Let’s admit it: we’re all hooked on the Mail

By Mic Wright on July 10th, 2012

Samantha Brick has returned to Mail Online with a column balanced precariously on the revelation that Jools Oliver – yes, she really spells it like that – has admitted to snooping through St Jamie’s emails, just to check he’s not feeding a feisty dinner lady more than a nutritional lunch tray.

Of course, the Twitterati have spent the day in a tizzy, like angry unpaid plumbers. They fall for it every time! This is at least the third occasion this professional provocateur has sent Mail Online’s hit count crazy, the first being a piece about why her good looks intimidate other women; the second, a response to the flak she received for the first.

This time, Brick has ridden to the defence of Jools Oliver by “revealing” that she confronts her husband Pascal, a hirsute Frenchman who looks like an American survivalist with a gun slung across his arm, about suspicious emails and texts.

The money shot of her piece is: “As far as I’m concerned, my husband’s emails, voicemails and texts aren’t just his business — they’re mine, too. I read, listen and check all of them daily. And I don’t mind admitting that I open his post, too.” Well, she’d never make an MI5 agent, would she.

Really though, the content of Brick’s article is irrelevant. She has, as Stewart Lee famously said of Jeremy Clarkson, “offensive opinions for money”. And it turns out she’s pretty good at it. The quality of those words or the grace with which they are expressed is irrelevant: Brick’s job is to bring in the readers.

In fact, Brick is just one of a team of professional anthill-kickers employed by the Daily Mail to provoke. The queen of them is Melanie Philips, who transferred from the Guardian to the Mail years ago, like a player making the jump from Chelsea to Arsenal – with tempers running just as high among the fans. The most batshit bonkers of them all, of course, is the cartoonish Liz Jones, a woman of such extreme opinions and personal disasters that she scarcely seems real.

The Mail even employs Suzanne Moore (full disclosure: Suzanne is a friend of mine), who writes a column for the Guardian, as a kind of in-house kicking post for the fulminating masses in the Mail’s online comment section.

Why? Because the Mail and Mail Online are unparalleled virtuosi of manipulation. They play to middle England perfectly, but they also needle and wheedle Guardian readers in ways others only dream about. Ostensibly Left-wing writers and commentators are addicted to Mail Online. They pick through the “side-bar of shame”, an area dedicated to stories about z-list Brits, obscure American starlets and tits, tits, tits – and then go crazy at “offensive” columns from the likes of Brick.

The error these well-to-do Guardian types make is to think their hits don’t count. While there are ways to avoid giving Mail Online hits promoted on Twitter, most people just follow direct links – and make the Mail money. Even those who don’t follow links bleat endlessly about Mail content, driving eyeballs.

Mail Online seems inspired not by political ideals but by money. Mail Online is fast approaching a profit, while the Guardian sprays money down the drain in the hope that somehow America can save it. (It won’t.)

Unlike the Guardian, the Mail is not snobby about its readers’ interests: it knows that the easiest dopamine hits come through hatred, through lust, through envy and disgust. Am I saying that’s a good thing? No. I’m simply saying it is a reality

Twitter users and Lefty writers who tut and splutter about the “horror” of Mail Online – while never forgetting to get a daily hit themselves – are hypocrites. It’s time to stop lying and admit it: you visit and get a kick out of the Mail – and it’s thanks to your furtive visits that the site is growing so damn quickly.