The Mail Online is the world’s most popular online newspaper, sucking in the hits with its blend of regurgitated news, celebrity guff and mean-minded moralising, sometimes all at the same time.
As a kind of antidote, along comes The Philosophers’ Mail, which replicates much of the design and subject matter of the Mail, but with fresh copy – “the latest, biggest stories, as interpreted by philosophers rather than journalists”.
Backed by Alain de Botton, it remains “rooted in popular interests, sensibilities and inclinations of the day”, but overlaid with “an eye to traditional central philosophical”. There is a certain wryness at play, but it is not a joke, as such.
Our very own Len Brown features in one story, headlined “Not as much news as previously thought”.
The Auckland mayor’s infidelities, says the Philosophers’ Mail, is an age old story of men in power “coming unstuck because their sexual desires lead them to do things that, when made public, are shameful”.
It adds: “The archetype goes like this: Powerful and famous people do the same things as ordinary mortals, leaving the public slightly stunned, yet cheered” – cheered because it proves, like so many stories of the famous, that “they are like us”.
Such archetypes, concludes the unnamed author (I’m guessing de Botton), “simplify the vast number of things which are going on at any one time. If we were more conscious of archetypes, we’d have to take in a lot less news. That’s why news organisations don’t normally want to tell you about archetypes (ad revenue would go down). We don’t mind.”
It’s hard to know what to make, however, of the report and photographic evidence of teenage heartthrob Harry Styles attending the PhilMail’s launch party.
The accompanying philosophical reflection is really something …
An old ambition is peeking through: that beauty and glamour shouldn’t be divorced from wisdom. In the perfect world, the great truths wouldn’t lie locked away in depressing unreadable books or be spoken only by inarticulate and visually challenged members of society. They would be presented to us with some of the same charm as One Direction’s songs by people with the easy charms of Harry Styles.
Celebrities are hugely powerful agents for getting us interested in things: to date, that has meant certain kinds of music, films and clothes. But we shouldn’t stop there. In an ideal world, we would let glamour spread to more important things too, like – every now and then – insights into the meaning of life. We’re delighted Harry was able to toast our birth.
Funnily enough, this is one of the few Harry Styles Goes Out stories that has not been featured in the Mail. It did, however, titillate the Guardian.