In Augustine’s Confessions, we’re told the story of Alypius, one of Augustine’s Christian friends. Augustine and his girlfriend (at that stage) weren’t Christian. Pagan Augustine bet Alypius that his Christian opposition to gladiatorial shows wouldn’t outlast… a gladiatorial show. Alypius accepted the wager and went along, swearing that he’d just close his eyes to the spectacle, and so be unmoved by it.
Unfortunately, as Augustine tells us, Alypius “couldn’t shut his ears.” Not only did he open his eyes to watch thanks to what he could hear, but he became fascinated and unhinged. What started as a freshman joke on Augustine and his girlfriend’s part went horribly wrong as the pair of them pulled the besotted Alypius from his seat and, super-nanny-like, took him outside and made him sit on the naughty step.
Thereafter, Alypius became a gladiatorial show tragic.
And so, in a nutshell, you have Britain’s relationship with the Daily Mail. It’s impossible to look away, like trying to ignore a car crash. It teases the eye and ear, inviting one to mock, secure in the knowledge that one is not its victim, at least not for now.
The Daily Mail is Britain’s most profitable paper. It, to put it lightly, isn’t owned by Rupert Murdoch. It supported the British Union of Fascists in the early 30s, and Appeasement in the late 30s. It mines a rich seam of other-hatred, self-hatred, and despair—in the name of decency. If it hasn’t taken a pot-shot at you, or people like you, it soon will. The Daily Mail feeds on the same base bit of humanity that funnelled crowds through the turnstiles at the Colosseum: come here and be entertained because the mob, the turba remi, hasn’t yet turned on you.
It campaigns against porn, all the while peppering its online presence with the stuff. It reports that the discovery of a gay gene may soon allow gay fetuses to be preemptively aborted. It tells despairing stories of anorexia next to close-up pictures of celeb thighs crinkled with cellulite. The whole click-baity mess routinely sweeps through the Internet like a turd attached to a tumbleweed of LOLcats.
And it looks destined to be with us for a long time yet.
This week, the Daily Mail took aim at Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, via his dead Dad. Poor old “Red Ed” – as he’s often called – has the misfortune to be a Jew, and the double misfortune to be the son of a Jewish Marxist, thereby playing into every fascist stereotype… from the 1930s. He’s googly-eyed, a bit hopeless, but basically harmless. Yes, his Dad was a Marxist who believed a great deal of nonsense until his dying day. However, he was also a refugee from the Nazis who joined the Royal Navy and joined in the Normandy Landings (seen Saving Private Ryan? There was a great deal of blood). Miliband Sr was nonetheless written up as ‘The Man Who Hated Britain.’ And the Daily Mail kept digging, defending its conflation of father with son and contention that the son’s batty energy policies – instead of being pure populism – were really his father’s, back from the grave in zombie kit.
Of course, there’s been anger directed at the Daily Mail, from all sides of politics, and from the PM down, over its treatment of the Miliband family. However, we’ve all kept watching, following the bouncing ball of hatred as it skips from Jews to gays to women to Ed Miliband and his dad. Right here – on a popular US site, no less – I’ve played Daily Mail Roulette, as you click on the links so you too can be appraised of a very British kerfuffle.
We need to make like Augustine and get the hell out, but I don’t know how. Car crashes and blood, they’re just so…damned…interesting.
In the meantime, you too can play the game. Most of you aren’t even British. Does the Daily Mail hate you, too?