The beauty of being ‘online’ is the ability to dip into a hundred and one newspapers – at least those not behind pay-walls. I can’t count the number of American newspapers I’ve stumbled upon, and then of course there are the British ones, including the Daily Mail. This particular paper is becoming rather like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. ‘Thou shalt taste of every fruit but that one,’ say the ‘great and the good.’ And of course, like a rampant Eve, I feel compelled to read it. Well, the occasional article on the same principle I’ll read the occasional article in the Guardian – if a headline interests me.
Like most papers the Mail is more a curate’s egg rather than the satanic vomit some would have you believe. I don’t always agree with Peter Hitchens, but he wrote a very fine article on Charles Dickens this week. Similarly one can’t really complain about the Mail's championing of Steven Lawrence and its campaign against corruption in the Metropolitan Police.
What caught my eye however, and what in fact prompted this post was a recent article by the comedian Steve Coogan in Total Politics, and reported in the Huffington Post.
“Well, you know, paedophilia is pretty popular too," he said when asked about The Mail’s huge online traffic. "‘Mailbait’... the website that has all the photographs about 12 and 14 year old girls and talks about their bras and how fast they growing up and all the rest of it, which is on the Mail Online, and clearly has an appeal that goes beyond just the curious. That's hugely popular and all for the wrong reasons. It's at best creepy and at worst sinister."
Bloody hell I thought, what’s going on here? I’ve never read this so called ‘Mailbait’ – that column to the right of the screen. Two day’s perusal had me scratching my head. What was Steve Coogan seeing that I wasn’t? Was it wish-fulfilment on his part – the desire to see what he wanted to see in order to further blacken a paper he despised?
All I could see were the Kardashians. I didn’t know there were so many of them or who they were, or where they had come from. Then there was Naomi Campbell, Elizabeth Hurley and Kate Moss, all very attractive women but no spring chickens. Not a curvacious pre-teen in sight. Michelle Keegan, the Coronation Street actress, along with Helen Flanagan was the nearest to any twelve year old girl – and they were well into their twenties. Mailbait is trivia, a tribute to Celebratory PR. Paedophilia it is not, but as Joseph Goebbels once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Steve Coogan, like Hugh Grant has a vested interest in controlling the press. It was the press who exposed their propensity to drugs and prostitutes. His defence that all this happened after hours, and behind closed doors, and so was nobody’s business but his is, I think, unviable. The same defence could be made by the disgraced former chairman of the Cooperative Bank Paul Flowers. His addiction to Crystal Meth and rent boys would have done for him even without the financial ineptitude.
Paul Dacre is the editor of the Daily Mail. Steve Coogan refers to Dacre’s ‘…almost wilful sociopathic arrogance.’ Paul Dacre might well see Coogan as a self serving, self- important twerp. It just means each man dislikes the other. Coogan refers to the Mail’s ‘xenophobic crap.’ Paul Dacre might be equally rude about the Guardian. It doesn’t mean either man is right. It’s just a bitch-fight – a one sided bitch fight because, as Coogan complains, Dacre refuses to give interviews.