But your new shoes are worn at the heels and
Your suntan does rapidly peel and
Your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.
[Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick]
Yesterday was a fun day on the internet. It was one of those days where a Daily Mail writer writes something spectacularly stupid and the internet (or, at least, the small part of it that follows the UK media) spends a few pleasant hours taking the piss.
Yesterday it was the turn of Samantha Brick. She wrote an article called ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful. You’ve probably read it, but if you haven’t the summary is that she thinks she is really attractive and this means that random men often do nice things for her, but random woman often take an instant dislike to her.
There are so many holes in her theory that it’s hard to know where to start. I’d guess that a lot of women don’t warm to her not because they are jealous of her irresistible beauty, but rather because she comes across as a bit of a shallow airhead who defines herself by her level of attractiveness to men. Oh, and about that irresistible beauty. I don’t want to sound rude, but I think she’s slightly deluded there.
If that article wasn’t enough for you to form an opinion of her, I invite you to peruse the list of previous articles she has written for the Mail. Just reading the titles should be enough. No need to wade into the content unless you have a particularly strong stomach.
So the internet had its day of fun laughing at Ms Brick and her nonsense. And it would have probably ended there, but the Mail just wouldn’t let it lie. Today they bounced back with two follow-up articles. One was reporting on how Ms Brick had become an “internet sensation” (where the Mail sees a sensation, the rest of us see a laughing stock) and the other was by Ms Brick herself. In it she claims that yesterday’s reaction just proves that her original theory was right.
Once again she shows that logical thinking is not her forté. Let’s bring the argument down to the simplest level and see if we can spot any flaws.
Ms Brick: Most women hate me because I’m so beautiful.
The Internet: You’re wrong and here’s about a billion reasons why.
Ms Brick: See! Everyone hates me. My original theory was right.
I really don’t think that stands up to the slightest amount of scrutiny, do you?
The article includes a photo of Ms Brick standing next to her husband. She’s wearing the same purple dress that she wears in a lot of the photos from the last couple of days. But he’s wearing combat fatigues and carrying a rifle. Which takes on a slightly worrying meaning when you read what she wrote a few paragraphs below the photo when talking about her husband’s reaction to the furore.
At first, he shrugged it off, saying they were just the spiteful remarks of a few jealous women. But as the storm brewed . . . well, I’ve had to hide the worst of it from him; the tame few I’ve read out have riled him enough to want to take his own form of action.
Have you got that? Be nicer to her or her husband will come after you with his rifle.
Of course, Ms Brick and her delusions of superiority aren’t the real issue here. The real issue is the way that the Mail (and, in particular, Mail Online) have become so good at drawing in visitors who wouldn’t normally go anywhere near the paper. The Mail’s core audience obviously don’t spend as much time on the internet as the readers of some other papers. So the Mail have come up with a couple of strategies for getting readership from outside their core audience.
The first of these is the “sidebar of shame” so brilliantly reviewed by Steven Baxter recently. And the second is the liberal outrage strategy that we all fell for yesterday. I guess this was a lesson they picked up from the Jan Moir/Stephen Gately sage a couple of years ago. If you print things that annoy the (still largely liberal) Twitterati, then they will tweet and retweet their outrage. And every tweet brings more clicks. And every click brings more advertising revenue. As long as you don’t go too far (as Jan Moir did) and end up having to remove adverts from the page everything is wonderful. This morning I read an estimate that Samantha Brick’s article could have made the Mail £100,000 in advertising revenue.
This is what istyosty was about. Allowing people to read Mail stories without giving the clicks. And that’s, of course, why the Mail had it closed down. It hit them in the bottom line and they really didn’t like that.
I don’t have any solutions. I’m as guilty as anyone of passing round Mail links in order to spread the outrage. I wish I could just ignore them, but they’ve got under my skin. I even run a site which exists purely to link to Mail stories. I’m addicted to the outrage.
[Note: I wasn't planning to blog on this topic. But a friend pointed out the Jethro Tull link and I knew I just couldn't resist. Thanks Gareth.]
Update: Chris shares some thoughts about reading (and sharing) Mail content without giving them the clicks.