The opinions articulated in this article are those of the writer and are not representative or endorsed by The Hysteria Collective as a platform.
CW: mentions of racism, sexism and transphobia.
There are probably millions of people like me here in Britain. Just like everyone else, I wake up, I check my social media, I have received three headlines from three different newspapers about something that Piers Morgan has said. I go onto YouTube and am eternally dragged deeper into the abyss of Good Morning Britain ‘debates.’ Who is really being silenced in this country: victims of discrimination who are afraid to publicly voice their concerns, or breakfast show presenters who receive online backlash for what they say?
Regardless, Morgan is incredibly successful in his career as a tabloid journalist and general provocateur, having cost ITV a staggering £200 million after leaving Good Morning Britain, triggered by criticism from Alex Beresford regarding his treatment of Meghan Markle (more about that later). Undeniably, he is an invaluable asset to any television show with his talent for ruffling feathers, provoking online turmoil, and being right just before he gets himself fired.
So, what separates Piers Morgan from other journalists and presenters? What techniques does he use that have gained him such infamy over the last decade? Whether you asked or not, I’m here to tell you some of the most notable aspects of his style that have kept him relevant, loved, and despised.
Liberals In London
Piers Morgan often appropriates American language to discuss free speech and online activists. In terms of making coherent points and good-faith debate, Morgan has completely failed Good Morning Britain by doing this. While this may seem like a farfetched notion, let me explain.
Here, in Britain, in 2021, who is going sit down on national television and explain to the country what a ‘liberal’ is? Because Piers Morgan won’t, as it is not in his interest to do so. ‘Liberal’ is a political identity that is particularly popular in America. It’s a fairly broad term, and doesn’t fully denote whether someone is left-wing or right-wing, but we can be pretty confident that an American liberal is not a Republican, and probably not a conservative.
But in a British context, what on earth is a liberal? Would they support the Labour or Conservative party, two parties which differ greatly from the Democrat and Republicans across the pond? Is it short for English Liberal, Classical Liberal, or Libertarian? It doesn’t really work unless we’re mirroring American talk-show presenters.
Why is this so helpful to Piers Morgan? It means you can never pin him down politically. Using American jargon in a British political landscape only leads to obfuscation and the inability to clarify what his political position is. He voted for Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party in 2019, but he has not stated much more about the party since and has made it clear that he has voted for other parties, including Labour and the Animal Welfare Party. By adopting an ambiguous label, he draws in an audience across the political spectrum as we do not know from which perspective he speaks.
Concerns Have Been Raised…
Let it be known that ‘the public’, what they think, and what they feel, is not always a foregone conclusion. Yes, polls, surveys, and interviews all give us a general idea of who the public is and what they think on broad social issues. However, the British press has a long history of constructing and manufacturing ‘a public’ according to the purposes of the writer. In short, journalists (especially popular tabloid journalists) have the power to give their readership a picture of what people in the country think. This is a power that should be used with care.
When constructing public opinion, you consequently have to construct the outsiders. To bring this back to Piers Morgan, let’s have a think about what the ‘Woke Brigade’ is.
Are they an activist group? Are they one cohesive group or are they individuals with a certain mindset? What do they push for, and what do they oppose? All of a sudden, the construction of an online cabal of uptight millennials throwing a tantrum over vegan sausage rolls seems to crumble.
Piers Morgan is not the only person to do this. The British press has a talent for constructing public opinion in a subtle way that makes the readership feel that they should be attuned to public mood. One phrase in particular is the classic ‘concerns have been raised’ without letting us know who has raised those concerns, or why those concerns were raised.
Let’s think about who participates in debates with Good Morning Britain. Let’s think about the reassessment of Winston Churchill and who was invited onto the show to discuss his legacy. We have Professor Kehinde Andrews, an academic specialising in Black Studies and the resistance of racism, who pointed out that pure historical facts determine Winston Churchill as a racist (yes, even for his time). Alongside him sits James Whale, a radio and television personality who defends Churchill as a hero because “of course he was.”
For the rest of the debate, Morgan and Whale join arms in verbally battering the most historically informed person in the room. This is the repercussion of resting on the laurels of a constructed public. The lazy assumption of public opinion will inevitably lead to lazy arguments that erase inconvenient truths.
Push Your Luck, But Don’t Break It
Piers Morgan has made a plethora of misinformed comments on social issues that should be handled with sensitivity and decorum. The Winston Churchill debate is just one example, but his treatment of the transgender community is definitely where this tendency shines through the most. Piers Morgan has consistently pitted ‘the feminist community’ (TERFs) and the transgender community against each other; particularly in the realm of sports, he has implied that the advancement of trans rights inherently impedes on women’s rights.
One of two things is happening: either Piers Morgan does not understand feminism or issues surrounding trans rights, or he is taking advantage of the lack of understanding to suggest that trans people are naturally in conflict with feminism. Neither of them are a good look. I don’t need to remind anyone about his penguin profile picture on Twitter made to compare trans identity to choosing to be a different species.
However, when there is the possibility for real consequence to his reputation, he is more than willing to backtrack. Let’s take Meghan Markle for instance. Markle cut Morgan off in the early stages of a growing friendship, for which Morgan may have felt justifiably hurt. It would be a mistake to think that this is the only reason that he has since verbally bashed her constantly for the last year (branding her as a ‘social climber’ and a ‘piece of work’, calling her mental health into question) is solely due to this alleged cut-and-run.
He has written over 32 Online Mail columns about Markle, blatantly cashing in on the freight train of criticism that has been hurled at her for years. However, the moment Alex Beresford calls him out on national television with balance and compassion, admitting that Markle may have hurt his feelings, Piers Morgan claims not to particularly care for that incident. As soon as Beresford points out the racist undertones of the criticism of Markle to which Morgan is contributing, Morgan immediately leaves and frames his stance as pro-monarchy, not anti-Markle. As the tabloid The Sun reported last month, “Piers Morgan has lost the battle with the woke brigade over his Meghan Markle row but will surely win the war.” He frames a narrative of an elusive but indefinable enemy that prohibits the (white, conservative) British public’s right to free speech.
It is this trickery that keeps people looking his way. Like many tabloid writers, the incentive to keep readers’ eyes on their websites leads to the need to provoke, rather than illuminate. More heat, less light. Morgan perfectly encapsulates the real flaws in our press, and he is very good at doing it. Whatever his next move is, I am sure he will do his old tricks just as well.
Image courtesy of Jay Skyler.