Seeing the way that the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate has behaved over the years, much of the repeat offending comes as no surprise – the McCanns and Robert Murat, Christopher Jefferies, and Rebecca Leighton come to mind – because for some reason unknown to the hacks and their editors, the ability to learn from previous mistakes is missing from their collective psyche.
I'm not apologising to the f***ing Spanish, c***!
And it isn’t just individuals that end up getting smeared as the tabloid pack yelps and brays at its targets, as the experience of French bank Société Générale showed last year. The obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre at the Mail had declared that SocGen was not merely in a “perilous” state, but moreover “on the brink of disaster”, when it was nothing of the sort.
As those at the bank discovered, once the Mail has asserted anything as fact, it is churned over and repeated among scores of other media outlets. The reputational damage was done, and there was no immediate measure that SocGen could take to stop it. The Dacre hackery doesn’t do apologies unless it has to, and only when faced with being taken to the cleaners did the Mail say sorry.
Might just end up here if the Mail isn't careful
The apologies – two of them – were followed by the payment of undisclosed damages, but the horse had long before left the stable. And now, in the wake of bank instability in Spain, the Mail is at it again, this time smearing Santander, in a piece that gives every impression of deliberately engineering a bank run. The hacks know what they are doing, and they know equally that it is mere scaremongering.
The headline – “Spanish banking crisis hits streets of Britain: Fresh fears for Santander's UK customers after credit rating blow” – followed by the sub-heading “Fears of a run on bank last seen when Northern Rock went under in 2008” leaves readers in no doubt as to what they are supposed to think. But there is one problem: the possibility of customers being left penniless is next to zero.
We know this because the Mail article tells its readers, but only later on: after the photo of queues outside a Northern Rock branch, and talk of Eurozone crises, it is finally conceded that “deposits up to £85,000 are guaranteed by the British Government” and that the UK operation of Santander is “hermetically sealed from the problems of the Spanish banking system”.
So why run the story in the first place? Ah well. The EU, the Euro, and people who talk foreign, are all fair game for Dacre and his attack goons. And just like with Société Générale, the Vagina Monologue and his lawyers have calculated that the potential damages are worth the risk, the shock value, and the extra circulation. They’re “not our kind of people”.
And if it causes some real damage, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Job done.