And so it continues.
The joy. The delight. But more than that; a sense of something awful having disappeared. An absence of misery and bitterness and little England gloom; an absence of grumbling awfulness. It's as if every day for the past few years I've had someone tip a bucket of human shit over my head just as I've walked out of the front door, but today he's gone on holiday.
This didn't happen on purpose by the way; I didn't set out to create some sort of MacGuffin, a peg upon which to hang my adventures, or lack of them. But it's here now. Seven whole days without the Mail. Seven long, lovely, joyous days, in which I haven't been exposed to petty sniping, clucking idiots and thinly-veiled racism. And do you know, I think I feel better already. This is Daily Mail Island, but in reverse. This is Non-Mail Island.
Of course, it's always a good idea to expose yourself to opinions you might not share: if you don't, you just end up having everything you thought being reinforced - it's a comfortable place to be, like a nice warm Radox bath, but it might not always do you very much good. I always like to challenge myself by reading other opinions, newspapers, columnists and blogs - why not? Sometimes you can surprise yourself. Most of the time I don't, but it's always good to keep thinking.
I was reminded of this by a delightful comment that landed on the blog yesterday on a piece about Rod Liddle sounding ever so slightly racist from a marvellous new friend called 'Blacksticks'. He said:
What the fuck planet are you on. There are lots of racial attacks on white people – “British white people” by non whites ( esp by some of the recent incomers), and that you think or believe it’s some sort of right wing myth put out to discredit your wonderful multicultural utopia says much more about you than the racist BNP. Wankers who tend to live in white enclaves should not be allowed to speak out against people made to live in your shit hole inner cities. Get out down to South London sometime moron and and see how long you last with your snowy white anti racist credentials. Funny how these black steaming gangs tend only to attack whites (often alone or in pairs and doing no more than going home after a night out probably having socialised with people of colour themelves).
I dont suppose you will even allow this through. But try doing some real research you ostrich headed wankers.
To which I understandably replied:
Hello Blacksticks. Unfortunately if you follow your own logic, Rod Liddle – who lives in a village in Wiltshire – should not be allowed to comment on inner cities either.
For the ‘I don’t suppose you will even allow this through’ you get called a trolling cunt by me. So you have won something for the first time ever.
(And incidentally, I'm from south London, for my sins. So I 'get down there sometime' quite often. And yet I don't see the black-on-white crime hellhole that he seems to - possibly because I'm going on the wrong days, or possibly because it doesn't fucking well exist.) But Blacksticks, having seen his comment hadn't been approved within five seconds of having submitted it (I'm not sitting hovering over the keyboard, desperately waiting for new comments to approve) went on to send a furious second comment in which he accused me of censoring all the other dozens of comments agreeing with him which he assumed there had been and only letting liberal ones through.
But he was wrong to think that. His was the first complete bollocks racist load of shit that I had received, hence why it was the first comment of that nature on the post. And I thought to myself: maybe he assumes this because everywhere else he chooses to go, most of the comments agree with him. Maybe he assumes that simply everyone in the world thinks the same as him, so much so that I have to reject countless comments like his and only select the tiny minority of ones containing liberal views. But that's not it at all: people who come here tend to enjoy what they read, which is why the comments reflect that, and it would be daft to imagine otherwise. What a terrible world to be in, where you only see things that agree with you, and imagine only that everyone else is just like you, and where you assume there must be some kind of evil liberal plot when you see a lot of liberal comments!
It's right to challenge your opinions and views, otherwise you'll end up like that unfortunate, desperately disappointed to find there is more than one person in the world who disagrees with him; and that if they do disagree, they're simply not looking properly at the shining truth there is.
But then there's another thing. The Mail isn't just a set of other people's views. I find something more deeply disturbing and unpleasant about it; it's a toxic environment of nastiness and bile, simultaneously distorting a golden age of the pre-Pill 1950s and 1960s that never really existed, and distorting the present into a crime-ridden dystopia in which gangs of feral hoodies are setting fire to old ladies and no-one can do anything about it because of political correctness, or health and safety, or whichever liberal-left bogeyman is to blame for it all this week.
There's an aggression to the Mail which Nick Davies wrote about in Flat Earth News; there's an anger, a rage, an almost infantile sense of childish feelings of entitlement having been denied - you know, the idea that here are these criminals, and bad people, and single mothers, and so on and so on, and they're getting all the taxes that you should be having, and no-one can do anything about it. I've written before that it's that sense of rage people get when they're watching the heel craftily pummel the blue-eye's face behind the referee's back in a wrestling bout. The Mail taps into that.
It creates a sense of injustice and unfairness - the readers are constantly told that they're being deceived and lied to, and that the people in charge of their lives - our masters in Westminster, and Brussels, and in the town hall, and wherever - are deliberately going out of their way to ensure they don't get what they're entitled to. There's the idea that this is all going on, and we're all powerless to do anything about it.
That narrative is an inviting one. It means that whenever things go wrong, it's not your fault - it's these politically correct chattering classes who are the ones who are really in charge of our lives, and we're just their subjects. Again, it appeals to that childish sense of being looked after by parents, being unable to make choices, being unable to cope for ourselves.
But I don't think that's right. It's beyond it just being an opinion I disagree with; I think it's a fundamental deception. I think it's bollocks. And I think that's what really makes it so toxic for me. I don't think there is some big conspiracy at the heart of everything to make the world a worse place; I don't believe that politicians of every strip have got together and ruined everything for the sake of wishy-washy liberalism. I think it happens to be the case that there never was a golden pre-PC era in which everyone was happy, nor that society is 'broken' now, as the Tories would have us believe. It's considerably more nuanced than that, yet it's never portrayed as being anything other than black and white. And that's what gets me most of all.
So. In the meantime, before I delve back into the bran tub full of razorblades that is the Mail, I will of course be reading all kinds of things I disagree with. It's just that most of them won't come from such a fundamentally distorted place, and therefore don't seem as toxic. I think that's why life feels better already.