Ah, the letters page. You knew this bit was coming, didn't you? I couldn't really bring myself to look at it at first, just as with Quentin Letts, but eventually curiosity got the better of me and I popped over to see what Mail readers thought.
The contrast with online commenters couldn't be greater - the letters are much longer, for one thing. But it's not long before you get someone slagging off fatties and then claiming that someone (presumably the PC Brigade) aren't letting them say what they want to say:
Yeah, don't listen to the fatties. The bullies! Bastards, stealing pies off you. It's not as if the Mail would ever criticise anyone for being too thin, or too fat, or both for the same person, or behave like a bully towards someone, is it? Oh, it is. But that's beside the point, surely! Fatties are bullies!
There's also another letter which illustrates a certain type of attitude:
See how these things become accepted as fact? It's not just the stories in the Mail that people use as evidence. Here's some bloke who says his mate told him that everyone who works in this place is East European - and of course they're all dirty, as you'd expect! (But then that's no different from Liz Jones's snooty attitude towards the serving classes we saw earlier, really) Whether it's true or not, who knows? I am sure David Yates would tell us it's the truth. And that's the letter that got printed. Who knows if lots of people submitted letters saying the workers near them weren't all East European, or if they were, they were diligent and completely hygienic? Or that if those letters got submitted, they'd be printed?
All you can say for sure is some pub bore in an inn near you will soon be telling you he read in the Daily Mail the other day about dirty foreigners.
And then there's Straight to the Point. Or as I like to call it, No Fucking About With Niceties:
The one I'm most interested in is the one second from bottom - "with reference to the story in the Mail doing a hatchet job on someone, maybe it wasn't quite as clear-cut as that." I imagine that counts as a clarification. No point bothering to see if there was another side to their story; fuck it, it's gone. Just print that shit in Straight To The Point, that'll do.
So the letters are another bit you pay for out of your 50p. You get a bit more insight than the online commenters, I guess, and there aren't so many of them; and at least there is some kind of quality control, at least I think so. But on the other hand, a letter telling an anecdote that makes East European workers out to be unhygienic is waved straight through; and I can't help wondering if one saying something positive would be there at all, or relegated to a Straight To The Point.
Again, as with the cartoons, I'd kind of hoped that there'd be something a little extra with the letters page; but again, it's left me feeling that the dead-tree version is, if anything, a worse deal than the online one. The online commenters are nuts, but at least we all know they're nuts. These letter-writers have been immortalised in print. I don't know if that's such a good thing or not. And the usual nastiness oozes out, just a bit more obviously than it does when the journalists are involved.