The Tories thought they were going to win some kind of PR coup by using their 2013 party conference to do little more than announce that they've completely run out of ideas and their only policies are even more malicious attacks on the unemployed and then engaging in a spot of empty bragging about how well they are managing the economy (when everyone knows that the only people experiencing "recovery" are the establishment elite and their Tory chums - the rest of us are still being punished with the longest sustained period of wage repression since the 19th Century).
Their plans have come badly unstuck because the headlines, and the social mediascape have been dominated by reactions to an article in the Daily Mail slurring the deceased academic Ralph Miliband, for no reason other than the fact that he was the father of the Labour party leader.
This smear attack spent an awful lot of effort analysing diary entries Ralph Miliband made when he was 17 but almost completely glossed over the three years he spent serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. It also contained outright lies about his political stance on the Soviet Union and included a photograph of Ralph Miliband's grave with an incredibly tasteless pun. After a great deal of criticism from across the political spectrum, the Daily Mail published an bombastic editorial, in which, instead of apologising for their insults and lies, they actually made things even worse (here's an annotated copy of that editorial).
Here are twelve things you should know about this revolting Daily Mail smear attack.
Inappropriate moral arbitration
|The Daily Mail proprietor Harold Harmsworth |
with his hero, Adolf Hitler.
Surely everyone now knows that the Daily Mail has a long history of supporting fascism?
During the interwar years the Mail was run by a fascist sympathiser called Harold Harmsworth who used the Daily Mail to push for an alliance between Britain and Nazi Germany and to praise and promote Oswald Mosely's British Union of Fascists.
Harmsworth's fixation with fascism and his adoration of Adolf Hitler led him to write to Hitler on several occasions congratulating him on his military conquests. He described Hitler's as "superhuman" and predicted that he would become known in Britain as "Adolf the Great". Harmsworth also travelled to Germany to have a personal meeting with Adolf Hitler too (see photo).
It's not as if the Daily Mail have learned their lesson about supporting "evil" regimes either. Decades later they chose to openly propagandise in favour of General Pinochet's murderous military dictatorship in Chile. The Daily Mail columnist Paul Johnson famously defended the mad Chilean torturer by claiming that "the demonisation of General Pinochet [is] the most successful, mendacious propaganda exercise ever carried out in the 20th century".
What a revolting spectacle to see a newspaper that openly praised and supported Adolf Hitler attacking a Jewish immigrant who served three years in the Royal Navy (including the D-Day landings) as unpatriotic and "evil". If the Daily Mail had any sense of decency, they would of course, keep silent (out of shame at their support for Adolf Hitler) when it comes to determining whether people (especially Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe) were patriotic or whether their politics were "evil".
Attack the ancestor
|The fascist promoter Harold Harmsworth was more commonly known as |
Viscount Rothermere, I don't use such terms because, like Ralph Miliband,
I believe that the UK would be a much better place without so much
inherited wealth and privilege.
The Daily Mail attack on Ralph Miliband as a consequence of Ed Miliband's strong performance at the 2013 Labour Party Conference is lower even than an ad hominum attack. It really does show the paucity of their criticism of Ed Miliband if they think that slurring his dead father represents any kind of reasonable argument.
The worst thing about this attack-the-ancestor strategy is that the Daily Mail is still owned by the descendants of the Hitler adoring Harold Harmsworth. If the Daily Mail see fit to attack Ed Miliband by criticising his father, surely that then gives everyone else the right to attack the current Daily Mail proprietor Jonathan Harmsworth for the fact that his great-grandfather, from whom he inherited his vast media empire, was a filthy Hitler worshiping, Nazi loving anti-Semitic shitbag of a man.
Instead of using the fact that his great-grandad was a fascist promoting Hitler fanboy to criticise the current Daily Mail owner, we can instead focus upon his his own activities, namely his dodgy tax affairs.
Harmsworth is such a "patriot" that he lives in France in order to avoid paying UK tax. His wealth was estimated to be over £1 billion back in 2006, but he is such a "patriot" that he sees no moral obligation to actually pay UK tax on his earnings from the Daily Mail, unlike the vast majority of taxpaying people who are stupid enough to buy a paper that lectures them about what is and isn't patriotic, that is owned by someone who deliberately lives abroad and registers his shares in that newspaper in a tax haven in order to avoid paying tax in the UK!
You'd have to be living in cloud cuckoo land to believe that it isn't unpatriotic to go and live in France in order to deliberately damage the UK economy by dodging-tax on your vast UK earnings.
There were several outright lies in the Daily Mail slur attack, one of the most egregious was the assertion that Ralph Miliband approved of, and supported human rights abuses by the Soviet Union.
Anyone who is actually familiar with Ralph Miliband's work and views would know that he was actually a critic of the Soviet Union. To put it into rather crude terms, Miliband believed that the Soviet Union represented an absolute bastardisation of Marxism, which gave him a very strong motivation to criticise Soviet human rights abuses. Not because he opposed Marxism out of abject fear of it, like most of the British establishment, but because he saw these abuses as a betrayal of true Marxism, which does not in any way support the idea of a vast, all-powerful state torturing, imprisoning and killing anyone who dares raise a dissident opinion, read dissident literature or listen to dissident music.
One conclusive piece of evidence that Miliband was not an apologist for Soviet human rights abuses was presented by a particularly unlikely source. The Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch and pushes the same toxic neoliberal nonsense as the Daily Mail, but they delighted in pointing out that Ralph Miliband was a signatory on a letter to the Times in 1983 which complained about exactly the kind of political persecutions that the Daily Mail accused him of supporting.
The Daily Mail claim that Ralph Milibands ideas and works were "evil" and un-British. Anyone with the slightest amount of curiosity could easily find out for themselves what Miliband actually wrote and conclude that his ideas were far from "evil" ( Here's a short article explaining some of the key themes in Ralph Miliband's works).
Unfortunately, the typical Daily Mail reader has no natural sense of curiosity, and instead simply recycles the opinions they've read in their Fascist Hate Comic in lieu of actually developing anything resembling ideas of their own. There are probably hundreds of thousands of Daily Mail readers sold on the idea that Ralph Miliband was an evil Stalin loving commie, and that his works and legacy should be destroyed to protect future generations, perhaps in a Nazi style public book burning event (we know how much the Daily Mail has a history of supporting Nazi ideas and practices).
Misconceptions about Marxism
The attempt to smear Ralph Miliband as an apologist for Soviet oppression simply because he was a student of Marxist philosophy betrays an extreme level of political ignorance. To slur a student of Marxist ideas by association with the worst excesses of the Soviet Union is akin to slurring anyone who believes in capitalist ideas with claims that they support, by implication, the crimes against humanity committed of any number of vile capitalist regimes such as Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Apartheid South Africa or General Pinochet's Chile.
Still, overt displays of political ignorance from a publication that serves no other purpose than to fill the minds of the politically illiterate with simplistic propaganda narratives is hardly surprising is it?
Neoliberalism: A truly unpatriotic ideology
The Daily Mail tried to claim that Ralph Milibands left-wing ideas (such as his opposition to hegemony and inherited privilege and his promotion of participatory democracy and meritocracy) were unpatriotic, but it should be absolutely clear to anyone who has followed political developments since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, that if there is one particularly unpatriotic economic ideology it is the brand of orthodox neoliberal pseudo-economic gibberish that the Daily Mail has ceaselessly championed.
Just think about it for a couple of minutes. Was it the tiny minority of obscure Marxist academics that ensured huge chunks of our nation were sold off on the cheap to unaccountable corporate interests, no matter where they came from?
Of course it wasn't. It was neoliberal economists and politicians, (vociferously supported by the Daily Mail) who have ensured that our utilities companies are mainly owned by foreign interests, including the French state (EDF) and a collective of German municipalities (E-on). The neoliberal brigade also ensured that our public transport system was hived off to foreign interests in a disastrous privatisation experiment that resulted in Britain ending up with the most decrepit and most overpriced public transport network in Western Europe. The neoliberals also ensured that the media could be largely controlled by foreign interests (foreign media ownership is even prohibited in the neoliberalism fixated United States). Thanks to the neoliberal pseudo-economic ideology relentlessly pushed by the Daily Mail, our airports are now operated by a Qatari sovereign wealth fund, our tax collection offices are owned and administered by a tax-dodging company based in Bermuda and even our so-called "independent nuclear deterrent" has been privatised into the hands of a consortium 66% owned by American corporations!
Even now, the darling of the Daily Mail Michael Gove is busy giving away our schools, for free, to unaccountable foreign interests such as the American owned Aurora Academies Trust, which uses a transfer pricing scheme to make sure that British taxpayers' cash is used to pay for an American curriculum to be taught to British kids at their formerly state owned school.
Do you think Marxists would have allowed this grotesquely unpatriotic sell-off of state infrastructure to happen?
Of course they wouldn't - Had people like Ralph Miliband been in charge, our utilities, transport infrastructure, our military hardware, our schools and our tax collection offices would not be owned by a bunch of corporations that don't give the faintest damn about what is best for the UK economy, they would still be under democratic British control. It doesn't matter whether you believe the right-wing myth that state owned infrastructure is inefficient or not, it is undeniable that had the Marxists been in charge, Britain would still own it's own infrastructure.
Academic Marxism is clearly not as unpatriotic as the Daily Mail's favoured pseudo-economic ideology of neoliberalism. For further demolition of the right-wing "wrap themselves in the flag" appeals to patriotism, check out this article I wrote in 2012.
Some Tories are decent!
The reaction of a few old school Tories demonstrated that in a political world dominated by slimy PR men and vile mud slinging tactics, there are still a few dinosaurs who remember a better, more honourable way of doing politics.
Michael Heseltine was one of these decent Tories. He openly condemned the Daily Mail slur campaign as "unjustified" and accused them of "carrying politics to an extent that is just demeaning".
Another old school Tory called John Moore (who was also a cabinet minister in the Thatcher government), who studied under Ralph Miliband at the London School of Economics, went a lot further than Heseltine, accusing the Mail of telling lies about his former professor. Here's what he said:
"Ralph Miliband taught me and I can say he was one of the most inspiring and objective teachers I had. Of course, we had different political opinions but he never treated me with anything less than complete courtesy and I had profound respect for his integrity ... He had come here as a refugee, done his duty to his adopted country by serving in our Royal Navy during the war, become a great academic and raised a good family ... I saw him week after week and it beggars belief that the Daily Mail can accuse him of lacking patriotism. I never heard him ever say one word which was negative about Britain – our country ... The Daily Mail is telling lies about a good man who I knew. The people of this country are good and decent too. They do not want the Daily Mail attacking the dead relatives of politicians to make political points." [source]A different approach from Tory HQ
The response from the current generation at Tory party HQ has been a lot more mealy mouthed. They have instructed Tory MPs to say nothing more than statements along the lines of "any child would want to defend a parent". This is quite clearly an effort to manage the reaction in a way that allows the Tories to be seen to be responding to the negative public reaction to the slur attack, but to keep the political capital the Mail have given them by creating the caricature of "Red Ed and his Stalinist Dad".
Instructing their MPs to simply state that any child would defend their parent, without condemning the lies, the underhand tactics of attacking a man by slurring a dead relative, or the distasteful gravestone pun is a rotten tactical move, which is akin to saying "even serial killers have loving families". This kind of carefully managed malice has the fingerprints of Lynton Crosby all over it. It is quite clear from this PR manouvre that top decision makers at Tory HQ are delighted about the political capital they've gained through the Daily Mail slurs, so they've decided to respond in the most mealy mouthed manner possible, so as to avoid undermining the useful public perception that Ed Miliband's dad was "evil".
Lack of respect for the dead
I've already demonstrated the disgusting hypocrisy of the Daily Mail in two of the previous sections (A newspaper that openly supported Adolf Hitler accusing other people of supporting "evil" regimes, A newspaper owned by a foreign resident tax-dodger accusing other people of being unpatriotic) but there is one other piece of hypocrisy that is really quite remarkable.
I'm sure everyone remembers the wave of cognitive dissonance inducing right-wing political correctness that swept the nation in the week following the death of Margaret Thatcher.
One of the loudest cheerleaders of this brand-new "mustn't criticise the dead" form of political correctness was the Daily Mail. They published one particularaly cringeworthy piece in which they described any criticism of Margaret Thatcher or her toxic legacies as "bilious hatred and lack of respect" and claimed it as a "disturbing new low in British life".
Just a few months later, they've taken to openly lying about a dead academic in order to score political points against his son, and printing an extremely distasteful "pun" next to a picture of his grave.
I'm sure we can all agree that this kind of utterly hypocritical and downright dishonest political point scoring marks a "disturbing new low in British life".
Two million people read this shit!
The thinking person knows that the Daily Mail is a revolting tabloid newspaper with a long history of promoting fascistic ideas, aimed at the simple-minded reactionary; the kind of intellectually sub-normal half-wit who lives their life in a constant state of fury at things they don't properly understand. People who are so incapable of critical thought that they are completely immune to cognitive dissonance. People who willingly buy into the Daily Mail's moral purity campaign against pornography (which has helped enormously with David Cameron's plans to censor the internet), whilst enjoying the disgracefully sexist and voyeuristic Daily Mail sidebar of smut and the regular appearance of articles which describe teenage girls (usually the children of celebrities) in overtly sexual language.
What the thinking person often fails to realise is that the Daily Mail has a circulation of around 2 million, and when combined with massive circulation of the criminal organisation know as the Murdoch gutter press, it is absolutely clear that us thinking people are now hopelessly outnumbered by these foaming right-wing reactionaries.
If the motivation behind such a cowardly attack on the deceased parent of a politician tells us one thing above all others, it is that the attackers are motivated by fear. It is no surprise at all that this attack came within days of Ed Miliband's generally well received conference speech, in which he outlined a few almost left-wing ideas.
Had Ralph Miliband been alive to see his son's speech he would surely have been as disappointed as I was that all Ed offered was a pledge to cap the profits of the gouging foreign multinationals that run our energy infrastructure, rather than a pledge to begin renationalising our energy infrastructure in order to bring it back under democratic control. But the idea of capping the obscene profiteering of the energy multinationals sent the Daily Mail apoplectic with rage, and the result was their bile-fest against Ed Miliband's dad.
It seems that, if he's got the rabid right-wing press foaming at the mouth and running scared that he's actually going to win the next election, perhaps Ed Miliband is actually doing something more-or-less right after all?
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