On the Left, when commentators are groping for an argument, it is an occasional theme is to attack the Daily Mail for having supported Oswald Mosley’s British Fascist movement for a time 80 years ago in the 1930s.
How tired I am of the pious pontificating of the Daily Mail towards the next move in my business life, and after their article on Saturday just look at what I’ve dug up about the Daily Mail and it’s historic link with Hitler’s Nazi party – what an anti-Semitic past it had.
when she quoted Ken Livingstone from the Guardian
Associated Newspapers has always led the charge against the policies that confront racism and anti-semitism. It praised the Blackshirts in the 1930s, and admits that as recently as the retirement party of the last editor of the Daily Mail, two of its staff dressed in Nazi uniforms and were not asked to leave.
Owen Jones has positioned the Daily Mail ‘campaigning for a Fascist State in Britain’ as a background feature in the possible ‘Death of British Democracy’ through over-zealous policing of political protest.
Owen also gives walk-on parts to policing of flying pickets in the Miners’ Strike, the (incorrect) use of Anti Terrorism stop and search powers against Walter Wolfgang, and the use of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 against persistent anti-Arms Trade demonstrators :
If you were a genuine democrat at the turn of 1937, you would have been scared. Fascism was on the march across Europe. Italy had fallen first; German Nazism had shut down the world’s greatest labour movement virtually overnight and was upping the persecution of the Jews; and a fascist-backed military coup against Spain’s left-leaning government had plunged the country into a nightmare civil war.
Here in Britain, Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts – backed by the likes of the Daily Mail – were loudly agitating for a fascist government on the European model. Could British democracy fall next? Without the benefit of hindsight, and with the tragic complacency of many imprisoned (or dead) European leftists seared on to your recent memory, you could not be sure that the lights would not go out here, too.
He suggests that there’s a realistic parallel between the 1930s and now, as if there is some threat to democracy in the UK when protests with a record of turning violent are controlled.
The Daily Mail even gets a walk on part at media blog Enemies of Reason – and Steven Baxter is at least 7,940,287 times more sensible than Anita Roddick ever was:
It’s no different today, with many readers getting angry with the way the Mail reports the story and calls the EDL a ‘magnet for neo-Nazi thugs’ and compares them with Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirts (who, as we all know, the Daily Mail supported back in the day, but that’s by the by).
I came across a counterpoint to the Mosley-Mail spectre, in a book by Matthew Sweet I’m currently reading: “The West End Front: The Wartime Secrets of London’s Grand Hotels” (*) highlighting casual Antisemitism:
“I am going back to a quiet family life, and shall do my best to forget what has happened in the past”, [Josephine] Green told the Daily Mirror, which pictured her sitting on the sofa of her parents’ home on Park Lane. The copy-editor chose to pull out, underline and embolden four words from the story – ‘Rich Jew of 75′ – a phrase calculated to invoke the disgust of the reader.
The three other most prominent elements on the page were a photograph of a Red Cross nurse tending a casualty on a rubble-strewn pavement , a portrait of a blonde seven-year-old pulled from the ruins of a bombed house , and a report from Glasgow about a pair of convicted war profiteers with the un-Hibernian names of Max Schönbach and Benjamin Brazil”.
This was 29 October 1940, and the paper was the Daily Mirror.
Similarly, while the Mail is made famous for a “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” headline in 1934 – which features in the Mail’s Wikipedia entry, the Mirror ran – in the same month – a piece entitled “Give the Blackshirts a helping hand”.
You won’t find it featured in the Wikipedia article about the Mirror, though.
So, am I defending the Mail?
No, just pointing out the weakness of any argument which has to pick up a label from almost a century ago to try and win an argument in 2011.
That no more wins a debate than does pointing out that John Reid or Lord Mandelson used to be Communists before they grew up, or that George Osborne had an interesting ‘dalliance’ at University.
I was going to put in a photo of the whole Mirror page in this article, but I was thwarted by our wonderful new British Newspaper Archive which was all over the media yesterday. The archive, created by the taxpayer-funded British Library from a taxpayer-funded National Archive, turns out to be charging taxpayers to look at the things which already belong to us. In any case, they have not yet reached 1940.
By contrast, the Library of Congress from the Land of the Evil Capitalists applies no significant restrictions to its online newspaper archive.
Back in 2003 the Independent ran an article by Chris Horrie, author of “Tabloid Nation: From the birth of the Mirror to the death of the tabloid newspaper“, which explored the subject of the Daily Mirror’s ‘forgotten’ history.
On Monday, 22 January, 1934 the Mirror ran the headline “Give the Blackshirts a helping hand”. The paper went one further than the Mail, urging readers to join Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, and giving the address to which to send membership applications.
“As a purely British organisation, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics,” the Mirror told readers, complaining that “timid alarmists” had “been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps”.
This was nonsense, the Mirror said, the result of ignorance of the reality of “Blackshirt government” in Hitler’s Germany: “The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power.”
The paper added that anyone who had visited Germany or Mussolini’s Italy “would find that the mood of the vast majority of their inhabitants was not cowed submission but confident enthusiasm.”
The Mirror’s Sunday sister paper, then known as The Pictorial, followed up with a Hello!-style picture essay showing uniformed blackshirt paramilitaries playing table tennis and enjoying a sing-song around the piano while off duty inside the Black House, Mosley’s barracks-cum-dungeon on London’s King’s Road.
The Mirror and the Pictorial also planned a photographic beauty contest aimed at finding Britain’s prettiest woman fascist – though Mosley personally objected to this, saying the paper was trivialising his movement.
This article has vanished from the Independent website, but not the Google cache – so I have uploaded a copy here.
(*) I recommend Matthew Sweet’s the book in small chunks; it’s an extended gossip about goings-on at high end hotels in the war years. A good one for the lavatory, like Private Eye, that is a bit much in chunks bigger than about 10 minutes.