The Beast is Back: Campbell versus Dacre
October 5, 2013 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Having dealt with Daily Mail Deputy Editor Jon Steafel somewhat robustly on Newsnight this week during a discussion of the Daily Mail’s vilification of Labour leader Ed Milliband’s deceased father Ralph Milliband, a left-wing academic and Jewish refugee who also served in the Royal Navy in World War 2, the former New Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell (previously) has challenged the Daily Mail’s Editor in Chief Paul Dacre to a televised debate about the matter. While some have welcomed Campbell's forthright stance, others, more predictably, are hoping the whole thing will blow over soon.
posted by Chairboy (55 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Although I'm uneasy re: Alastair Campbell given his involvement (alleged) in sexing up the Iraq dossier, I am loving seeing his Malcolm Tucker in full-effect firing both barrels at Dacre and the vile Mail.

The TV debate almost certainly isn't going to happen, but would be fab if it did.
posted by rolandroland at 4:10 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]




Dacre will never show himself in public. I don't think he even has a human form. He's like the eye of Sauron, perched high up on Daily Mail Tower judging the whole of Britain against some imaginary golden age and finding it eternally wanting, the prick.
posted by permafrost at 4:12 AM on October 5, 2013 [19 favorites]


Ugh. I loathe the The Daily Mail with a passion and think it's high time someone in politics called them out on their behaviour. It's just a pity the fightback against the Mail only skims the surface of the damage they do, the lies they propagate and the everyday victims they target.

But Alastair Campbell, now back and reinventing himself as the wise old father of political reporting, is a terrible spokesperson for responsible reporting and constructive press/politician relations.

Campbell v The Mail is not a debate but mud wrestling. Campbell loves bear baiting but to what effect? The longer the "debate" goes on with the Mail in the middle, the muddier the debate becomes and the only winner is the Daily Mail, revelling like a pig in shit and harvesting clicks for ad spend.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:13 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also James Delingpole presumably thinks that this will blow over the same way that global climate change will blow over.
posted by permafrost at 4:15 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]




I don't think the Mail is antisemitic now. As for the BNP, British Jews are now more 'them' than 'us' (without suggesting British Jews have much interest in reciprocating) in the face of a more obvious and juicy target. The rules of the game have changed since the 1930s and while references to The Mail's support for fascism remind us of its remarkable consistency over time of being a shitty rag that works directly against the British values it claims to defend, they are a red herring.

The Daily Mail follows the standard playbook of the hard right, increasingly imported from the across the pond by bedwetting Atlanticist 'thinkers': anti Islam and pro Israel, with pretty obvious and predictable biases on immigration, immigrants, ethnic groups, benefits, housing, the youth of today, the working class, the BBC, working women, climate change and cancer. OK, I made the last one up.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:33 AM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


...and cancer. OK, I made the last one up.
You sure?
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:37 AM on October 5, 2013


... and the whole 'Red Menace' rhetoric. The Mail hates Miliband senior because he was a leftie, and worse, a leftie academic PAID FOR OUT OF THE TAXES OF HARDWORKING BRITONS TO HATE BRITAIN. Not because he was Jewish.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:37 AM on October 5, 2013


I like Alastair Campbell. He is very good at what he does.
And I particularly like his formulation of the Daily Mail as "the worst of British values posing as the best".
posted by chavenet at 4:38 AM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Campbell is Severus Snape to Dacre's Voldemort.
posted by Damienmce at 4:56 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Of course, anti-Semitic imagery in British politics has been known before...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:57 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like Alastair Campbell. He is very good at what he does.

What he did, for Blair, was to prepare lies and false documents that he then fed to the newspapers in order to build support for the Iraq war. Hundreds of thousands of people are now dead as a direct result of these actions.

A good example would be the '45 MINUTES FROM ATTACK' story that he prepared for the London Evening Standard. He chaired Blair's notorious 'sofa meetings' at which even the goons from the secret police were shocked at his casual disregard for any kind of belief in democracy or truth.

Campbell has zero right to lecture the Daily Mail on anything, least of all 'British values'.

I'm looking forward to the Mail going for him big-time from now on. I'd like them to start with a 'dossier' on his financial affairs - he now works as a consultant to the government of Kazakhstan.
posted by colie at 4:57 AM on October 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Of course, anti-Semitic imagery in British politics has been known before...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:57 PM on October 5


I've never seen that before. Fucking hell.
posted by dng at 5:10 AM on October 5, 2013


The comedian Frankie Boyle said that the ideal Mail headline would be 'Immigrants Carry New Form Of AIDS That Lowers House Prices', and he was right.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:11 AM on October 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


The upside to the Daily Mail being utter shuts has been the widespread exposure of their dirty laundry over Twitter and the like - the more people aware they backed the Blackshirts and their founder hung out with Hitler the better, and no they haven't changed much.

The downside to the upside, I guess is the reemergence of Alastair Campbell. Fuck that guy for ever, his lies killed people.

This may actually make the Mail look good.
posted by Artw at 6:08 AM on October 5, 2013


It's hard to over-emphasis the loathing the chattering classes have for the Daily Maiil; it is the closest we have to a Fox News in its swaggering, arrogant mendacity. and many - myself included - think it is an actual force for reactionary evil and close-minded misery across the land.

However, it's over-reached itself this time and has dented its own sense of its invulnerability. Whether this is significant or not, I don't know; I don't pretend to understand the mind-set of its readership. I've met quite a few perfectly normal and amiable professional types, mostly women for some reason, who really don't understand what's wrong with the rag or why I should be so het up about them reading it. They know it lies to them, but don't care - and actively absorb what it's saying. You humans have a very odd habit of abandoning rational thought

Anyway, one pleasant effect of the affair is that just about everyone feels enabled, entitled and compelled to pile on, especially in the media. Here's Mehdi Hasan, (biographer of Ed MIlliband and political editor of HuffPo UK) lletting rip on BBC 1's Question Time on Thursday (The Mail has replied by publishing a letter he wrote to them in 2010 asking for a column; it's a small world in UK political journalism).
posted by Devonian at 6:10 AM on October 5, 2013 [6 favorites]




I can't link it because its pay walled but the FT had a pretty amusing columnist confessing to the fault of having "Mailist" genes as his father worked there.
posted by JPD at 6:23 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whenever I see someone buying The Daily Hate I always think to myself 'well you're not a very nice person are you'... it'll be hard to resist not openingly tutting mow.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:24 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh and anti-Semitism (and anti-Reds/any one a bit left wing is a Soviet mole prejudice) in certain parts of British society never went away... there's just more obvious targets now in Muslims, Poles etc. I remember a couple of BNP docs I've seen that had plenty of 'yid' comments.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:27 AM on October 5, 2013


Famously overheard at a London society do in the late 30s... "The trouble with Hitler is he's made anti-semitism so unfashionable these days".
posted by Devonian at 6:34 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even apart from the anti-semitism, the owners of the Daily Mail are tax avoiding scum who have the company registered in a tax haven why they themselves have non-dom status: they life in the UK but not for tax purposes.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:38 AM on October 5, 2013


Also, it's not a coincidence that the Mail's two minute hate happened only a week after Ed Miliband announced that Labour would freeze electricity prices for three years if they won the next elections. Capitalism is scared even of milquetoast reformist like Ed.

Meanwhile some Tory MPs just stopped pretending alltogether and stuck to just regurgitating the electricy companies' talking points directly.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:43 AM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


and cancer. OK, I made the last one up.

Bless you. And just for that... here's Russell Howard's Daily Mail Cancer Song
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:05 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, it's over-reached itself this time and has dented its own sense of its invulnerability. Whether this is significant or not, I don't know; I don't pretend to understand the mind-set of its readership. I've met quite a few perfectly normal and amiable professional types, mostly women for some reason, who really don't understand what's wrong with the rag or why I should be so het up about them reading it. They know it lies to them, but don't care - and actively absorb what it's saying. You humans have a very odd habit of abandoning rational thought

Devonian,
I think your semi-obit for the Mail's sense of its own invulnerability is, sadly, just wishful thinking.

I loathe the Mail too, but I also recognize it is as a very slick & enduring beast.

It famously pays its columnists & guest feature writers (and its libel lawyers!) absolute top dollar, almost every line of every story is edited for maximum provocative entertainment value & it is also caters (perniciously) to both cynically muddled conservative politics AND celebrity obsession.

Though whether the Mail is for or against celebrities is sometimes hard to say!

You say: "I don't pretend to understand the mind-set of its readership". The really scary thing is that the Mail does understand - and it is very very, very good at using this knowledge to survive.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:09 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


.. anti-Semitism (and anti-Reds/any one a bit left wing is a Soviet mole prejudice) in certain parts of British society never went away ...

Yep. See also, this excellent column from David Baddiel about why football fans chanting "yid" is race hatred.
posted by fight or flight at 7:11 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Mail is what you buy if you are vaguely racist, reactionary and want all your prejudices to be confirmed. Reading it as a one off will also reinforce prejudices about Mail readers.
posted by jaduncan at 7:38 AM on October 5, 2013


For reference, the Daily Mail is the second highest circulation newspaper in the UK. The first is The Sun. In 2012 there were 9 copies of the Daily Mail sold for every copy of The Guardian sold. I don't really know who buys the Daily Mail, but whoever they are, there are a lot of them.
posted by memebake at 7:59 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm daring to hope that this means not just the end of Labour pandering to the Mail but a new willingness to take on right-wing prejudices about social security and immigration that are founded in myth (for example the public believes 27% of benefit claims are fraudulent, the actual figure is under 1%), and especially the divisive and almost-never-challenged idea that unemployed people are lazy. Come on Ed, you can do it.
posted by tomcooke at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


colie: "Campbell has zero right to lecture the Daily Mail on anything, least of all 'British values'."

Hate the messenger if you will, but not the message. Campbell is a highly efficient communicator. He has used this skill for evil, but much more often for good. There's no reason to discard his lecturing to the Daily Mail just because it is him doing the lecturing.
posted by chavenet at 9:34 AM on October 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


JPD: "Mailist" genes"

The genes we get from the Mail line (FT)
posted by chavenet at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2013


Oh arrgh, that FT link turned back into a paywalled link. Sorry. If you google news for "Mailist Genes" you should get a clickable non-paywalled link to this column.
posted by chavenet at 9:40 AM on October 5, 2013


Campbell has zero right to lecture the Daily Mail on anything, least of all 'British values'.

That could have come straight out of a Daily Mail or Morning Star column. You may not want him to have the right, but I do because he sure has the ability.
posted by epo at 9:52 AM on October 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Campbell is a highly efficient communicator.

I disagree. He is petulant, arrogant, repetitive and tetchy, and TV amplifies this.

If you want to pick the lesser of two evils, it is the Daily Mail. They are both peddlers of lies designed to make the population more obedient, but Campbell has done it from inside the very heart of what is supposed to be a 'democracy' - unlike the Mail, which simply offers its product for sale, most of which (measured by column inches) is harmless celebrity tittle-tattle.

Certainly the Morning Star is far less evil than either of them, so I'll take that as a compliment.
posted by colie at 10:54 AM on October 5, 2013


The Mail is what you buy if you are vaguely racist, reactionary and want all your prejudices to be confirmed. Reading it as a one off will also reinforce prejudices about Mail readers.

Just like FoxNews in the U.S. Too bad nobody here is as willing to engage them for the extremist propaganda IT is. (The rest of the news media is too busy trying to get work there for job security)
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:07 AM on October 5, 2013


Tom Ewing:
The thing you always have to remember about the Daily Mail is that the Daily Mail is old and very strange. It is also very bad, of course, but its malignancy is quite unlike, say, Murdoch’s. Murdoch knows what he wants and his newspapers are instruments for getting it - and inasmuch as what he wants is a world of laissez-faire economics with commercial media selling to a mostly self-interested population, he has succeeded. The tone of the Murdoch press is self-righteous, often angry, but never fearful. It’s a vigorous, scaleable model - it works in most countries.

There isn’t anything quite like the Mail in other countries, though, because the Mail isn’t like that. The Mail cannot win. The Mail is still at heart a Victorian paper in a world where most of what a Victorian paper might have cared about has been lost. The Mail is self-pitying, fearful, vicious and desperate. It is Gollum and “Great Britain”, Imperial Britain is its Precious. All the weirdness of the Victorian mind is there in the Daily Mail - its secret lusts (“all grown up”), its moralising, its self-loathing self-policing, its addiction to mysticism (you don’t get Crystal Skull and Bible Code bullshit in the Sun), its love of snake oil and quackery, its worship of hype, its infinite snobbery, and obviously its foundational horror of and fascination with the Other. The Sun presented its readers with a ready-made self-image, a character class they could adopt. The Mail has always drawn on what’s really there. The end of Empire is the great wound in British culture, and the Daily Mail is its endlessly picked scab.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 11:16 AM on October 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


That letter to the Daily Mail from a couple of years ago:

I’m sick of it all!

I’m sick of Melvyn Bragg, Hugh Grant, Joan Bakewell, and Anne Robinson. I’m sick of Vince Cable, the entire Labour Shadow Cabinet and all politicians.

I’m sick of squatters and travellers, pop music, British food, the BBC, surveillance cameras, my rotten pension, terrorists, Anglican bishops and having no money, and I just want to die.

My country, which I loved, is ruined. It will never be happy again. It is all self, self, self, moan, moan, moan. I cannot wait to get out and rest in peace.

Harry Simpson, Northwich, Cheshire.
posted by Mister Bijou at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reading around this last night I found out that The Paper That Supported Hitler was not the only paper that supported Hitler.

This post by Matt Wardman shows that The Mirror did too.

Further detail on that (and more) from Roy Greenslade in the Guardian; it seems that few British newspapers acquitted themselves too well in the 1930's.

This is not in any way to defend the Mail - it was particularly loathsome then and it is particularly loathsome now. But this makes it all the more important to be accurate in attacking its loathsomeness.
posted by motty at 11:54 AM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Royal Navy service doesn't indicate pro- or anti-British sentiment, does it, coming after the German attack on the Soviet Union? Communists were instructed that the war was an imperial capitalist tiff until Stalin got whacked. But from 1941 onwards every good Communist should have fought the Fascists, no matter in whose armed forces they served.

Whatever. He was 17/18. If he wrote in his diaries that Satan himself was a good guy, it doesn't matter. We all think lots of things when we're 17/18 that we look back on with horror or amusement. And when we're 39 as well, no doubt.
posted by alasdair at 12:29 PM on October 5, 2013


never gets old : Charlie Brooker's Daily Mail Island (NSFW)

yay for Alistair Campbell too
posted by Bwithh at 2:25 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]




True, but initially the paper had intended to write a negative story about the Lawrences' campaign for justice, it was only the realisation that Neville Lawrence had actually done some plastering in the past at Dacre's house that prompted the call from on high to search for a more sympathetic angle on the story.
posted by Chairboy at 3:42 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wonder why the DM decided to run such an explosive piece that all but ensured the Conservative party conference is obliterated from the news?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:28 PM on October 5, 2013


Chairboy - really? Do you have a cite for that - it's a fascinating titbit.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:28 PM on October 5, 2013


This reminds me of the scenes in Ray Harryhausen films where the heroes watch two huge hideous monsters fight each other.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:29 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chairboy - Had that verified by Private Eye and other sources.
posted by quarsan at 12:29 AM on October 6, 2013


Wonder why the DM decided to run such an explosive piece that all but ensured the Conservative party conference is obliterated from the news?

I seriously doubt they expected it to blow up like this - Labour has been ignoring attacks like this since Milliband won the leadership, and in Daily Mail world it isn't in any way controversial to suggest that being left wing is incompatible with Britishness. In fact, if you look at Cameron's conference speech, it's full of the same 'Red Ed wants to take us back to the 70s' drivel seen in the Mail, part of the same campaign to brand Milliband a dirty commie.

Unless you're implying that the Mail are limbering up to drop the Tories and back Ukip?

MuffinMan - Nick Davies' broke that story in his (rather good, profoundly depressing) book Flat Earth News, and Dacre has never denied it, confirming vaguely in this interview that 'he had done several days plastering work in my house some years previously'. Also, Private Eye made a big deal of it and didn't get sued, so...

Reading between the lines, I doubt Dacre said 'This man was once my plasterer, we must support him!', rather any slight whiff of a personal connection meant that no one at the Mail would dare run the standard kneejerk 'Police good! Black people bad!' line without checking first. Whatever, the Mail should be praised for its Lawrence campaign, even if it's the only example of them being on the right side of a story in living memory.
posted by jack_mo at 12:43 AM on October 6, 2013


Oops, my reading between the lines was total bollocks - seems Neville Lawrence 'phoned Dacre up and asked him to stop being a dickhead, and it worked! Doreen Lawrence covers it in her book, quoted in The Guardian:
The answer to that isn't in the Mail, but in Doreen Lawrence's book about her own fight for justice. It's a simple scenario. Stephen is dead. His parents have launched their fight to bring his killers to book. There's a protest riot. The Mail does an interview with Neville and Doreen and uses a photograph of them that "seems to imply that we had caused the riot". Wrong, wrong, wrong. But how do you put it right?

"That was when we remembered that Neville had done some building work at the house of Paul Dacre … and Neville was able, through other journalists, to reach him on the phone and asked him 'How could you do that, and you know me?'". Whereupon the Mail became "surprisingly supportive" of the Lawrence cause. The human spark had turned into a flame. Human contact had made all the difference – and launched a pretty remorseless campaign across front page after front page. The editor himself was involved, and committed.
posted by jack_mo at 1:16 AM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


A left-wing columnist for the left-of-centre New Statesman writes: The Daily Mail has its better angels too: Whatever its faults, the paper was responsible for the best, most courageous and most impactful newspaper front page of my lifetime - on Stephen Lawrence

Good point.

But since this is always trotted out whenever the Mail disgusts everyone - which is getting to be a regular occurrence - could anyone name one more example of the Mail doing something that isn't craven or reprehensible ?
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 4:14 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, Mr Dacre is a former member of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and current chairman of the Editors' Code of Practice Committee which writes the PCC code of practice for newspaper and magazine journalists.

Let that sink in for a moment.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 4:16 AM on October 6, 2013


This is sort of essential watching esp if you have any lingering doubts - Why The Dail Mail Is Evil from mefi previous
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:24 AM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


MuffinMan - I saw that the other day while reading around this - I'll try to remember where I saw it.
posted by Chairboy at 5:30 AM on October 6, 2013


Sorry - haste got the better of me - I see that question's been answered.
posted by Chairboy at 5:33 AM on October 6, 2013


Alistair Campbell's written statement to the Leveson Inquiry is an extraordinary and enlightening read for anyone not familiar with the way British journalism works (PDF of scanned document so large and not searchable, but worth it).

I loathe and despise the man, but there's no denying that he knows his subject and he doesn't pull his punches.
posted by Hogshead at 6:59 AM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


« Older Driving Cadillacs in Our Dreams   |   This Sceptred Isle Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments