Sidebar of Shame

I have a guilty confession to make. I like tabloids. I used to write for them, quite a few of them in fact. I know a lot of people consider them to be low-rent, inaccurate, trashy or otherwise less than praiseworthy, but I’ve always thought they had a certain irreverent joie-de-vivre.

It’s quite difficult to write news for tabloids actually. Plenty of tabloid journalists have taken jobs with more ‘respectable’ (and poorer-selling) publications, but you rarely see anyone move in the opposite direction. Why? Because it’s actually a lot easier to write 1200 words of polysyllabic prose about a complex set of incidents than it is to summarise things in a succinct and pithy 400 words that a 12 year old could comprehend.

Anyhow, of course tabloids can also be egregious. Their sins are legion, and there’s no need to repeat them all here. But as a society, we get the media we deserve, a media which due to market forces inevitably reflects back our own collective interests and values. Hence it is no surprise that the readers of the UK’s Daily Mail reflect many of the opinions to be found within the paper’s articles.

In fact, one might reasonably argue that their own opinions often go much further into potential objectionability. This too has an entertainment and information value of its own. I often like to dip into the comments below Daily Mail articles to get a sense of how and what Middle England is currently fulminating about.

So it occurred to me one day, today in fact, that comments found below the Mail Online’s legendary ‘Sidebar of Shame’ might add up to an interesting found poem, a kind of meta-opinion from Middle England, a sort of universal reaction to the river of news which brings them to comment.

Every line below is a verbatim and genuine comment, but each is in response to a completely different story. Together it adds up to … well, like the Daily Mail readers, you be the judge.