The Daily Mail – some history
By David Mitchell
What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.
Those were the words of Stanley Baldwin, quoting his cousin Rudyard Kipling in the years leading up to the Second World War.
Nothing much has changed in certain parts of the press and Humanists and other visitors to this website will have read about the furore caused by the scurrilous article in the Daily Mail on 20th March by James Chapman making wild and inaccurate accusations against the BHA. Whilst the article has now been removed from the Daily Mail website there has been no attempt to correct the contents or to apologise for the article. The biggest selling daily paper in Britain has got away with it once again. Hundreds of thousands of readers now probably equate Humanism with Al Qaeda. The damage is done. I can’t hope to reach that sort of readership and undo the damage but it might be helpful for visitors to our site to learn a few things about the Daily Mail of which they might have been unaware.
I’m pleased to say that the authors Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur of the 2006 best seller, “Is it Just me, Or Is Everything Shit”, together with the book’s publishers Little Brown, have given us permission to reproduce the article about the Daily Mail from that book on this website. You might be surprised, but probably not too much!
The Mail is very keen on tradition, heritage and ‘never forgetting’ all sorts of heroic British endeavours. Unfortunately, the great publishing institution appears to have accidentally forgotten one particularly heroic aspect of its own heritage—viz. their wholehearted support for the fascism of Hitler, Mussolini and Oswald Mosley. How terribly absent minded of them.
Acclaim for Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists kicked off on 8th January 1934 with the unequivocal headline; ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’ Some Mail staff even wore black shirts to work. Lord Rothermere, the paper’s owner, wrote of the BUF in the 15th January 1934 issue that they were ‘a well-organised party of the Right ready to take over responsibility for social affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini displayed’. Oh, good.
Rothermere and the Mail broke with Mosley in June 1934, when the Blackshirts brutally suppressed (that is, kicked the shit out of) Communist Party supporters who disrupted a BUF meeting at the giant Olympia hall in Kensington, London—although not before investing (and now losing) £70,000 in New Epoch Products Ltd., a business arrangement with Mosley whereby the Blackshirts were to sell cigarettes made by Rothermere.
Towards Mussolini, meanwhile, the Mail was ‘always friendly’ (SJ Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail). In November 1926, Italy’s fascist supremo dropped a hand-written line to G. Ward Price, the paper’s Chief Correspondent, congratulating him on his appointment as a director: ‘my dear Price, I am glad you have become a director of the Daily Mail, and I am sure that your very popular and widely circulated newspaper will continue to be a sincere friend of fascist Italy. With best wishes and greetings, Mussolini.
Through the 30s, the Mail was ‘the only major British daily to take a consistently pro-Nazi line’: it ‘stuck out like a sore thumb’ (Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany 1933-39). Rothermere penned a July 1933 leader, ‘youth triumphant’, praising the Nazi regime for its ‘accomplishments, both spiritual and material’. True, he admitted, there had been ‘minor misdeeds of individual Nazis’ but these would certainly be ‘submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing on Germany’. So complimentary was the article, the Nazis used it for propaganda.
Rothermere eventually struck up a friendship with Hitler – or ‘My dear Fuhrer’ as he invariably began his regular correspondences – and visited him numerous times. Rothermere and Ware Price were among only three or four foreigners invited to Hitler’s first ever dinner party at his official Berlin residence. Rothermere, ever the gent, presented the Fuhrer with some Ferrero Rocher. Probably.
In 1937, Ward Price – who ‘was believed to Rothermere’s mouthpiece not only by the public but by Ward Price himself’ (Taylor) – published a chatty memoir about his great mates Hitler and Mussolini entitled ‘I Know These Dictators’. Last revised and reprinted in August 1938 – when fascism’s dark intents were obvious to even the most ardent reactionary – the book called Mussolini ‘a successful man of the world who is expert at his job and enjoys doing it’ and spoke warmly of Hitler’s ‘human, pleasant personality.’ The chapter ‘The Human Side of Hitler’ (not a phrase you hear very often) revealed that, alongside his affection for kiddies and doggies, the great dictator was also partial to the odd chocolate Ã©clair: Naughty but nice’, as the Fuhrer used to say.
Price urged readers of ‘I Know These Dictators’ to keep an ‘open mind’ on fascism. Of Hitler’s initial wave of repression on gaining power, he wrote: ‘The Germans were made to feel the firm hand of their new master. Being Germans, they liked it.’
The concentration camps – about which ‘gross and reckless accusations (have been) made’ – were just full of dirty Reds. The Night of the Long Knives, when Hitler took on his party rivals – by killing them all – was a sensible bit of forward planning avoiding the need for lots of silly arguments later on. Overall, ‘in every respect of the German nation’s life the constructive influence of the Nazi regime (was) seen’. The only people who suffered were a few troublesome ‘minorities’. Like, for instance, the Jews.
In the chapter ‘Germany’s Jewish Problem’ (the title’s something of a giveaway), Price explains how the Jews only had themselves to blame as there had been too large a Jewish immigration to Germany following World War I: ‘The cause of this migration was the collapse of the German currency, which gave the Jews of neighbouring countries a chance after their own heart to make big profits.’
Lord Rothermere last visited Hitler in May 1938. While other papers condemned the regime’s brutality and oppression, the Mail still claimed Germany was ‘in the forefront of nations’ and that Hitler was ‘stronger than ever and more popular with his countrymen’. On 1 October 1938, after the signing of the Munich treaty in which Britain and France appeased Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia’s disputed Sudetenland region, Rothermere sent a telegram to Hitler: ‘MY DEAR FUHRER EVERYONE IN ENGLAND IS PROFOUNDLY MOVED BY THE BLOODLESS SOLUTION OF THE CZECHOSLOVAKIAN PROBLEM STOP PEOPLE NOT SO MUCH CONCERNED WITH TERRITORIAL READJUSTMENT AS WITH THE DREAD OF ANOTHER WAR WITH ITS ACCOMPANYING BLOODBATH STOP FREDERICK THE GREAT A GREAT POPULAR FIGURE IN ENGLAND MAY NOT ADOLF THE GREAT BECOME AN EQUALLY POPULAR FIGURE STOP I SALUTE YOUR EXCELLENCY’S STAR WHICH RISES HIGHER AND HIGHER.
Oddly enough, ‘Hitler the Great’ never did become a popular figure in England or, indeed, any other part of the British Isles. When war was finally declared in September 1939, Rothermere reportedly uttered just two words: ‘Ah’ and then ‘Bugger’.
Ward Price finally broke with Hitler following the March 1939 invasion of Czechoslovakia. Only a ‘foreign policy issue’ (Griffiths) could provoke this shift in his opinions: ‘Germany’s internal policies, even at the extreme moment of the Kristallnacht Pogrom, could never have had such an effect.’
Strangely, though, that’s not how he remembered the whole thing afterwards. In his 1957 memoir, Extra-Special Correspondent, he ‘recalls’ how he always thought Hitler was weak and neurotic. Saw through it all from the start. Never even owned a black shirt. Some of his best friends, etc.,etc.
Price was clearly suffering from an affliction still rife at the paper today: a version of false memory syndrome that makes you forget you used to be a bit of an old fascist.
It can only but make you wonder what would have happened if the Nazis had won the war. Presumably in the newly fascist Britain they would soon have found a collaborator in their old friend Rothermere. Then we might have ended up with the Daily Mail pouring forth reactionary bile against immigrants, gays, trade unionists, asylum seekers, women . . .