What a mistake to make!

2 Oct

This from the ‘Fala’ speech by FDR:

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him – at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself – such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.

(FDR went on to be elected for a third term)

The Daily Mail, in a splash article, claimed that Ralph Miliband, father of the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, hated Britain. Ralph Miliband was a refugee from Nazi Germany who came to Britain in the 1930s. As soon as he was able, after the declaration of war, he joined the Royal Navy and served with distinction throughout the War.

In 1934, Viscount Rothermere, great-grandfather of the current chairman of the Mail published a headline, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ (The name for the Union of British Fascists, led by Oswald Mosely). He willingly met Hitler and openly expressed admiration for Mussolini. Josef Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist, admired Rothermere’s attitude towards the Jews. The father of the current Mail editor, Paul Dacre, never served in the War.

The range of reporting from bias through half-truth to downright lies which appear in that limp organ of the press bear more than a passing resemblance to the best efforts of Goebbels. The black propaganda directed against the most vulnerable members of our society, based on race and religion are a dripping poison in the heart of our society.

This attack on the late Ralph Miliband, an honourable and reasonable social commentator and academic, is vile and smacks of the worst excesses of McCarthyism. To include a picture of his grave on the on-line site was an invitation for the grave to be desecrated. But Paul Dacre has made a great mistake in making this attack in an effort to smear Ed Miliband by association.

Last night on the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme Dacre sent his deputy, Jon Staefel, to defend on the story. He mumbled some weasel words about British values and other abstract nonsense. In answer, Alistair Campbell, ex spin guru for the Labour Party and journalist, tore into him and into Dacre. It was not a battle but a rout. Staefel would not admit he agreed with the story or the headline. At the end of the interview he looked like a beaten dog.

Paul Dacre is a shy and retiring man who does not court personal publicity, so perhaps he is not an absolute craven, crawling coward for not personally defending the story. He is, however, reportedly known for his addresses to the editorial staff of The Daily Mail. These are referred to as the ‘The Vagina Monologues’ by the hapless writers of the newspaper due to Dacre calling everyone ‘Cunt’. Perhaps he has not moved so far right as to be almost off the political stage.

For years the Mail has pretended to be a ‘decent’ newspaper, appealing to the aspirational members of society. In reality it is the least accurate newspaper of magazine in Britain. That is official. The Press Complaints Commission published statistics of complaints made to it. Over several years The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday were clearly at the top of the list, accounting for between 47 and 48% of all complaints for all magazines and newspapers. It tends to pick on targets who cannot afford to defend themselves in court and rarely makes corrections or apologies.

The backlash against the Mail for this latest smear includes the leaders of all the major parties. This is a cowardly and pathetic smear on the life of a decent man who loved his country but wanted to improve it. The Twittersphere is buzzing with comments. Just as with FDR, making an attack on a family member unable to defend themselves results in dismay about the smear and an unwillingness to trust anything else the source of the smear has to say.

As for attacks in the Mail on immigrants, especially refugees like Ralph Miliband, I have only two words to say, Mo Farrah.

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