When Harry Palmer finally meets General Midwinter, the unhinged Texas oilman who hates the Commies in Billion Dollar Brain, he listens to him ranting, then looks him in the eye and asks “Who’re you fighting, General?”. The same thought occurred when reading the Comment Is Free piece contributed by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre for yesterday’s Guardian.
I'm still not f***ing retiring, c***
Dacre illustrates superbly why the modern world is such a problem for him: in the days when he first took the helm at the Daily Mail, there were no online fact checks, no instant rebuttal, hardly any email, no Facebook, no Twitter, very little in the way of newsgroups, and hardly any home computing. In this environment he thrived, pitching falsehood and misinformation mainly without comeback.
By the time he’d been fact checked, the papers would have become so much fish—and-chip wrapping and the audience would have moved on. Now he can’t run a quick drive-by shooting of a party leader without being called out on it, and his rant for the Guardian shows this. He hates Twitter, and calls it part of a “Phony World”, populated by “The Left”, which he hates with a passion.
And that is where he falls down: Twitter is not some sort of politically partisan movement. It can be used to whip up a storm for those of all stripes. It can even help the Daily Mail (pace Sachsgate). But when Tweeters go for Dacre, this is somehow “Phony”. And we won’t need to go into his ridiculous suggestion that the hated BBC devoted “hundreds of hours” to the Ralph Miliband row.
There is also pretence along with the dishonesty: Dacre claims to campaign for “a health service [users] can trust”. Were this the case, the Mail would once in a while try to stick to factual reporting, rather than frighten its readers with tales of thousands of patient deaths. If he really cared about pornography, he wouldn’t have run the Amanda Platell piece that claimed she’d seen an underage model (she hadn’t).
If Dacre really wanted “ordinary people” to get a “decent education”, he wouldn’t tell packs of lies about the current system and persistently run down those who try their damndest to make it work. If he was serious about discussing end of life care, he wouldn’t have deliberately misunderstood the Liverpool Care Pathway just so that his paper could run articles attacking it.
If his readers really share the mindset he displays here, they wouldn’t have voted the way they did at successive General Elections. But this article is ultimately useful and disturbing in turns, to see that someone with such power can give the appearance of delusion and paranoia overcoming his ability to view the world. Paul Dacre has a serious problem. But there is one way he can help himself and others.
And that is to forget carrying on editing, and resign. Before they come to get him.