John B Keane: Gravitas comes free with the unpopular press

IT is an odd thing but a man with a newspaper in his hand is accorded more respect than a man who is empty-handed or let us say carrying a coat or a hat.

IT is an odd thing but a man with a newspaper in his hand is accorded more respect than a man who is empty-handed or let us say carrying a coat or a hat.

Apart altogether from the fact that the newspaper is a property item it also indicates that the bearer is not illiterate and is to some degree a person of refinement, taste and culture.

It is a wise man who carries his newspaper with him when visiting strange places. If possible do not exhibit those papers which come under misleading category, the Popular Press.

Almost anybody can read and understand the contents of these papers and it is no mark of distinction to be seen carrying one around.

No indeed. The wisest course is to purchase a paper with a literary supplement or if not a literary supplement then a paper with a limited circulation, no pictures, small print, unattractive front page and thick as a tomato sandwich.

Being seen with a paper like this is as good as being seen dining out with your bank manager. It does not matter that you do not read a single word of it.

What matters is that you are seen in highly respectable company. It has the same value as a reference from a parish priest or a principal teacher.

It is extremely unlikely that you will be asked to compare notes by another reader of the same paper. The truth is that people who buy such papers do not make a habit of exchanging opinions with total strangers.

In a sense, the type of paper I have mentioned has almost the same prospective power as an armed bodyguard. It does not encourage familiarity.

Even if an astute judge of the human situation sees through the camouflage he will make no mention of it because, although the owner knows nothing of what lies inside he at least had the neck and the courage to go into a newsagent’s and purchase it.

It takes courage to purchase merchandise of this kind and no matter how sophisticated the person behind the counter an appreciative eyebrow will always be raised at the mention of the title. It is like buying an exclusive cigarette or tin of excessively dear tobacco.

Another thing to remember is that everybody buys the popular papers and regardless of their brilliance the fact that everybody buys them makes them almost worthless as pieces of property.

Perhaps the single and most important asset about the unpopular paper is the fact that nobody would ever dream of stealing it. Nobody would have the nerve. It would be the same as stealing a Rolls Royce. Sooner or later you are bound to be caught out.

Another thing to remember is that you have to dress the part if you are to get away with sporting such a paper.

I would suggest heavy black-rimmed spectacles and a good beard or failing these then carry an umbrella as well as the paper. I doubt very much if a sportscoat, regardless of its quality, will be of much help. A black tight fitting overcoat and a walking cane would be ideal.

Still in emergency any sort of decent outfit will do. Much is forgiven a man who has the audacity to carry such papers. Like a clergyman he is accepted at every level of society. He is accorded respect because he has set the standards himself.

Sometimes it may be necessary to open the paper and read it although it is hardly likely that the owner will ever be forced to do this.

It is, very definitely, the sort of paper one can hide behind when awkward people are in the vicinity. I’m not saying it will frighten them away but it will at least help to make them think twice before disturbing its peruser.

One should, of course, look as solemn-faced as possible while in the act of perusal. Levity is absolutely out of the question and it is a known fact that these sort of papers do not carry comic strips and do not encourage their readers to look flippantly at the state of the world.

One’s conduct should be above reproach while in possession of the paper. To misbehave while it is being carried from one place to another would be akin to leaving down the old school.

Yes, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. If you want to have something thought of you in this world you would be well-advised to invest in the unpopular press.