I recently read an analysis of the Mail Online’s infuriatingly popular website, which observed that if you “surf around the [site] for a few minutes…you’ll find yourself dropped into one of around a dozen topic silos”. I think ‘silo’ is a fairly accurate word to use in relation to the Mail Online – assuming we’re thinking of the corn silo in Witness into which Harrison Ford lures one of his pursuers, before burying him beneath a suffocating avalanche of corn kernels.
At the very least, given that the depth of the Mail Online’s homepage is 5.16 metres (just under one and a half times the height of an average British male) the Mail Online experience is like being swallowed by a ‘topic sinkhole’.
That said, I have to admit to reading the Mail Online on a fairly regular basis. Although I do so mainly because it acts as a barometer of how much stupid there is in the world. Just how on earth did a website featuring such offensive, inaccurate, hypocritical and largely inconsequential drivel become the leading online newspaper in the world?
“People are addicted to it,” said Martin Clarke, editor and publisher of the Mail Online, during an interview with the FT a few months ago. “It’s like journalism crack.” (I think “journalism” is over-egging it somewhat.)
It’s said that the first time a person uses crack, they experience a completely indescribable feeling of euphoria. They then try to recapture that moment again and again, slipping ever deeper into hopeless addiction, but never managing to recreate the intense feeling of that first high. It’s like a newcomer to the Mail Online’s vast website choosing to read an article about ‘Single Alex Reid scoffing a KFC bucket in a layby‘, a story of such national importance it was promoted on the site’s homepage last September. After that initial hit the ‘user’ returns to the website repeatedly in a futile attempt to replicate the feeling of elation that that showbiz exclusive delivered. But unless Alex Reid is ever papped in a dingy alleyway drinking piss out of a discarded shoe, it will be impossible to achieve.
‘Freddy from Manchester’ – a man seemingly riddled with self-loathing – neatly summed up Mail Online addiction when he recently commented on a pointless article, saying: “I feel disgusted that I read and understood the clearly defined title and contents of this article yet still clicked through and had a good old look anyway.” It’s a sickness.
You already know everything I’m about to write, but I really need the catharsis. So here are just a few things I despise about the Mail Online.
FAME AND INFAMY
Ricky Gervais once said: “There’s no difference between fame and infamy now. There’s a new school of professional famous people that don’t do anything. They don’t create anything.” These nonentities are the very essence of the Mail Online.
A case in point is Patricia Krentcil, who was arrested last May and charged with second-degree child endangerment after allegedly taking her then-5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth. The charges were dropped in February this year, which should have seen her weathered, mahogany fizzog return to the obscurity from whence it came. But of course, it didn’t.
Using the nickname ‘Tanning Mom’, the Mail Online continues to occasionally report on her car-crash existence as if it’s genuine showbiz news (when I say “report” I obviously mean “regurgitate vapid nonsense from TMZ”). Since the charges against Krentcil were dropped the Mail has worked tirelessly to keep us updated about her appearance as an extra in a gay porn film, her plans to make a movie about the last year of her life, her stint in rehab for alcohol abuse and her ambitions to launch her own tanning lotion, not to mention treating us to umpteen photographs of her gut-wrenching bikini shoot in which she “channelled her inner mermaid”. (Imagine Daryl Hannah’s role in Splash being played by the 2,000-year-old mummified corpse of Tollund Man.)
It’s anybody’s guess what our ‘insta-fame’ culture will serve up next? ‘Causing Death by Dangerous Driving Dad’? The ‘Poisoned Pet Twins’? “With faces as long as their tanned, slender legs, the twins were spotted leaving court this morning after receiving a life ban on keeping pets. Cruelly poisoned Labrador aside, it was the twins’ sick Louboutins that were the real headline-grabber!”
T & A
In the eyes of the Mail Online, female celebrities don’t simply leave the house and go about their daily lives in a variety of different outfits (i.e. clothes). To the contrary, whether they’re meeting friends for lunch or heading out to B&Q to pick up a tube of grout, these gals “parade their pins”, flaunt “side boob” and show off their “toned tummies” and “pert posteriors”. Of course, the Mail Online’s favourite term is ‘derrière’ because it knows that everyone’s internal reading voice will automatically default to a Leslie Phillips impression whenever they read it, which ultimately detracts from the fact that they’re essentially just writing articles about womens’ arses.
Recently the Mail excitedly reported about the ‘underbutt’ craze, whereby the likes of Miley Cyrus and Rihanna are now sporting shorts so tiny “they reveal the buttock crease”. You can practically feel the Mail Online trembling with delight beneath its digital cassock whenever the merest hint of flesh is on show.
Furthermore, the Mail Online has recently started posting more photos of pixelated naked boobs to its online picture book of underwhelming events that no one gives a toss about. Farrah Abraham – who featured in MTV’s depressing reality show Teen Mom, before starring in a staged sex tape in the hope that she would be invited to dip her plastic tits into the wet concrete of Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame – was recently featured, topless, on the Mail’s website with just few pixels placed over her nipples. (Although, this being the Mail, they probably call nipples ‘rosebuds’ or something equally Victorian-sounding.)
In light of this development, I assumed the Mail Online would start gradually removing pixels from their growing collection of censored topless photos – like a bonus Catchphrase round, where every answer, to Mr Chips’ delight, is always ‘tits’ – until all celebrity breasts, everywhere, are finally exposed.
As it happens, we didn’t have to wait too long. Only a few weeks ago the Mail Online ran several screengrabs of unpixelated naked boobs from the raunchy US cut of the BBC’s costume drama The White Queen. “Episodes one, two and three of the American version all contain nudity and the first programme includes at least four shots of the Queen’s breasts and a scene showing her younger sister topless in a bath. By contrast, the BBC version doesn’t include any nudity until episode three, and even then only fleetingly,” bemoaned Chris Hastings, momentarily confusing the Mail’s tireless crusade against smut with what sounded like a hankering for more tits on prime time television.
Won’t the Mail Online please think about the children?!
If you removed all the articles about women in bikinis from the Mail Online, only the masthead would remain (and maybe the odd article about Justin Bieber blowing a snot rocket into a fan’s face, or arrogantly wiping his bum on an old lady’s Pomeranian or something). The Mail Online loves women in bikinis! So much so, in fact, that a journalist can face immediate dismissal and their name added to a journalistic blacklist if they fail to run a perfectly good bikini photo in a news story – however inappropriate.
After the violent murder of Lee Rigby a few months ago the Mail Online ran an interview with Justine Rigden, a former girlfriend of suspect Michael Adebolajo, in which she described her shock after realising that her ex-boyfriend was involved. To help us understand the feeling of revulsion that Justine must have felt when she saw the gruesome images of her bloodied ex-boyfriend wielding a meat cleaver after brutally slaying a British soldier, the article’s lead image was, perhaps predictably, a sultry photo of her in a bikini.
The Mail Online also seems to be moving into upskirt shots. Recently an entire article was devoted to an unexpected gust of wind blowing up Isla Fisher’s skirt, which subsequently exposed her knickers and “tiny, pert bottom”. Thankfully the Mail had a paparazzo masturbating in a hedge about half a mile away from the scene, so we didn’t miss the moment. The article even included a cropped close-up of Isla Fisher’s arse – just to reinforce the fact that THIS IS ISLA FISHER’S ARSE!
Maybe the Mail Online could move away from bikinis and cover the next high school shooting, deadly terror attack or grisly murder with some upskirt shots of a survivor or someone very loosely connected to events.
The Mail Online even managed to identify a former Page Three and Playboy model in a group of anti-fracking campaigners at a site in Balcombe recently, where the non-story of Marina Pepper’s six-month relationship with Daniel Craig 25 years ago enabled them to position a busty bikini photo at the top of the article. The fracking issue did, however, provide a nice bit of filler.
FACES OF DEATH
The Mail Online recently reported that Google had been forced to change its predictive search function after The Mail on Sunday highlighted a particular search term that returned sickening results, including video of a woman being beheaded in Mexico. Of course, the Mail’s crusade to rid the internet of this disturbing content was somewhat undermined by the fact that they then provided their readers with the web address of where they could still view the beheading video, as well as providing a screenshot of the terrified woman only seconds before she was executed. It could only have been more insensitive if they’d captioned the photo with “LOL!”
Those Mail on Sunday journalists have obviously never visited the Mail Online, which is part Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and part Faces of Death. Only the other month there was a tragic story about a father-of-two, who was killed when the zorb ball he was riding in veered off course and plunged off a cliff in southern Russia. Reading about this terrible accident is awful enough, but the Mail Online is never satisfied with just providing words and pictures. Nudging its readers in the ribs, it then gestures towards the emboldened command beneath the article: Now watch the video. And like an obedient consumer of visceral horror you click ‘play’ and watch a man bounce to his untimely death.
But if that doesn’t satisfy your dark cravings, you can always scroll through some graphic photos of a biplane crashing during a wing walking display at an airshow. (We haven’t even bothered to pixelate the photos – we only do that to hide celebrity rosebuds – so you can still make out the unfortunate wing walker at the moment of impact!) Or maybe you’d prefer a public execution in China? No? Not your cup of Ginseng? What about seal pups being slaughtered on the south west African coast? A pack of frenzied hounds tearing a fox to pieces?
No rush. Please take your time to peruse our menu of death.
NOTHING TO SEE HERE
Owing to the fact that much of the Mail Online’s content is of such mind-numbingly poor quality, many of the articles are written copied and pasted from press releases by ‘journalists’ who are so ashamed of the twaddle they’re churning out that they regularly publish under the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ byline instead of their own names. In fact, it’s probably more likely that these articles are scraped together by enthusiastic, unpaid interns who are handed a daily list of mundane celebrity happenings and then ordered – often at knife point – to write a story to confirm that absolutely nothing of any relevance has occurred.
Stories under the Daily Mail Reporter byline are so literal, they often read like they’ve been lifted from the well-thumbed pages of a private investigator’s surveillance log. Here’s what the Mail Online recently wrote about Imogen Thomas’s fantastically newsworthy workout in a local park:
“[Imogen] teamed her barely there top with some incredibly tight leggings-style jogging bottoms with the word ‘Pink’ written across them. Far from being pink, the jogging bottoms were actually black in colour and they were hugging her body from the waist down.
She also had on a pair of Nike trainers that she had tightly tied to her feet for her afternoon workout. In an effort to keep her hair out of her eyes for her sweat inducing activities, Imogen kept her brunette locks in a tight high bun. She also wore a pair of large black sunglasses on her face to keep the afternoon glare out of her eyes.”
Imagine that: trainers tied to her feet instead of wedged on each hand like makeshift hooves. And jogging bottoms that were so deceptive to the casual observer, they required a written explanation. In spite of the wording on Imogen’s clothing, dear reader, you are seeing black – not pink. Apologies for the confusion.
Last week the Mail Online ran an article about Tobey Maguire holding an iced drink, which included a staggering eight photos of the event. So far, seventeen people have taken the time to comment that the article is pointless.
In an effort to keep its 16-foot homepage filled with news, the Mail Online also has a habit of keeping more serious news stories alive with completely superfluous information. After the aforementioned murder of Lee Rigby, the Mail ran an article about his visit to a kebab shop two days before he died. With the aid of multiple CCTV screenshots, the article revealed that Lee Rigby spent precisely 12 minutes in Kebab Ye in Woolwich – where he ordered pizza and chips to take away – and that the shop’s owner knew the soldier, unsurprisingly, as ‘Lee’.
According to this illuminating article, he was apparently such a valued customer at the takeaway that they even allowed him to use the staff toilets upstairs while they prepared his food. A Mail Online campaign for a blue plaque is no doubt in the pipeline. But what this story added to the overall coverage of this sickening murder, I’m not entirely sure?
Unless the Mail Online inadvertently upsets Anonymous at some point in the future, it seems unlikely that it will be disappearing from the internet anytime soon. Still, with lads’ mags sitting behind modesty screens in supermarkets, where teenage boys now have to sound a ‘smut klaxon’ to attract the attention of a shop assistant tall enough to reach a copy of Nuts magazine, the Mail Online will soon be the only place where they’ll be able to find images of sexy lingerie shoots without leaving an incriminating internet history for their parents to find.
But here’s an idea: if the Mail Online must exist, why don’t we make it disappear?
I was recently made aware of Snapchat, a photo-sharing app that allows you to set a time limit of between 1-10 seconds for your images and videos to self-destruct after they’ve been viewed by the intended recipient. Like a flinty Amish elder defiantly clutching a wood chisel and pocket watch, I spluttered incredulously at the absurdity of such an app when it was first explained to me. But now I can definitely see a use for it.
Applying the same basic idea of ephemeral content, the Mail Online should be forced to set a self-destruct time on all its articles. It can post as many vacuous stories about women in bikinis as it wants, and as many derrières as it can realistically fit on a page. And if Kim Kardashian’s arse appears on Instagram or Kerry Katona is spotted popping into her local newsagents for a Twirl, they can report the shit out of it. Because after 24 hours online it will disappear from the internet – and our lives – forever. Furthermore, anyone who tries to share an article before deletion will discover that the only thing they’ve distributed among their friends and family is a Photoshopped image of Paul Dacre flaunting pixelated moobs.
So come on, Mail Online! Does us all a favour…and disappear.