Look at the state of it, the state of it all. Right now Britain is in turmoil. Not an hour goes past without some new shitshow for us to get our head around: Boris, Gove, Leadsom. None of this is helped by the fact that our media seems to relish in the turmoil. Like the kids at school bluetoothing happyslaps across classrooms, the press are exacerbating every crash, coup and crisis they can get their inky fingers on. The 52% have claimed their country back, and the future looks bleak.
Enter the New European. "The New Pop-Up Paper For the 48%."
The editor of the New European, Matt Kelly, has said that he believes "the 48% who voted to Remain are not well served by the traditional press and that there is a clear opportunity for a newspaper that people will want to read and carry like a badge of honour". It sort of sounds like it makes sense. The Daily Mail, the Sun, the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph all backed Brexit, right? But then the Guardian, the Mirror, the Observer, the Mail on Sunday and the Times all backed remain. What else did the 48% want?
On this basis, it's not entirely clear exactly what the New European is proposing to provide that is new. Page three models from the continent? Belgian word-searches? Coupon deals to save up for Mediterranean cruises? Or will it just be every post-Brexit thinkpiece that didn't make it onto Indy Voices that week?
Well, having read the first issue, it's clearly the latter. The New European is basically 48 (get it?) pages of reaction pieces, political infographics and 'best tweets of the referendum' type features. Some of it is good. Miranda Sawyer gestures in the right direction, writing about "friends who have visited Machu Picchu but never seen Newcastle", highlighting the ignorance to the rest of the UK that is so prevalent in heavily liberal parts of the country (London). Jonathan Freedland makes a good case for the need to present a positive relationship between Britain and Europe and Ajit Niranjan argues that the narrative which claims the referendum pitched old against young is disingenuous. There are some good points made, however they seem lost among the content that packs the other 46 pages.
The intentions are clearly noble, but what sets out to "celebrate Europe" only serves to highlight the colossal communication breakdowns that created this whole mess in the first place. The EU referendum was not about the virtues of Europe, or being European. Shit, for most people it wasn't even about the virtues of the EU. Yet, despite all of that, the New European continues to drive its Euro-paean home.
There's a "How X Will Be Affected By Brexit" piece for everything from tech start-ups to fashion, reviews of the best cafés in Paris, a lengthy and lyrical tribute to long evenings quaffing grilled sausages in Prague, and then, on page 38, this:
"MY EUROPEAN YEAR 2011: JOSH BARRIE TELLS A FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT ADVENTURE"
In case you hadn't guessed, Josh Barrie's 'freedom of movement' adventure was InterRailing. The piece comes complete with photos of the plucky millennial soaking up the delights of Europe; Irish bars in Amsterdam, hostels in Berlin, Barbie museums in Prague. It's a tale of museums and misdemeanours. If voting Remain would have meant more people writing about their gap years, then maybe we made the right decision after all.
The thing is, those who voted to remain are right to feel angry. But to market a newspaper at "the 48%" is not to be united by a love for Europe, but rather a disdain for the 52%.
Perhaps the New European isn't so bad. Perhaps it just grates because, for the first time in my political life, I've reached a point where I'm properly fed up with both sides of the argument. While this newspaper might contain some hot takes on post-Brexit Europe, while it might have some helpful hints as to the best cafés in Paris, it sends out a terrible signal. It's the same as everyone on your Facebook feed crying over the "uneducated idiots" who voted out or the video of a kissing chain throughout Europe or the illustrations of Boris Johnson snogging Donald Trump. Yeah, they're all sort of valid, but they all come from a place of bewildered resentment, a sort of baffled "yeah, but Europe is so lovely why would you chose Nigel Farage over vol-au-vents?"
The post-EU conversation in Britain currently feels like this: It's Friday night and you're going out, but you've only got two options open to you. Your first option is a rooftop bar in Dalston, where loads of privately educated girls and boys are snapchatting themselves drinking mojitos and self-congratulating their liberal-minded perspectives. Your other option is a fusty pub round the corner, full of bigoted blokes and their bigoted sons, talking about immigrants and the Falklands. You're probably going to go to the rooftop bar, let's be honest, because you have a more in common with the people there.
That said, while you sip on your mojito and a girl called Bethany starts talking about how gross that pub round the corner is, you can't help but feel, 'my dad goes to pubs like that'. You also become aware that the mojitos here are £8 and that everyone in the fusty pub goes there because they can get a pint of Doombar for £2.60. But then you start to think, hold on, don't patronise the fusty pub. They aren't stupid. So you spend your evening running between the two, the rooftop bar and the pub, both as self-righteous and unwilling to listen as the other. Eventually you slump on the pavement somewhere between the two, your belly full of brown pints and insipid neon cocktails. You look up at the night's sky, grey clouds covering the stars, and you vomit on your trainers.
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