How Your Outrage Helps The Daily Mail 22 February 2014

Richard LittlejohnIn Tuesday’s Daily Mail, Richard Littlejohn published a clearly Islamophobic piece about a Muslim fun day in Legoland (‘Jolly Jihadi Boy’s Outing to Legoland’). It managed to combine all the worst stereotypes of Muslims in a few hundred words and it was clearly written to provoke a reaction.

And of course, Muslims did indeed react. Dozens of rebuttals published online, petitions, signed letters and complaints to the PCC.

The latter may indeed result in something positive, and I hope the individuals named specifically (such as Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad) have already had discussions with lawyers regarding libel – but by and large, most of the response by Muslims will not concern Paul Dacre, Richard Littlejohn or the Daily Mail in the least.

First of all, let’s all consciously realise that causing outrage is part of the Daily Mail’s business plan. They’re the most successful print and online newspaper in the country, and their articles are likely to get more shares than listicles published by Buzzfeed.

Why? Because they know exactly how to write headlines and content that will induce a frenzy of sharing. Sometimes it’ll be an anti-Muslim article but just as often it’ll be something to aggravate black communities (such as Littlejohn’s earlier column on the late Mark Duggan as a violent gangster), or those who believe in women’s rights (an article by a doctor in the NHS who complained women were lazy in their career choices, for example) or anyone else they see as easy targets.

Because outrage leads to shares on social media, and lots and lots of back-linking by rebuttal pieces. All of which increases the Daily Mail’s general standing online, reaching more individuals and increasing their profile on search engines (back-linking is generally how search engines rate the value of a website).

And all of this leads to more visitors, and visitors to a website are easily converted into profit through advertising.

Take a moment and have a look at the Daily Mail website. Try and count all the adverts on a single page of an article. And look closely, because some adverts won’t even be distinguishable from Daily Mail internal content.

So here’s the bitter truth for those who respond to the Daily Mail – in sharing the Littlejohn article, in rebutting it publicly over and over again, you have not hurt the Daily Mail in the least, you’ve in fact added to their profits.

Next month, you may even do it again. Perhaps this time the Daily Mail will publish a story that you’re keen to share for different reasons, as they’re self-conscious enough to throw in decent pieces of investigative journalism or human interest pieces every now and again.

The Daily Mail is terrible. It stirs hatred against not only Muslims, but migrants, women, gays, the poor and countless others too.

If you really want to hurt them, the first step is to stop sharing their articles.

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About Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed is Editor of On Religion magazine. He holds a doctorate in religious studies and an MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain.