Mooney, the Mail, and Me

Scott Hill

Image © Byzantine K

As hard as it may be to envisage, it is possible that some of you may have missed my appearance on BBC Radio Four’s Broadcasting House programme over the weekend. Thanks to the wonders of BBC iPlayer you can catch up here[1]. Typically, I forgot half of what I wanted to say and failed, in the small time allotted to the very broad topic of the Daily Mail’s impact on society, to produce a wholly satisfactory, coherent argument. Nevertheless, it was an interesting debate, but one I feel needs fleshing out further. But first, let us look at what was revealed during the 8 minute ding-dong.

My sparring partner throughout the debate was the Mail’s very own Bel Mooney. Immediately, Bel was forced to concede that she regularly receives criticism for daring to write for the infamous paper. She even acknowledged that the Mail “gets things wrong and often prints things I don’t agree with”. However, she failed to maintain sanity. She went on to describe the Mail as a “paper of absolute genius” and, when I dared to raise an example of the paper’s contradictory views on feminism, she declared: “Can we be more serious than that?” Coming from a Daily Mail defender, surely that must be the irony of all ironies.

Aside from the point I raised with regards to the double standard over feminism[2], I also managed to fit in a quote from a BNP activist (“The rhetoric of the Express and the Mail could come from one of our own newsletters[3]”), stated that my parents merely buy the Mail for its supposedly superior crossword, challenged the paper’s definition of what it means to be British (something that went ignored by both host and opponent) and asserted that Mr Dacre’s new corrections box on page two is simply not enough to convince me that the paper’s standards will significantly rise.

Regrettably, I was unable to draw upon all of my disturbing examples of Daily Mail indecency and duplicity. For instance, I did not get the opportunity to challenge Bel over a story published in the paper that ran with the headline: ‘English speaking pupils are a minority in inner-city London primary schools[4]’. This headline was a blatant lie. As is revealed within the story, pupils who speak English as their first language are a minority in a handful of schools, but the headline says something different altogether. Similarly, how about a piece published in 2010 that declared that Mohammed was Britain’s most popular name among newborn baby boys[5]. Once again, a complete fabrication.

Of course, Bel gleefully brought up the subject of Stephen Lawrence; repeating the commonly heard claim that the Mail led the field and helped gain justice for the Lawrence family. I wonder what the Lawrence family would have made of this ‘Rise of the Black Squirrel’[6] cartoon published this month. For that matter, what would they think of the BNP claiming that the Mail provides perfect propaganda for their election campaigns? The Stephen Lawrence case is merely being used by the Mail and its supporters as an unconvincing veil to hide all the prejudiced nonsense being spewed out on a daily basis.

Not once did Bel offer a satisfactory defence of (or justification for) the Mail’s unabashed anti-Islamic/anti-immigration/anti-foreigners stance. Instead, she laughably asserted that the Mail speaks up for the “silent majority” of Britons who see immigration as a “serious problem”. Unfortunately, I was unable to probe further as host Paddy O’Connell moved the conversation away from such murky waters. I would have loved to have asked Bel for hers views on Mail columnists such as Richard Littlejohn, Peter Hitchens, Melanie Phillips and Kelvin Mackenzie. How does one go about defending the sickening, warmongering, racist, bigoted, warped rants of such imbeciles?

Would she agree, for instance, with the following statement: Daily Mail columnists fuel xenophobic, bigoted attitudes by peddling their own false, ignorant opinions? Now there is an answer I would love to hear. Especially when the evidence weighs heavily in my favour. Between the aforementioned writers, they have mocked disabled protesters[7], accused Afghan migrants of jumping ahead of British soldiers in housing lists[8], banged the drum for war (the latest victim being Iran), have suggested that anti-depressants cause violent outbursts[9] and, during the recent Scottish independence discussions, accused the Scots of “pocketing [a] whacking subsidy[10]” from England. Classy!

Now, that is not to say there is no place for newspapers that sit somewhere between broadsheet and red-top; ground currently dominated by the Mail. However, it is imperative that said newspapers do not sink to the low depths of the tabloid media. The Mail is currently guilty of such behaviour. No amount of readership or website traffic justifies such repulsive conduct. But before the Daily Mail can begin to improve, individuals like Bel must at first accept that there is a problem. As Oscar Wilde once stated: “Everything popular is wrong”. It is fair to say that this statement appears accurate, especially when looked at in relation to today’s British media elite.


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