An outing to the sidebar of shame…

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Something a little unworthy today. I have been looking at the Daily Mail’s online strip of shame – also known as the sidebar of shame, a sidebar being a newspaper name for something incidental on the page.

A flight of nibs is a column of short stories – and the Mail’s online version is a column of flighty nibs. This is not a technical term as such, but something that occurred to me just before my brain rolled out of my ear. That’s the price I pay for research.

A ‘nib’ in this context is a mini-celebrity you probably won’t have heard of – and when you have been introduced, you will wish to jump again into the waters of blissful ignorance.

It’s surprising how much material you can get out of half-famous nonentities (not that most of them are wearing much in the way of material). Can you even be half-famous and a nonentity? Well you can on the strip of shame.

This sticky little feature has helped to make the Mail’s online version one of the most visited newspaper websites in the world, apparently. That ‘apparently’ is there as a caution, meaning I read that online more than once. And that’s good enough for me on my ledge.

Perhaps you are in a state of innocence about this modern cultural phenomenon. I shall explain. The sidebar of shame is a column of short stories about women in or half-out of their clothes. It is a tacky hymn to the bikini body; or a cautionary giggle about bodies that should never be seen in a bikini.

It’s raucous, shameless and smutty in a Carry On fashion. And scrolling through what amounts to an array of vaguely famous women’s breasts and bums is simultaneously sick-making and horribly addictive.

There are puns about bums, quips about tits. Flat stomachs often win a mention, as sometimes do their flabbier cousins.

Here is a taster of what is on offer today.

An Australian model called Lara Stone is worthy of three separate entries. In one she is “showing off her figure in a white bandeau bikini” on a beach in Sydney. In another she is having her photograph taken with a hunky male. And in the third the 32-year-old is seen shopping “with a sunburnt face after she took part in an outdoors photoshoot”.

The last pictures look like paparazzi shots. And what’s shown on Lara’s face isn’t sunburn but displeasure: she is pissed off at being followed round by a photographer.

Quite often the women have been snapped from a distance, possibly without realising. They do not appear to have been willing participants in their exhibitionism – although some shots look staged, so perhaps they knew all along.

Some of the photographs are selfies supplied by the women themselves. Someone called Lauren Goodger features often. Apparently she is a former reality TV star, which has a ring: what, do you think, “former reality” might be? It’s an interesting philosophical concept; more interesting anyway than Lauren’s self-snapped pictures of her “stripped down to her smalls”.

So a onetime reality star is now an all-out star in her own right in the smuttersome arena of not news. Perhaps not news sells because the actual news is just too damn depressing some days.

What a curious place this sidebar turns out to be. Women such as Lauren are on there all the time with semi-naked selfies they’ve put on Instagram – endless narcissism via mobile snaps. Scroll down further today and you will encounter Nikki Minaj’s “pert posterior”. Actually do be careful as it does stick out rather and I’m worried you might trip.

Ah, what’s this? “Has the world gone mad!? Bikini-clad Poppy Delevingne shows off her stunning model figure as she celebrates reaching 1 million Instagram followers.”

Yes, the world has gone mad – and you, Mail Online, helped make it a little bit madder, so don’t pretend otherwise.

I don’t understand this madness; and I don’t understand this sidebar of shame. It’s certainly traffic-accident compelling, but really I think I should pop my brain back in and look at something else.

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