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Home > Media

Journojism: the Daily Mail letters page.

Daily Mail land. You don't have to be a retired bigot to live there, but it sure helps.

29 September 2003

Daily Mail readers have always been noted for their slightly peculiar views. Who else would write in to a 'Notes and Queries' column asking: "Would a World War 2 German 88mm anti-tank gun be capable of piercing the armour of a Modern Challenger tank?" - as though there’s a risk of WW2 starting up again tomorrow.

But an unresolved question in the newspaper world is whether newspaper letter writers really represent the readership. Are they just the green-ink brigade, the axe-grinders and hobby-horse owners, or are they representative of the readership as a whole? No-one really knows the answer to this question, but if letter writers do represent the whole readership, the Daily Mail had better think about taking an even more barking editorial stance.

This Tuesday, the letters page kicked off with a man arguing that parents should create a 'bubble' (his words) to protect their children from "today’s unpleasant influences". OK, bad phraseology, but a fair point. Or is it? Mail reader Tony Elkin
continues:

"We live in a 'quality' village in the Thames Valley with good schools, a high proportion of caring homeowners and so on - but at the end of their first week at school our twins had learned swear words - it’s amazing how they fail to learn from their teachers, but pick up everything from the ten per cent of rubbish children in every class"

Dear God - this man is slowly mutating into Hyacinth Bucket. Fortunately, Tony has a plan to stop 'rubbish children' polluting the lives of 'caring homeowners':

"Friends [of the twins] come home only after we establish that the family is not dysfunctional."

Sadly, Tony doesn’t explain how he goes about this. Perhaps he phones the parents:

"Tony Elkin here. Are you dysfunctional?" "What? Who are you?" "Do you, or have you ever, used alcohol in an irresponsible way?" "Look, who is this?" "Question three: have you ever worn Adidas sportswear when not playing sport?" "What?"

etc.

Needless to say, the twins are being coached at home by Tony, who has clear views about what they will achieve:

"In a year they have to move from not knowing their tables or any grammar, to advanced problem solving and algebra. This means studying on Saturday morning and by agreement we will learn together for a year."

"By agreement?" Judging by the picture accompanying the letter, Tony’s children are about five or six years old. They’ve probably agreed to commit hari kiri if they don’t get into Cambridge at the age of 12.

Putting good ideas like helping your kids learn into the heads of people like Tony is like asking a Jim Jones-style death cult to run Defcon. He might want to include some sex and drug education in his personal curriculum in preparation for the day his little darlings start dating crack dealers as an act of self-destructive teenage rebellion.

But enough fripperies, let’s move on to that dominant theme of the Daily Mail: why it was better in the 1950s. One letter writer says she is pleased that more children are being allowed to play in the streets again. However, there is one caveat:

"Does that mean I can give them an occasional 'thick ear' when my garden gets trampled? How I miss the days when you could 'dust a kid’s trousers', send him home and his mother would give him another 'dusting' for getting into trouble."

What a utopian vision! Row upon row of tidy houses, with smiling families at the door - happily spanking their children and waving to their neighbours with their spare arm.

And so the letters page lurches on, containing everything from a rant about the misuse of the word "offensive" (too tedious to relate) to tips on how to use WD40 to prevent other people’s cats climbing into your garden. (They slip off walls, apparently. Grease a wall today and show the little cat bastards who’s boss!)

Dail Mail land: we wouldn’t like to live there, but it makes for an interesting holiday.


For a right-on-the-money review of the Daily Mail, click here.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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