Yesterday the Daily Mail launched an unprecedented full-page editorial attack on the Guardian, headlined "Fake news, the fascist Left and the REAL purveyors of hate". The 'paper went for the jugular after the Guardian published a cartoon depicting a van driven into worshippers outside a London mosque, with "Read The Sun the Daily Mail" painted on the side. Essentially it accused the UK's top two best-selling newspapers of inciting anti-Muslim hatred of the kind that led to the Finsbury Park attack, which killed one and left nine people injured.
This is just the latest in a string of editorial decisions that seem to go beyond the pale even for Britain's most rabid newspaper. I decided to call up a senior journalist working for one of the Mail titles, to gain an insight into what it's like being a Mail hack right now.
VICE: What was the reaction among Mail hacks to yesterday's comment piece?
Mail journalist: Most of those I spoke to thought it was outrageous – that the paper had actually gone rabid, completely over the top. I can see why they are upset, it's quite a dark cartoon, but there are bigger things going on at the moment. Do readers really care about the fight with the Guardian when there has been this massive fire and Brexit is going on? There were loads of things about the Guardian's finances, which have nothing to do with the cartoon. The journalists here don't regard the Guardian as the enemy. It's just a few senior editors, such as Paul Dacre driving their petty agenda.
What's behind all this anger?
Dacre is a wounded beast after the election result, which embarrassed him and the 'paper. Dacre and his entourage thought they were going to enter this glorious period of right-wing rule with the Mail's agenda being pushed forward. They had May in their pocket. Suddenly they've got egg on their face and Brexit is in danger. So Dacre is furious, because he's backed May all the way, he'd literally made her and anointed her. But now they've blown all that. The whole landscape's changed. Dacre's been pacing around for the last week and this is him lashing out.
The Daily Mail's election coverage attracted criticism for its non-stop attacks on Labour. What did the journalists at the Mail offices think?
We were shocked. The foaming election coverage was awful. It was just too much – shoving the politics down people's throats, it started to become offensive. The Mail was treating its readers like they haven't got a mind of their own, telling them exactly how to vote.
But the endless attacks on Corbyn started to backfire once people could see him talking and realised that he wasn't this swivel-eyed, terrorist-loving lunatic that the Mail was telling them he was, and actually very human with some sensible views. Mail readers, and the Sun's for that matter, kicked back against this. If you treat your readers like they are morons, feeding them this bile and hatred in such an attack dog mode, a lot of readers have to think "sod you". Readers could see it for what it was, a real naked hatred.
Why has the Mail been so OTT recently?
The more rabid right wing elements have been getting slightly power crazed. They were buoyed by the Brexit vote last year. But now they can see it slipping away. It's gone to their head but at the same time they are terrified they are going to lose their moment of glory.
Do you think the Mail is racist or anti-Muslim?
It finds stories that fit its agenda, which is to be very wary about Muslims. It's a constituency it doesn't understand nor have feelings for, because the Mail sees itself appealing to a white middle England landscape. It has an old style fear of the unknown. So it is always finding the faults in Muslims or migrants, rather than looking for the common ground. There are endless examples of scare stories about migrant rapists, all building the idea that all immigrants are bad for this country. What's for certain is that they don't want stories about immigrants doing good things. The people working on the Mail news desk know exactly what stories the 'paper wants and it's not positive stories about immigrants.
Does the Mail incite hatred as the Guardian cartoon suggested?
A lot of Mail journalists were uncomfortable with the cartoon, it was quite close to the bone. But readers are fed a diet of stories that do not put Muslims or migrants in a good light. This guy drives down from Wales, a lot of what he's seeing in the 'papers are the Mail's worries about this community and links with terrorism: 'they are taking our jobs, swamping the country, not paying taxes' – it's endless. It's either gypsy thieves from Romania or Muslim terrorists robbing the system and there's ten of them living for free in a multi million pound house. The Mail will find these real outlying stories and make out that it's the norm. Slowly and quite subtly actually, this 'paper incites hatred.