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January Diary
Tabloids, snooty waiters, and the offside rule.

From the cover of Dinner with Churchill

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John Derbyshire

How smart we are! All right, I’ll admit it, I do read comment threads on well-managed sites I’m not contributing to. The London Daily Mail, for instance.

On January 29 the Mail ran a story about the Chinese oligarchs — citizens of the People’s Republic who have got rich beyond the dreams of avarice by playing the angles in politics, economics, and family connections.

Between them they control the majority of the Chinese economy, where corruption and vested interests are hidden behind a cloak of secrecy.

And with the rest of the world teetering on bankruptcy, these unstoppable bosses are poised to take over a string of Western companies.

It was this entry on the comment thread that caught my eye:

They seem like very nice people. I am glad we Westerners sent millions of jobs to China thus giving them huge profits to come back and buy our companies. Look how much we saved on labor costs. Look how cheap our goods are. We are very smart people here in the West. These people don’t realize who they are up against.

— James, Ascot, 29/1/2012 20:11


Tabloid Heaven. Speaking of the London Daily Mail, I note that their online version is now the world’s most-visited newspaper website, having passed the New York Times in December.

I’m not surprised. The Mail website is one of the first I visit in my morning news-browse. It strikes just the right balance (for me — and obviously for a lot of other people too) of newsy and lurid. Who can resist stories like, to take a few from just the last few days of January:

“The boy who swallowed his twin: Three-year-old has body of parasitic sibling growing inside his stomach”

“Cameron’s climb-down: as I said in December, Dave’s an EU pansy

“Fan handcuffs himself to goalpost during Premier League match because Ryanair wouldn’t give his daughter a job

“Newt Gingrich’s big, slobbering mutual love affair with the elite media (Newt Gingrich loves the media elite and craves their attention . . . )”

“Cannibal who ate head of former lover proposes to Satan-worshipping vampire girlfriend behind bars of psychiatric unit”

This is the finest tradition of scrappy tabloid journalism — well-nigh dead now in the U.S.A., with nothing here between the smug, soporific elite sonorities of the New York Times and Washington Post, and the absurdities of Weekly World News (“Woman Marries Building!”).

Fifty years ago, as I was getting to grips with the social order in the land of my birth, I took in the common perceptions of Britain’s wide range of national daily newspapers and the demographics they each appealed to.

The Times — Movers and shakers, senior civil servants, captains of industry, serious people.

Daily Telegraph — Retired Indian Army officers, Anglican priests, distressed gentlefolk.

Guardian (in those days still the Manchester Guardian) — Schoolteachers, leftist academics, Nonconformist priests, people whose job title included words like “administrative” and “liaison” — the then-emerging New Class.

Daily Mail — Wives of people who read The Times.

Daily Express — Small-business types, ex-NCOs, wives of people who read the Telegraph.

Daily Mirror — Thoughtful proles.

Daily Sketch — Dumb proles.


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