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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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