it’s daytime TV ‘poverty porn’ and it deepens society’s divides.

When the news landed that The Jeremy Kyle Show had been axed by ITV, after Hampshire police discovered the body of 63-year-old Steve Dymond who had appeared on an unaired episode of the show revealing through its lie detector that he had cheated on his partner and lied about it, the first thing that popped into my head was an excellent article written a couple of years ago by Paul Mason in the Guardian.

Entitled ‘Daytime TV’s theme is insecurity – and its driving voters to the right’, the piece instantly chimed with me. I have fond (or not so fond) memories of watching shows like Jeremy Kyle going back to when I was a kid and shows like that, that stigmatise and demonise desperate people, stick with you.

On reflection, The Jeremy Kyle Show might just be the epitome of everything that is wrong with this country. Looking back on it, it’s format, it’s presentation and representation of ‘normal people living normal lives’ is utterly grotesque and honestly I’m surprised it has lasted so long.

Just in case you didn’t already know, Kyle is not just some ordinary bloke who had a knack for investigative questioning of people’s wrongdoings and misdemeanours. His father was the Queen Mother’s personal secretary for over forty years, and Kyle himself attended a private boys school in Berkshire that now costs £5,565 a term to attend. So all you have to do is a little bit of digging to uncover how his personal background and upbringing impacts the dynamic of the show.

Wealthy, upper-class, white man interrogates selectively picked, often poverty-stricken individuals and families in front of a riled up live TV audience who sneer, scorn and judge people’s poor life decisions. Oh, and lots of bulky, bald security guards are on hand to come in and handle the situation if things get larey.

What does it say about our country that this was one of the most popular daytime shows? At this crisis point in our politics, no wonder public trust remains somewhere around 53% according to the British Attitudes Survey. And what do we know about countries with low public trust? Increases in crime, increases in poverty and homelessness and increases in distrust in democracy. Sound familiar?

You may think I am over-egging the shows role in all of this, but I actually think it is our casual acceptance of filth like this show that has led us to this place, where the demos has never been more divided.

Many brilliant writers have commented on Kyle and shows like his, most notably Owen Jones in his fantastic book ‘Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class’ and Darren McGarvey in his book ‘Poverty Safari’. And that is exactly what this is, a poverty safari used to demonise the working class. Whether it be benefits scroungers, teenage pregnancies, ASBO’s and drugs shows like Kyle’s legitimise wholesale scepticism of our social and political institutions, and it drives voters to the right as Paul Mason states in his article.

If you want to understand what made age the key political divide in the 2017 general election, start with daytime TV. When it’s not about cakes and antiques its recurrent themes are violent crime, family breakdown and terminal illness, which is to say its over-arching theme is insecurity, and the failure of the political system to mitigate it.

Oh and poverty. The highlight of mid-afternoon for the housebound viewer is Judge Rinder, where close relatives haggle over pitifully small amounts of money, all sponsored by Patient Claim Line – on hand to help you sue your GP for medical negligence.

The media have a large part to play in this, and I include in that the TV producers, people disproportionately from the same socio-economic background as Kyle. Whilst they’re not churning out falsified nonsense about immigrants taking your money, your house, your wife and your cup of tea and biscuits, they whip up stories about poor families, exaggerate and emphasise to the point where the general public feel this is representative of the ‘underclass’, and then bish bash bosh you have the rise of the radical right who promise to ‘fix the broken system’ or ‘change politics for the better’. Remind you of anybody?

Kyle has lavished in his role as judge, jury and executioner for too long. I didn’t shed one tear over his long-overdue departure from our national conversation. And neither should you.

You can read Paul Mason’s fantastic article here – https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2017/jul/03/why-labour-must-understand-older-people-daytime-television

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