All the veneers of respectability come down when the Mail goes online. Whereas in the dead-tree edition you get ordinary pap pictures of Lily Allen in a bikini, online you get all the tits-out shots for you to wank over.
Remember this is the newspaper that constantly campaigns about the dangers of the internet, kids seeing smut and filth, the horrific idea that children might be exposed to the sight of a pair of breasts and so on - unless of course it's a pair of knockers on the Mail's own site. That's somehow magically all right. Ah, the fresh whiff of hypocrisy. There's no justification for it; it's just to make money. That's what you have to remember. The Mail may claim to be presenting the news, but it's just doing what makes it the most money. That's the top and bottom of it. It knows there's a market for trenchantly stupid views on race and immigration, and pictures of celebrities' tits, so that's what it gives you.
And whereas the Mail's letters page is, by and large, quite a considered (if rather right-wing) affair, the 'Straight to the point' business notwithstanding, the revamped website's comment and debate section is, not to put too fine a point on it, a fucking joke.
Look at it. Just look at it! Has the Beano gone online? It's awful, awful, amateur-hour bullshit. Why, it even makes the Express - the Express, for god's sake - look relatively intellectual by comparison.
Now there's a character called 'sarah_editor', who I assume is some kind of underpaid web lackey who toils away on the site for 94 hours a day for about 20 quid while red-faced hacks who do nothing blunder off for four-hour lunches and smile witheringly at her. That's what I imagine life to be like in Mail Towers, but of course I could be very wrong. Anyway, this Sarah's job is to kick off the discussions, like this:
Gordon Brown announced that the hated plans for pay-as-you-throw rubbish taxes would be scrapped. That was a blatant lie and he knew it. Within days it became clear that 'trials' would still be going ahead. Why bother piloting something which you have no intention of introducing? Do you think these plans will be introduced and what will it mean for you?
Except... well it's bizarre isn't it? The last sentence is clearly the kind of thing that the website itself would use, but the rest of it...? I'm still pretty sure this character works for the Mail - why ask such an open question if you're a member of the public? - but the bit about the 'blatant lie' may in the slightest possible way, I feel, be at the risk of editorialising, no?
So here we have someone who appears to be a journalist saying Gordon Brown 'told a blatant lie' and 'he knew it'. Is that the sort of thing that would ever be allowed within a million miles of the dead-tree edition?
Here's Sarah kicking off another debate:
Fathers have effectively been declared an irrelevance in modern Britain after MPs scrapped the requirement for fertility doctors to consider a child's need for a male role model before giving women IVF treatment. Is this right? Join our debate here...
Well that's certainly more clear-cut, isn't it. She's almost definitely a Mail employee.
Interestingly, unlike the news stories, where comments against the percevied Mailite view are simply rejected for no justification other than they go against the grain, there is a bit more of an open debate here:
Last time I checked, you still need a man and a woman to make a baby naturally. This whole "fathers have been declared an irrelevance" is clearly untrue and simple hyperbole, the usual Daily Mail style of reporting. And why the heck are the views of so many religious leaders considered so important? I don't seem them endlessly quoted in stories about kids killing each other on the streets, where their supposed moral guidance and high horse ponderings may have a bit more effect.
So that's something positive, perhaps? Well no, not really, I imagine when the old reactionary gimmers who patrol the Mail website latch onto the idea of what these messageboards are about, they'll be attacking anyone with a slightly different view in the most abusive and nasty terms - that's what has happened over at the Express, with sheer abuse and attacks levelled at anyone who attempts to try and be reasonable about anything.
But we'll see. At the moment there aren't really that many folks on it, just a handful, and the comments haven't got ridiculously out of hand. Not yet. But it will happen. Oh, it will happen...