There's a wee thing going round Facebook at the moment saying "Should I read the Daily Mail?" And when you click on it, a huge NO appears on your screen.
My life would be a lot better without the Fail to go through of a morning, but I think it's so important that we read the bile it spits out, even when it makes my skin crawl. Which most of it does. There is always something racist, sexist or homophobic in it. It was even implicated this week in hounding Lucy Meadows to her death. Lucy, a teacher, killed herself after media attention focused on her new life as a woman.
It is a vile paper. But lots of people read it and if we are going to present a liberal argument, we need to know what bile they are being fed.
And so to today's edition. It was a barely disguised attempt to make people feel a bit uneasy about Muslims in their midst. Three pictures, side by side. On the edges, two virtually empty churches. In the middle a Mosque full to bursting point. And, shock horror, people were praying in the car park. Now if you read the article, you find out that the capacity of the Mosque is only 100, which is not very much. There are not that many mosques. Conversely, there are lots of churches, lots of denominations. No doubt the Fail office would drown in a sea of bile if it found out, as I did discussing this on Twitter, that some churches and mosques even share the same building, perfectly peaceably.
This is what the Fail does. It fills its pages with a cloud of hate that, on analysis, is made up of no substance whatsoever. It's there to stoke up fear, to make people feel vulnerable. This is why the likes of UKIP get a foothold.
I have been really glad to see our lot being pretty robust recently. Nick Clegg on Call Clegg today being robust on civil liberties and freedom of speech. Vince questioning the Tories' position on immigration at every opportunity. Ed Davey taking on Farage and forensically dissecting his nonsense live on the BBC News Channel. The liberal arguments need to be made time and time again, alongside stronger economy, fairer society and Ed Balls' prawn cocktail charm offensive. I want Nick to keep saying:
I think abhorrent ideologies are best defeated when they are argued against, when they’re demolished and when they’re shown up to be as perverted and corrupt as they are.
I’m a liberal who passionately believes that moderation, non-violence, open argument is the way to secure our safety.
We all have to. And we have to say it everywhere, amongst all our friends and family in real life, too. And every time one of these horrible messages about immigrants or benefits scroungers gets posted on Facebook, it needs to be challenged.Then we can slam the door on Nigel Farage's toe. And let's face it, if we don't, nobody else will.