The craven appeasement of fascism by the Rothermere press during the 1930s is one part of its past that today’s Daily Mail has never been able to convincingly shake off. The paper, under the then Viscount Rothermere’s personal direction, enthusiastically backed the British Union of Fascists - the Blackshirts - in the early 30s. Although that support ended in 1934, Rothermere persisted in his support of Adolf Hitler.
That support continued even while an increasing number of politicians, Winshton being the most prominent, warned that Hitler was not some benign presence looking to do nothing more than improve the lot of his own compatriots. The Daily Mail, let us not drive this one around the houses for too long, was a forthright supporter of appeasement.
It was appeasement of the Nazis, of the dictatorship in Italy, and also of the Falangist régime in Spain. Until September 1939, the Mail was fine with appeasement. So it should surprise no-one that appeasement is now the name of the game once more at Northcliffe House, with today’s front page howling “As poll shows more Tory voters now support PM’s deal with Brussles … MINISTER: WRECKING BREXIT WILL LET IN THE FAR RIGHT”.
The Mail's stance on the far right explained
The supporting article was equally apocalyptic. “Britain will witness a surge in neo-Nazi extremist groups if MPs block or weaken Brexit, a Cabinet minister warns today.Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the 17million who voted to leave the EU would feel 'cheated' by any moves to water down Theresa May's deal or thwart our exit entirely. This would have grave implications for our democracy, he said, ending centuries of moderate politics”.
Which centuries were those, then? The moderation the Mail talks of only finally arrived after the imposition of reality following the Suez débâcle. There was nothing moderate about wading into the Great War, or before it the Boer War. Nor was the callous abandonment of the Irish during the great famine moderate. Nor was the equally callous imposition of famine upon much of India. Nor was slavery.
Moderate politics, which has meant realising Britain is no longer a dominant world power and included joining the EU, is, moreover, something which is anathema to the Gammon mentality at the Mail. So why call on moderation now? Simples. This, as with the craven use of Grayling’s propaganda, is yet another part of the appeasement.
The Mail tries to frighten readers by telling “In a chilling intervention, Mr Grayling said blocking Brexit could end the 350 years of 'moderate' politics Britain has enjoyed since the bloody English Civil War”. Those quote marks are doing an awful lof of heavy lifting. And this historical revisionism is not good enough. It is still appeasement.
Lest we forget
Small wonder there has been condemnation of the Mail’s stance, from James O’Brien musing “2016: We have to Brexit. It will be brilliant for Britain. 2019: We have to Brexit. Or fascists will get crosser” and Gavin Esler warning “Appeasement didn’t work before and won’t work now” to James Doleman adding “I'm old enough to remember when pissing off Nazis was a reason to do something, not a justification for not doing it”.
As in 1939, so in 2019, the Rothermere press advocates appeasement of the far right. In doing so, it shows whose interests is is defending. And they aren’t Britain’s interests.
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