Has the Daily Mail Jumped the Shark?

The TV show Happy Days in many people’s view went in to a terminal decline when The Fonze jumped over a shark whilst water-skiing. Watching the show always involved suspending disbelief to quite a large extent as the Fonze is clearly a ridiculous character but the point when he jumped over a shark was the point at which the writers went too far. Was it hubris or over-confidence or simply desperation that led the writers to take their audience for granted? Either way it was a watershed moment. I wonder whether the Mail has similarly over-reached itself – not with its attack on Ed Miliband via his father so much, but by their attempted defence.

fonzie_jumps_the_shark

In many ways the attack on Ralph Miliband was typical of the Daily Mail – it is typical of their Modus Operandi: prejudicial, ill-conceived and misrepresentive of the subject. This response by Miliband Senior’s biographer is very telling.

The sole basis for this assertion was a diary entry at the age of 16 in autumn 1940, where Ralph Miliband wrote that “the Englishman is a rabid nationalist” and, “when you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show how things are.” Such sentiments might sound shocking, but they need to be put into their real context.

A few months earlier Miliband had arrived in Britain with his father, having walked from Brussels to Ostend, where they took the last boat leaving for Britain. While working hard to improve his English, he was also spending much of his time wandering through the streets of London trying to make sense of his new environment. He was in a constant state of anxiety about the fate of his sister and mother, who had remained in Nazi occupied Belgium as stateless Jews.

Because he believed that the earlier appeasement of Hitler was largely responsible for the situation, he was occasionally exasperated by the atmosphere of complacency and superiority amongst the British upper classes, and this no doubt provoked his intemperate diary outburst.

There is nothing new in any of this: The Mail has done this to many others. What is unusual is that Daily Mail could not deny Ed Miliband a response.

 

The petulance that accompanied the printing of Ed Miliband very measured article was impressive to behold.

Ed Miliband:

Britain has always benefited from a free Press. Those freedoms should be treasured. They are vital for our democracy. Journalists need to hold politicians like me to account — none of us should be given an easy ride — and I look forward to a robust 19 months between now and the General Election.

<snip>

The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency. But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician — any politician — in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.

There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse.

I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run.

The Daily Mail Comment

Red Ed’s in a strop with the Mail. Doubtless, he’s miffed that his conference was overshadowed by the revelations of his former friend, the spin doctor Damian McBride, serialised in this paper, which exposed the poisonous heart of the Labour Party.

Nor did he see the funny side when we ridiculed the yucky, lovey-dovey photographs of him and his wife, behaving like a pair of hormonal teenagers in need of a private room.

But what has made him vent his spleen — indeed, he has stamped his feet and demanded a right of reply — is a Mail article by Geoffrey Levy on Saturday about the Labour leader’s late father, Ralph, under the arresting headline ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’.

They seem to want us to believe it was an act of great magnanimity for them to publish the response rather the act of cowardice and calculation it really was. They know how much worse it would be if it was published elsewhere under the headline What the Mail refused to print. The choice of the grave photo shows the standard dehumanising attitude of the DM to those they oppose – although to be fair to them they have at-least acknowledged that this was in poor taste. Note the choice of language – responding to a deeply personal attack on his father, Ed is characterised as behaving childishly, whilst the Mail repeat the words ‘evil’ in reference to Ralph Miliband’s views.

If the professional ethos of journalism is to speak the truth to power then the Mail is undoubtably the very antithesis of a journalistic organisation. The reaction to this particular example though is interesting. The hardcore Mailites remain loyal but their wider credibility as a newspaper has been compromised. I – and many others – have long seen through them but the Mail has always maintained this pretence of seriousness. It is interesting, and not a little ironic, to see this pretence stripped away by their own bloody-mindedness. While Stephen Glover whines about the leftist conspiracy and alleged hypocrisy, the country at-large seems to take a different view. I find myself wondering if they have perhaps over-reached themselves this time?

I for one, truly hope so.

 

AFZ

Stop buying the Daily Mail: it is not out to help you

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on this blog, or indeed have written anything about anything. Yet every now and again the Daily Mail does something that stirs up Twitter and occasionally it makes me want to make some sort of comment, but I don’t get round to it or I feel as if everything has already been said. But as it has been such a long time since I blogged about just what a terrible newspaper the Daily Mail is, I thought it worth going over again.

The Daily Mail is a cowardly newspaper. Attacking Ed Miliband through his dead father is just the latest in the long line of comment published solely in an attempt to discredit someone (without ever wanting to actually debate the points made). The argument of the press that it exists as a check and balance to the rich and powerful has long been a sick joke (too often repeated by spineless politicians of all bland and samey flavours who are too scared to court the vitriol of the industry) and the state of our society today is evidence enough that they have not provided any kind of check to the power of big business or giddy politicians.

The Daily Mail is part of a press that is largely part of the system of control, the noisy attack dog of big business and politicians bent on giving the last remnants of the state over to private firms to run into the ground for the benefit of a few shareholders – who increasingly hoover up the wealth of the planet into the hands of a few thousands of people (money does not ‘trickle down’ in the form of capitalism the world has been forced to adopt, it steadily – and increasingly rapidly – flows up; evidenced by the fact that the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us squabble around for ever smaller bites of the capitalist apple).

The Daily Mail is not a newspaper, it never has been. It is a wonderfully successful vehicle to ensure that enough people largely fear and despise one another whilst not really noticing that the people around them are, in fact, just like them; only different in some inconsequential way. The Daily Mail is brilliantly evil because it doesn’t do this by carpet bombing the nation with free newspaper drops, it actually sells this hatred to a willing public. One of the things that society enjoys repeating is the sorry cycle of electing politicians who wear different colour ties, but enact policies that are largely the same. We boot out the Tories, only to then boot out Labour for being just as bad… just to return the Tories; who are terrible, so we vote in Labour and so on.

We exist in a permanent state of limbo in which politicians only focus on short-term populism which ultimately results in bad choices and long-term decline. Politicians only attempt to make changes that they can push through in their short time in office, each competing vainly to make the biggest impact during their time on stage – a stage which they are normally ill-equipped on which to stand (Michael Gove possibly being the worst of the current very sorry bunch). Thus politicians dabble in education, bringing in sweeping changes on nothing more than a whim and a misty-eyed view of their own schooling, reorganize the NHS, safe in the knowledge that the next incumbent will only serve to twist it into a different shape anyway.

Meanwhile the country drifts towards blackout because a long-term energy strategy is expensive, unpopular and doesn’t give the politician the chance to make a noticeable mark in the same way that blaming teachers for the state of education does (hint: teachers are not the reason why education is increasingly becoming the antithesis of the word). Part of our inability to take action, to understand the problems that we face, is the constant disinformation spread by the Daily Mail and it’s sorry cohort of newspapers determined to maintain the status quo and indeed tighten the grip of the rich around the throats of just about everyone (they allow us just enough breath to watch TV and buy more shit we don’t need to distract ourselves from the misery of existing in a world in which millions die of starvation, whilst millions shovel money into the hands of false saviours to try and halt their descent into morbid obesity).

We can’t get out of this cycle unless we organise ourselves and change politics to actually work for the majority. We need a long-term energy goal, we need worthwhile jobs and decent housing for all. I sometimes feel that we look back through history at the rigid class system and extremes in wealth and poverty as if those days are gone, when clearly little has changed. It’s not enough to point to Alan Sugar and argue that the class system is dead, its just that most people born on housing estates clearly aren’t working hard enough (although the media seems intent on trying to make this case).

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: we will not move forward as a society or planet if we keep buying newspapers, or indeed willingly believe most forms of media with which we are bombarded. These organisations are not looking out for us, they are there to silence us, to bully us into submission with the their power, or cower us into inaction because we fear the fellow citizens without which we are incapable of enacting change.

Buying most newspapers is an antisocial act, reading the Daily Mail and disseminating the hate within is akin to smoking and blowing smoke into the faces of the people around you. You can’t avoid the health hazards of smoking if people smoke around you, anymore than you can avoid the poison breathed by the readership of the Daily Mail. Turning your back is not an option, the Daily Mail will not be defeated with a blind eye, it needs to be stared down.

Buying the Daily Mail should be as socially unacceptable as drink driving – we don’t care if you die from your own stupidity, but it’s the danger you cause to others that we will not tolerate.

P.S. it would also help if millions of people slapped themselves firmly around the face and realised that the lives of celebrities are a pointless distraction and stopped making the Daily Mail website one of the busiest on earth.

Just imagine a world in which people spent time informing themselves about the things that matter instead of reading celebrity drivel. The things we might achieve.