We Spent Yesterday Talking to People Who Are Hated by the Daily Mail

They've all had enough of the racist old grandfather of British journalism.

07 October 2013, 11:20am

It turns out there's a limit on how hateful you can be about entire swathes of the British population before people get pissed off enough to do something about it. Having been incensed by the 'paper's recent article accusing Ed Miliband's deceased Marxist academic dad of "hating Britain", a couple of hundred people turned up outside the Daily Mail's London offices to protest yesterday. Their specific grievances were fairly diverse, but they all had one central point: that the Mail is often far viler than a lot of the stuff it rallies against.

The sensationalist cheap shot at Ralph Miliband was nothing new for the Mail, but critics argue that the article was also anti-Semitic, most likely because it references "the jealous God of Deuteronomy" and because the Mail literally supported Nazis in the 1930s. It's the latest nasty accusation to be levelled at a 'paper that has a long history of this kind of thing – the Miliband controversy joining an outrage canon that includes Jan Moir's smear of the dead gay popstar Stephen Gately, and headlines like "Abortion hope after 'gay genes' finding" and "Muslim gang jailed for kidnapping and raping two girls as part of their Eid celebrations".

Unsurprisingly, the protest was largely filled with members of the minority groups that the Mail have taken to picking on. Other protesters had strong views on journalistic ethics, some were Miliband family fans and the rest had just had enough of the Mail harping on about the evils of anything that isn't a Golden Retriever puppy falling asleep in a Cath Kidston picnic hamper in the garden of a family-run Sussex pub.

I went along to speak to some of those protesters.    

VICE: Why do you hate the Daily Mail?
Mike, 28, bartender: Well, I don’t hate the Daily Mail – I think about it in the same way Americans think about the south: There’s always that one family with the old racist grandfather who’s always saying inappropriate things. And that’s the Daily Mail. So it’s just like... shut up.

Do you think the inappropriate things they say are enforcing hate against minorities? 
Well, that’s one of the main things they do, yeah. Minorities is one word; another word is immigrants. It drives people apart based on where they came from, but the UK is an island – it had to get populated somehow. A lot of what they do is stirring up that innate racism that floats around in our culture, that level of judgement – like when you’re walking down the street and a lady clutches her purse and crosses the road, for example.

How do you connect that with the attack on Ralph Miliband?
I think it’s connected because the legacy of his ideology represents a counter ideology to the Mail’s reactionary Islamophobia and hatred.

Well said. So what’s the solution here?
I think part of the solution is getting people together to expand and democratise the idea of journalism. Everyone has smartphones and blogs, so we can get our own sources of information.

Why do you hate the Daily Mail?
Rania Khan, 30, teacher: I oppose its politics. I think it’s time we end the Mail’s hate trail, from their attacks on Muslim migrant communities and other minority groups to the recent attack on Ralph Miliband.

Is the attack on Ralph Miliband an attack on minorities?
I think it’s about dirty politics, but also an attack on minority groups. We shouldn’t shy away from saying that the attack is anti-Semitic.

Do you think the press should be more regulated?
I’m not so much in favour of press being regulated to the point where we don’t have freedom of speech, but I think journalists should be responsible in terms of their reporting. Every time there's been an upsurge in Islamophobia in the media, Muslim communities have been attacked – anything from a hijab being pulled off to the most recent attack in a mosque where there was a bomb found.

So the Mail encourages Islamophobia?
Any time there is violence, it paints all Muslims with the same brush. No doubt, there are people with certain views within the Muslim community just as there are far-right extremes within other denominations, but to paint everyone with the same brush creates a culture of hatred that leads to Muslims getting attacked. It doesn’t give a voice to the majority of Muslims, who are obviously peace loving and contribute to British society.

Why did you come here today?
Paris Lees, 25, transgender writer / presenter: Well, I’m pretty fucking hungover; I was drinking Prosecco at 4AM this morning, but I feel really passionate about this. Obviously I always want to go and fly the transgender flag, but also as a journalist and a writer it really upsets me to see my industry brought into disrespect by these shady practices.

So is this more about Ralph Miliband or minorities?
Well, this has been a spectacular own goal for the Mail. I mean, I was kind of aware of their Nazi supporting tendencies, but obviously with all of this we’re now completely clued up on where the 'paper stood editorially in the 1930s. And likewise, I now know about Ralph Miliband. Seriously, if we’re going to crucify people for the things they say when they’re 16 – bloody hell, the things I wrote in my private diary… This is the second protest I’ve been to here in the past six months and I think people are now saying, "We’re sick of the shitty journalism."

How has the Mail affected the British trans community?
The Independent have done it too, and the bloody Observer did it this year, so I don’t think it’s fair to single the Mail out in particular, but the thing that I don’t understand is that it’s got to be editorially justified. More often than not, when the Mail write a piece on a transgender person, the story is nothing more than just, "Oh look, this person is transgender." They’re going to have to get with the times. Britain has changed. Britain is diverse. You can't just pretend we all live in this little village in the 1950s making cakes for the village fete.

Do you think the press should be regulated?
Oh, absolutely. With all these ridiculous arguments about press regulation that we’ve heard, at the end of the day, television [regulates itself] – what makes the newspapers so special? Now, I do believe in press freedom, but more often that not that’s just used as an excuse to bully people.

Why do you hate the Mail?
Ben Sofa, magazine editor: Well, this week it’s what they’ve been doing around Ed Miliband’s family – not just what they wrote, but their approach of trying to barge their way into a memorial service. They do this sort of thing to vulnerable families, too, and I think there's also the racial element to this. I think it’s not a coincidence that they wrote about the "jealous god of Deuteronomy" when they were writing about someone who had escaped the Holocaust to come to Britain.

But I think it’s also something that the paper has historically done to my community, the Jewish community. When they were writing their nice hurrah for the Blackshirts in the 1930s, it was my grandparents who were being chased by them in the East End of London. And this is what they do day in, day out to the Muslim community. Their discussion of the face veil is what translates to some Muslim women going to work and getting spat at or having their headscarf pulled off.

So is the attack on Ralph Miliband an anti-Semitic one?
I don’t know what goes through the head of the journalists who write this bile, but I do think there were a whole load of things in the article and the follow-ups that wouldn’t have been there had it not been a Jewish family they were writing about. I think the idea is not just targeting Jews, but any migrants. It’s the same thing they said about Mo Farah – that these are "plastic Brits".

Do you support press censorship?
I think there are things you can regulate, and I think there are solutions about press ownership and having a very small number of people controlling vast amounts of the press.

– – –

The protest was short, small and extremely peaceful. After a few speeches, everyone calmly went home. Some brought a few "No Cuts" pickets as well, because why not?

Follow Matt on Twitter: @Matt_A_Shea

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