There is a British newspaper famed for spelling mistakes and giving space to an abundance of authors obsessed with identity politics to make absurd attacks on a large ethnic group. A newspaper owned by a dubious oligarch that treats online comments as breaking news and shows a stunning disregard for facts when it comes to the EU. A newspaper that uncritically spearheaded a witch-hunt against high-profile people accused of paedophilia whose politics it disliked. These papers are The Guardian, The Independent and the Daily Mirror, respectively – all in other ways honourable newspapers. None of them are a fashionable target for the two minutes’ hates of received opinion. Confessing now that I am not a regular reader, being more of a Times and Telegraph man, let us look at the paper that is.
The Daily Mail is a daily newspaper founded in 1896 and edited by Paul Dacre, with a centre-right tilt and a daily readership of nearly 4 million people. It is, notably, the only British newspaper with a readership that is majority female. To hear some of the more unhinged leftists you would think it a bastion of British fascism, and a watered-down version of this view has infected the cultural mainstream, such that large tracts of the politically uninformed will often make sweeping statements about it and its readership with entirely unwarranted certainty. There are those who pour such bilious hyperbole into attacking it as to seem deranged; a Daily Mail Derangement Syndrome, as it were. Why?
In ascending order of seriousness, the allegations made against the Mail are as follows. Some say the Daily Mail has grammatical errors; read any paper, any at all, however, and you will soon notice such things, especially in the red-tops. Others say that it has a penchant for factual inaccuracy; it does indeed occasionally misstate the facts, but far more often what it says is true, and it is responsible for some excellent investigative reporting; to the degree mistakes are made, they are not notably more common than mistakes in The Sun or The Independent. Still more say it is sensationalist, or in other words, that its editor is good at his job of giving it memorable headlines. Then there are more serious accusations.
There are those who paint the Mail as notably hateful, and back this by pointing to its hawkishness on immigration, welfare abuse and crime, and especially on welfare abusing immigrant criminals. Moreover, its headlines on such topics, like that of any news source that wants to be read, can be striking and occasionally even shrill. None of this puts the Mail beyond the pale; 77% of Britons think immigration should be reduced, limiting welfare is supported by up to 70%, and YouGov polls typically find around 50% placing Crime as a top priority; in other words, the Mail knows and appeals to its audience, like any sensible newspaper. On its Euroscepticism, too, the Mail is on the side of most Brits, as a rather notable recent poll has demonstrated. Even on such a hot topic as Islam, the Mail is fairly restrained, rarely painting the religion as intrinsically evil, let alone treating Arabs as such; that it publishes stories about Islamic Terrorism that call it by its name doesn’t change that. Actual, virulent racism is generally the preserve of certain other papers.
Finally, there is the fatuous reminder that some commentators in the Mail in the 1930s said a lot of nice things about the Nazis. We’ll leave aside the fact that this was 80 years ago, rendering its relevance to the modern day very low, and instead just add a comparison. The Guardian in the 1930s also had commentators with good things to say about Hitler, was remarkably keen on appeasement, and was riddled with Stalinists, but strangely does not get the same attention. Until those proclaiming their hatred for the Daily Mail on the basis of its past alignments apply the same logic to other newspapers their argument is intellectually dishonest. In my view, neither paper is culpable for what they were saying decades ago.
So why do people actually hate the Mail and its readership so much? For many it is about being fashionable, virtue-signalling to their friends about how enlightened they are in directing their hatred to targets deemed appropriate, which apparently means millions of law-abiding, responsible citizens. Then there are the informed antagonists, who come in two groups. First, the more considered leftists who have ideological disagreements with the Mail, and can be tempted by the fashion to overstate these disagreements.
Then there are those far-left head-bangers who evidently set the tempo of the fashion, whose raw, unabashed hatred for the Mail and its readers arises, not because they don’t see the Mail as representing middle England, but because they do. They hate middle England and everything it stands for, everything it represents. They hate their countrymen, thinking their concerns parochial, their views bigoted and their lifestyles oppressive. Britain, and England especially, is a villainous force second only to America in their worldview. The Mail is, in effect, a stand-in for England to them, an acceptable target for their bigotry. Daily Mail Derangement Syndrome is their way of lashing out against a country that never had their little revolution. It’s sad, really.
Now they’ve set up their little campaign to make companies boycott the Mail, using similar tactics and hysteria to BDS, a famous gang of anti-Semites trying to destroy the Jewish State by pressuring companies into boycott it. Like BDS, some ideologue-run companies will jump on the bandwagon; like BDS, it’ll make the news and the less grounded will think it a sign of momentum; and like BDS, it won’t matter. That is a good thing.
The Mail is a voice for views far more widely held without the media bubble than within it. It is a pillar of the free press, a bastion of free speech, and it is indispensable in holding to account those among the powerful untouchable to leftists. Even if you don’t read, agree with or even like the Mail, it makes a contribution worth celebrating.
The Mail can be parochial, insightful, patriotic, imperfect, stubborn, incisive, righteous, thrusting and opinionated. It is, in other words, a lot like the middle England it aims to represent.