The “Free Press” Strikes Again

Posted: October 5, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m not a prolific blogger, but every now and then a story arises that either piques my interest, or just gets the outrage flowing. Usually it’s the Daily Mail that is causing this outrage, as bile and hate flows (in my opinion) from its insidious pages. Over the past week, the story has been about the father of Ed Miliband and how he apparently “hated” Britain. Ralph Miliband’s crime, in the eyes of the Daily Mail as far as I can see, was to reject the capitalist political landscape being created post-war in favour of a more Marxist socialist future. Whether you agree with his politics or not, so far there’s not really anything that suggests he hated this country – the country he fled to when he feared persecution by Nazi Germany, let’s not forget. A diary entry, written when he was 16 (hardly a time to be judging people on their beliefs – I didn’t like tennis when I was 16…), states

“The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world… When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are.”

On the face of it, this is the entirety of the Daily Mail’s evidence about how Miliband Sr. hated this country. I still don’t get how they can claim that on that tiny level of evidence. Ralph Miliband, let’s not forget, served in the Royal Navy (would a Britain-hater fight to protect Britain?) and actively CHOSE to make this country his home (I’m sure the Daily Mail would have something to say about immigrants, but I’m not going to look for it). What the Mail also didn’t do was put the diary entry into context – a biography of Ralph Miliband stated

Miliband had been dismayed by the anti-Semitism he found in London. For example, he felt he was unable to tell his first girlfriend, Marjorie, that he was Jewish.

And with that context, you can see why 16-year old Ralph might have felt the way he did about the people around him. Let us not forget who played a large part in the feelings of anti-semitism in the country at the time – yes, that’s right, the good old Daily Mail, whose owner Viscount Rothermere was very much in support of the Nazi party of Germany, as this extract from 1933 clearly shows:

The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish government officials in Germany as had existed before the war. Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine. Three German ministers only had direct relations with the press, but in each case the official responsible for conveying news and interpreting policy to the public was a Jew.

That extract came from the same piece that excused Nazi atrocities as “a few isolated acts of violence”. Viscount Rothermere was an ardent supporter of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists – known colloquially as “Blackshirts”. The below is from the Mirror, which the Rothermere family also owned.

blackshirtsViscount Rothermere later withdrew his support of this party – but do you think it was because of a change of heart in his political and ethnic feelings? No, of course not – it was because advertisers threatened to withdraw their adverts from his papers. His withdrawal of support for the Blackshirts was purely financial.

Rothermere, of course, also chose to congratulate Hitler on his invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Now, I don’t know about you, but out of the two people , Viscount Rothermere and Ralph Miliband, I think it’s clear which side most definitely didn’t hate this country. Because as far as I can see it, no person who loves this country would actively wish Fascism upon it.

Recently, the Daily Mail tried to rebut these reminders of its own past by claiming they “were not relevant to the argument as Viscount Rothermere is dead and the comments were from 80 years ago”. Well, guess what, muckers, Ralph Miliband is also dead and made comments around 70 years ago (that the Daily Mail were more than happy to use in its attempt to smear Ed – yes, this was intended to be a dig at Ed Miliband rather than a serious political news article, as that’s how the Mail works) – I have no idea if that difference of ten years somehow makes one man’s adolescent diary entry relevant when an old man’s obvious political leanings from consistent newspaper articles are totally by the by. But I do know this – if I had the history of the Daily Mail, I wouldn’t be bringing up the past in the way they have done, because when you dig up the past, all you get is dirty.

Anyway, on to my next point – what about freedom of the press? Shouldn’t the press be free to print articles it believes is relevant to a political narrative? Short answer is maybe, but one thing I definitely think needs to happen is for the new regulator to have the power to compel editors to justify their stories in front of a televised panel. Because one thing the Daily Mail has continued to do throughout this whole charade is to dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge around any accusations that it has behaved massively unfairly. Of course, the Mail On Sunday does deserve a little credit because after it was reported that one of its journalists attempted to gatecrash a memorial service for one of Ed Miliband’s relatives in order to try to gain comment over Ralph Miliband (a step even the most rabid pressmonger realised was too far), it apologised and suspended the journalists involved. Now if only its big sister could be big enough to do the same, and admit it ran a very weak story with no real corroboration behind it solely as an attempt to smear Ed Miliband (guessing, quite wrongly, that he would stay silent in order to keep them on side). There is a campaign to get Paul Dacre, current editor of the Daily Mail, to appear himself and justify his story, and why he felt it was relevant. However, I do not expect for one second that Mr Dacre will have the courage to do so – far easier for him to send out his deputy editor, Jon Steafel, to defend it instead. And if anyone has any doubts, if the Mail DOES apologise at any stage for its smear on Ed, it will be through gritted teeth as it attempts to play the victim card…

There can be no doubt also that there will be more of this kind of story over the next 18 months

I have this nagging feeling that Mr Dacre believes the press should be beyond all interrogation, that the press should never have to face the kind of inquisitions that it forces other people to undergo if they happen to get on its wrong side in some way or another. This is done under the catch-all term of “press freedom”. And whilst I believe that it is good to have a press that prints stories it believes in, I also believe that we need to have a form of recourse for when they go too far, as in this case – it is essential that the new regulatory body has the power to compel editors to stand in front of a camera, and in front of a panel, and justify their stories. This does not hamper true press freedom, this enhances it. Because what it does is it allows actual proper investigative journalism to flourish, and forces papers to work properly.

I have no doubt there will be screaming about how this kind of plan would hamper freedom, but my answer is this: The press will still be free to print what they want, but they will have to be able to defend and justify it. If they fail to do so, then the regulatory body should have the power to force a full retraction and apology in equal prominence to the story that triggered the hearing. No more should “free press” be a licence to behave in any way they like. And the Daily Mail knows this kind of thing is coming, hence their “justification” based on the grounds that Leveson would gag them somehow.

Ed Miliband has won this battle – a glance around the internet suggests that people are siding more with him now, and that he appears stronger and a better candidate to lead because of this strength. So the Daily Mail rather shot itself in the foot, which is a happy outcome of their vicious smearing.

Game over, Mail. Your power will fade now that the people know exactly what you are. The politicians will be less afraid to stand up to your bullying. Time to grow up and become a REAL source of news.

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