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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Daily Mail/fascism linkage is lazy history

Lord Rothermere I (Harold Harmsworth) with Hitler
As most people seem to be rightfully outraged by the Daily Mail's smearing of Ed Miliband's father I see many repeating the meme that the Mail supported Hitler and the blackshirts.

Mail owner Lord Rothermere did support Hitler (see above picture) and the Mail did publish "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" - pictures of which are being furiously retweeted this morning. But as Media Prof Roy Greenslade pointed out in 2011 (based on work by my mate Matt Wardman) the Daily Mirror published "Give the Blackshirts a helping hand."
The Mirror's sister paper, then known as the Sunday Pictorial, even ran pictures of uniformed blackshirts playing table tennis and enjoying a sing-song around a piano. Both titles also planned a beauty contest aimed at finding Britain's prettiest woman fascist.

Not many people know that. Certainly, nothing like as many as know that the Mail ran Rothermere's "Hurrah for the Blackshirts" (which is Wardman's point)...

... It is also important to view Harold's misguided views through the prism of widespread support for appeasement, not least from The Times under the editorship of Geoffrey Dawson and, of course, many leading politicians.

Lastly, it is also the case that the Mail of the 1930s was not nearly as influential as the Daily Express and its owner, Lord Beaverbrook.

And it was the Express, in March 1933, that ran a splash headlined "Judea declares war on Germany: Jews of all the world unite in action".

It was an overblown report about an (alleged) boycott against German goods that was declared in response to anti-Semitic activities by the Nazis. The "boycott" was quickly repudiated by the Jewish board of deputies in Britain.
Greenslade said:
Damn the Mail if you will for what it publishes now. But Rothermere the Second, Rothermere the Third (Vere) and now Rothermere the Fourth (Jonathan) cannot be held responsible for the views of the first of their line.
Point being that those making Daily Mail/fascism links today are using the exact same tactic they are rightly criticising the Mail for using on Ed Miliband.

Update, October 5: Roy Greenslade writes:
I have previously written that we should not damn the Mail, and the current Lord Rothermere, for his great-grandfather's support for fascism.

But I concede that, in these circumstances, the regurgitation of the Harmsworth family's dark past is valid. It is hardly surprising that it is now back on the agenda.

Similarly, Dacre's own family history has also become the subject of some fascination. Why, people are asking, didn't his own father fight for Britain in the second world war, as Ralph Miliband did?

Then there is Dacre's own background as a leftish student. He is now likely to be held up to ridicule for what he wrote while at Leeds university.

In truth, the whole affair has blown up in Dacre's face because of his intransigence. The Mail editor has become the centre of a story that has legs.

In the process, he has achieved the reverse of his intentions. A dignified Ed Miliband has emerged with an enhanced image. As for press regulation, he has made it infinitely more difficult for the matter to be resolved in favour of the system he favours.
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  1. You write: "Point being that those making Daily Mail/fascism links today are using the exact same tactic they are rightly criticising the Mail for using on Ed Miliband."

    Exact same tactic? In both cases, people might be said to be branding a political enemy obnoxious on the basis of its predecessors' behaviour/viewpoints rather than on its own, but the parallel is hardly exact. For one thing, the Milibands are individual human beings, the Daily Mail a powerful media organisation. More importantly perhaps, your parallel seem to be premised on the idea that the Mail has long since changed its spots, but this seems a dangerously unsubtle view. Everybody knows that the Daily Mirror (which of course used to be owned by Harmsworths, though I don't myself know who owned it at the time of its infamous 1934 article) was radically changed in the 1930s to become the broadly left-wing paper it is today. But what evidence is there that the Mail might not now support, or would not in the future support, fascists? Judging by this -- -- not a lot!

    1. Well, as someone else pointed out on Twitter earlier, the Stephen Lawrence coverage for one thing.

      Look, I'm not defending the Mail but I do think the linking is lazy because it is part of a general forgetting about appeasement and how widely it was supported. That, IMO, is dangerous.

  2. Well, I'm afraid I have to agree with that Guardian commentator who said that you have a point but that you (in my view badly) overstate it. To say blandly that the linking is lazy and leave it at that seems to me to be itself at least as lazy as to make the link without providing historical context, because whatever the Mail said about Stephen Lawrence, its present-day periodic vicious xenophobic hate-mongering has upsetting fascistic overtones (even when the paper isn't overtly supporting Fascist politicians like Le Pen) which people cannot but relate (even if the relation is messy) to the paper's fascistic past.

    I agree with you entirely about the general forgetting about appeasement; but that is a rather different, howsoever contingent, point.

    1. Apols if duplicate.

      Will have to check grauniad comment :]

      Yes the Mail says nice things about LePen but the Lawrence episode showed it was drawn into a democratic discourse previously on the outer. That was not insignificant.

      I effing hate the Mail but bringing them -and who they represent - into democracy is a serious and longstanding and important project.

      Recall that imperialist btard Churchill was the lead against appeasement. We all have to join with strange bedfellows when the basics are at stake.

  3. I'm glad you have your own blog, because I wanted to comment on this but long since swore off wading into that cesspit at HP.

    "Point being that those making Daily Mail/fascism links today are using the exact same tactic they are rightly criticising the Mail for using on Ed Miliband."

    But that's the point - the Daily Mail is in a great big glass house when it comes to the behaviour of antecedents, and yet there it went throwing stones. And it seems usefully relevant - whilst Ralph Miliband was escaping from and then going back and fighting Nazis, the Daily Mail was championing them.

    And that latter comment bothers me, too - on the one hand appeasement wasn't all that widely supported (it certainly wasn't universal), and on the other hand Rothemere's love for the Nazis went well past the level of appeasement into a full-blown desire to see Nazism in Britain.

  4. Brilliantly put, Gregg. I agree completely and I ought to make clear that in endorsing the view that appeasement is often generally forgotten about I wasn't meaning to suggest that all 'enthusiasms' for fascism were necessarily equal/the same thing. (Perhaps I was myself guilty of a lack of nuance, or perhaps you just put things much better than I did.)

  5. Grauniad comment >>

    I hate the Mail but ...

    1. It is as unfair to link Ed to his ancestors' politics as current Mail proprietors. Mail is not now a fascist newspaper, unserious to say otherwise.

    2. 30s appeasement circumstance, including that of Mirror, is far from irrelevant. That imperialist Churchill ended up as our bulwark against fascism says all.