First Mail/Miliband, now Mail/Mehdi – don’t they know two wrongs won’t make them right?

131004mailmehdiIt was a virtuoso performance, and one that earned Mehdi Hasan congratulations from Vox Political, just as soon as I could get to a keyboard.

For those who missed it, the panel on BBC Question Time was discussing the Daily Mail‘s veiled attack on Ed Miliband, which cast suspicion on the Labour leader’s motives by questioning those of his late father. It’s about the lowest kind of attack a newspaper could possibly launch – the kind that one might have expected from the News of the World in its latter days.

The piece in question was headlined The man who hated Britain and referred to Ralph Miliband’s “evil legacy”.

Mehdi Hasan, political editor of the Huffington Post‘s UK edition, tussled with Quentin Letts, a political sketch-writer for the Mail – winning the argument (and thunderous applause) with the following:

“Let me ask you a question,” he said. “When you talk about ‘Who hates Britain’ or ‘Who has an evil legacy’, who do you think has an evil legacy? A man who sucked up to the Nazis, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run-up to World War II – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail, Lord Rothermere – or a man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband. Who do you think hated Britain more?

“And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually, because this has actually opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail – if you want to talk about who hates Britain.

“This is a paper that, in recent years, said that there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed race couple in his Olympics opening ceremony, who called Mo Farah “a plastic Brit”.

“So let’s have the debate about ‘Who hates Britain more’, because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, Muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

It did my heart a lot of good, typing that up – not just because of the Mail-bashing at its centre but because it was a speech that brings a few other groups together. Here was a Muslim praising the character of a Jew (for all those out there who think that adherents of Islam have nothing but hate to offer the rest of the world). He was also speaking up for homosexuals, mixed race couples, immigrants, women, the health service and anyone who opposes political extremism – especially of the right-wing variety.

Apart from the very last group, none of these include yr obdt srvt in their number, but I don’t think I’m alone in believing that anyone who agrees it is right to fight prejudice would support Mehdi’s opinion.

It seems the powers-that-be at the newspaper in question were listening carefully, and were keen to enter the next stage of the debate about the Daily Mail – by demonstrating just how much further they were prepared to debase themselves, just to smear the reputation of anybody who dared to stand up to them.

It seems clear that somebody in a high-ranking position at the Daily Mail went to their files and dug out a letter Mehdi had written in 2010, applying to become a writer for the newspaper. That letter then mysteriously made its way to those in charge of the Guido Fawkes blog, where it was published in full. It seems the intention was to prove that Mehdi was a hypocrite – how could this man apply for work at the Mail at one point, and then attack it so viciously only a few short years later?

Silly, silly mistake.

It seems that they didn’t read the letter very well at all.

“I am on the left of the political spectrum, and disagree with the Mail’s editorial line on a range of issues,” Mehdi2010 wrote.

“I could be a fresh and passionate, not to mention polemical and contrarian, voice on the comment and feature pages.”

In case the editors and proprietors of the Daily Mail are reading this: You seem to have mislaid your lexicons. A polemic is a passionate argument, against an established viewpoint (such as, perhaps, that put forward by yourselves) – and a contrarian is a person who always takes an opposing side.

Mehdi’s application letter was saying that he did not agree with the Daily Mail‘s opinions but he admired the forthright way it stood behind them and believed the paper would be strengthened by contributions from a writer with a different point of view to put forward.

This practice is not alien to the Daily Mail. One of the very earliest Vox Political articles praised the Mail for printing a piece by a columnist called Sonia Poulton, attacking the Coalition government’s treatment of the disabled in direct opposition to the paper’s established skivers/scroungers/shirkers rhetoric.

So it seems that, by ensuring that all journalists working in the UK now know that their confidential correspondence is likely to become public property the instant they upset the Mail‘s proprietors, by overreacting to fair, balanced and reasonable criticism of an extremely unreasonable article published in that newspaper, and by doing all this in defence of a piece intended to undermine support for one of Britain’s largest political parties – in line with its support for the most right-wing government in recent UK history, the Daily Mail has managed to destroy its own credibility (such as it was), render itself a no-go area for reputable journalists, and tarnish its readership by guilt-through-association.

Meanwhile, it has already boosted public support for Labour and the leader it hoped to harm and, if there is any justice, the current attack on Mehdi Hasan should bolster his career considerably as well.

That’s what happens when people who think a little too much of themselves overreact to criticism.

Daily Mail? It might as well be called the Daily Flail.

56 thoughts on “First Mail/Miliband, now Mail/Mehdi – don’t they know two wrongs won’t make them right?

    1. Mike Sivier

      I like that too – but Daily Flail seemed more fitting because they’ve reduced themselves to flailing around, trying to mess up anyone within range and, ultimately, just making a complete mess of themselves instead.
      What a bunch of half-baked, fact-free grudge-muffins!
      (A commenter on Facebook used that phrase and I love it!)

      1. jed goodright

        ………. but in reality it is not ‘flailing’ around – it is deliberate, it is designed to be provocative, to agitate, to wound, to hurt – it’s the rich man’s plaything after all!!! Do you honestly believe any of them care a toss??? Dacre????Rothmere????

  1. Mark Potter-Irwin

    Time for the antiquated bully Paul Dacre to be sacked don’t you think Viscount Rothermere……by the way why are you a “Viscount”?

    1. Karen M

      Hereditary peer and owner of DM. He is the 4th Viscount. The 1st Viscount was an avid supporter of Oswald Mosley- in a DM editorial (Hurrah for the Blackshirts) he said OM had “sound common sense. Conservative judgement”. He openly thought Hitler and the Nazis the best thing for Europe up to October 1938.

      Harmsworth is the surname of this family. It makes for the opportunity for a play on words…

  2. Mike Sivier

    Oh dear. The Mail has published an article about Mehdi’s application letter. Unfortunately the paper seems to have forgotten that it has a duty to be fair and balanced and missed out – entirely – the comments I’ve included in this article.

    Read it here, if you really feel like it: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2444637/Mehdi-Hasan-journalist-attacked-Daily-Mail-Question-Time-asked-write-paper.html

    The omission puts the Mail in a very actionable position, to my way of thinking.

    1. Jonathan Wilson

      They screwed up on that one by sending the full version to the guido who re-produced in full.

      That said, his commentators have all spectacularly missed point and bent of the letter, to be a voice from the other side, and instead are commenting on how loopy left still want their pound and will even be hypocritical to get that pound from the right wing press it supposedly despises.

      Also, just as an aside, Sonia Poulton was kicked to the curb in the middle of 2012… I guess she became to argumentative against their beloved Tories.

      1. Mike Sivier

        Sonia had already gained a following by that time and is still around today. Personally, I’m not sure I would have thrown in with David Icke and his new TV venture, as she has done, but I’m interested in the results.

  3. Samwise Gamgee

    Surely by omitting that passage of Mr Hassan’s letter you referred to the DM have opened themselves to charges of misrepresentation? The DM needs to tread very carefully on this one.

  4. Wei Wu Wei

    Last week’s Question Time was funny, particularly that little greasy little weasel Quentin Letts discomfort and ludicrous attempts at defending or excusing the actions of the Dail Mail. My favourite moment was when Letts claimed that the Daily Mail was politically independent of the parties, i.e., not a fervent Conservative backer, and was “… outside the political tent…” which was rewarded by one minute of laughter and groans from the audience. Funny.

    Sadly the Daily Mail is a popular tabloid, although I wonder how many audience members would have publicly admitted in front of the camera that night that they were regular readers of the rag?

    But to my main concern…

    Can newspapers publish private correspondence sent to them by individuals without their permission? That doesn’t sound right to me at all, not when the author of the correspondence is still alive. Surely Hassan could sue the Daily Mail for publishing his letter without his express permission couldn’t he?

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  6. John

    I watched question time, it gave me huge satisfaction to see the smug smiles wiped off Shaps and Letts faces, well done Mehdi. Let’s not forget the audience member who gave the entire panel several unpleasant hard hitting home truths, about both central government and the opposition. Well done sir!
    Grant Shaps looked very uneasy, Politicians don’t like the truth being told about themselves do they?

  7. John Ohara

    How is it possible that bearing in mind his questionable family / political background can Rothermere own a newspaper in this Country which has an influence on public and Government opinion? Surely, if Rothermere has more than an ounce of integrity he must fire the jounalists and the Editor concerned prior to his own resignation.
    I’ve lived in this Country all my life, and whilst I don’t hate or despise it, I hate what it’s become, a country stuffed with self seeking lying expense grabbing politicians. A semi benevolent autocracy heavily biased towards the preservation of the establishment regardless of cost. An inept self seeking Government, filled with liars, a clueless spineless prime minister whose continued support of the Fascist IanDuncan Smith leaves me angry beyond words

    1. suzimae

      Me too John I have lived here and all my life, and feel extremely fortunate that as a ‘working class ‘ girl I was able to pursue a career that made a difference.

      I was at one time very proud of what is country had achieved, the opportunities given to many in contrast to he lack of them compared to my own parents and what more we could do to ensure true equality.as world leaders in making life better for the working people of this country, especiallycoming from the obscene oppression of the people for the outrageous wealth of the few throughout the industrial revolution.

      We established our greatest social achievement the welfare state and our NHS, the envy of the world but I am desperately sad and ashamed of what is happening to the most vulnerable and the fact that still so many fellow citizens are in denial, apathetic or complacent..or worse just simply don’t care…….

  8. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Vox Political again shows the massive hypocrisy and vindictiveness of the Daily Mail. After attacking Millliband’s father, which caused nearly everyone else to gather round the Labour leader in sympathy, they have tried to traduce Mehdi Hassan, the Muslim editor of the Huffington Post’s British edition. Hassan committed the cardinal sin, you see, of beating Quentin Letts, another Mail columnist, in argument on Question Time. Hassan had asked rhetorically who really hated Britain – a Jewish immigrant, who fought for his country in WW II, or the Daily Mail, with its gay-bashing, misogyny, hatred of Muslims and immigrants, and desire to destroy the NHS. So the Mail has tried to attack Hassan in return, reproducing a letter Hassan wrote to them a few years ago, applying for a job. Another own goal! Hassan is not a hypocrite, blithely following the political direction of whoever employs him. He states in his application letter that he is left of centre, and would act as a contrary voice. Mike states that Hassan’s demolition of Letts is brilliant, as for one thing it’s a Muslim praising a Jew, contradicting the received impression that Muslims have nothing but hate for them. Now the anti-Islam right have for a long time targeted Mehdi Hassan. This is ostensibly because he provides a moderate façade, which protects the far more aggressive and extreme elements within Western Islam. I think the real reason is that he’s simply a Lefty, whose arguments against the Conservatives and Republicans regularly strike home. The Conservative and Republican Right therefore cynically play on prejudice against the man’s religion to drum up opposition to him, rather than reveal the real, secular reasons why they despise and fear him.

  9. Nick

    the daily mail are just like the conservative party just unnecessary evils of the world with no respect for another persons view it’s always my view or you’ll suffer

  10. jed goodright

    So much for the Miliband ‘apology’ hey? – Does this not prove once and for all that the Daily Heil LIES, LIES everywhere, all of the time, in everything it does. It is a LIEFEST of a rag anddoes it make you pity all who read and believe it? – NO!!!!!!

  11. beetleypete

    I second all of the above attacks on this vile rag. However, perhaps what we should all really be worried about, is the increasing popularity of this newspaper, and its continued climb in sales. I fear it has found its niche in a society based on greed, fear, suspicion, and hatred. I know it worries me, anyway.
    Good post as always Mike. Regards, Pete.

    1. Karen M

      very good point. The online readership of the DM has increased and the blogs are unbelievable- showing what readers’ opinions are like. The level of hate reflected in DM articles and blogs is really concerning.

      1. beetleypete

        Thanks Karen. I think that when a lot of us on The Left are all writing and commenting to each other, it is all too easy to forget the mood of those not on our wavelength. We are in a minority, and we should never forget that., Regards, Pete.

      2. Mike Sivier

        Who says we’re in a minority? If we are, it’s only vocally – those on the right are more likely to open their mouths (physically or metaphorically). But then, they’re also far more likely to put their own feet in those mouths.

  12. Alice

    On the news I heard Clegg dissing the mail which I personally found pathetic when he hasn’t made a peep about any of IDS’s statistics spinning false propaganda..oh yuc I will have a look at the mentioned Newsnight on I player. Is this programme a possible sign of some improvement of bbc bias and poor quality news ..I will be submitting my thoughts to the BBC request for thoughts on their news ..their coverage of welfare reforms and their effects and ‘truth’ has imho been ….

      1. Mike Sivier

        I think Andy here is one of our friends from the Right, and as such has taken the view that everything his media spoon-feeds him about people like Mehdi must be correct.

    1. Mike Sivier

      If that’s really what you think, after having read his letter (the whole thing, mind, not the misleading snippet that the Mail itself published) and the VP article, then in that last word you have described yourself and everyone of like mind.

      Look – it’s not rocket science. The guy was after a job, so of course he was going to butter up a prospective employer. But he made his position clear from the get-go and said he wanted to write articles with a “contrarian” viewpoint. He did not intend to sacrifice his beliefs for the Rothermere Shilling (no matter how much money that might prove to be).

      My evidence that this is the case is in the article I wrote and the letter itself, as published in full on the Guido Fawkes blog site. Also in Mehdi’s tweets from Saturday evening, in which he admitted sycophantic behaviour (flattery) but denied hypocrisy.

      Where’s your evidence to the contrary? Or is it just the fact that he wrote an application letter to a possible employer?

      1. SteveE9

        I prefer the considered view of journalist Jonathan Cook, who identifies the massive hypocrisy of people like Hasan. You can suggest what you like Mike but the excuse of ‘giving the DM a contrasting view’ is just that. Hasan wants the huge pay packet.

      2. Mike Sivier

        He doesn’t want it now, Steve.

        For the benefit of others, the Jonathan Cook article is at http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2013-10-06/why-you-shouldnt-trust-journalists/

        It does not take into account the appearances in the Daily Mail of articles by writers taking the ‘contrarian’ view (such as Sonia Poulton, who I mentioned in the VP article) and therefore does not consider the whole picture.

        Where Cook refers to journalists, my experience as one suggests to me that he may be referring more to himself (as he admits) than to the wider field.

      3. SteveE9

        Mike there was very little chance of Dacre ever giving a column to Hasan but he did try to get one. Now of course he knows there is no chance. That isn’t to say Mehdi would turn it down if offered. I doubt very much that he would. The guy has very little principle at his core.

      4. Mike Sivier

        … in your opinion, which we’ve established is not supported by all the facts available to us.

        Neither of us knows Mehdi personally so your speculation about what he knows and what he will do is irrelevant. My comments were based on available information, before you start suggesting that I have been speculating as well.

        I strongly suggest that you stop digging now. The hole you’re in is already quite deep.

      5. SteveE9

        It’s my considered opinion Mike and it is nothing to do with ‘facts’ and you know that very well. Any hole of platitudes to cover for Hasan’s less than honest behaviour is yours. I defer to the far more honest analysis of Jonathan Cook and Media Lens and the established works of Chomsky such as ‘Manufacturing Consent, which I fully appreciate is not comfortable readong for many. Best wishes

      6. Mike Sivier

        Nonsense. You agreed with the point of view put forward by Mehdi’s detractors and ignored substantive arguments to the contrary.

        How is his behaviour less than honest? He maintained in his application letter that he would take contrary viewpoints where his opinions and the Mail’s editorial line differ. He has admitted that the tone of his application letter was overly flattering (even accepting that opponents’ use of the word “sycophantic” was appropriate) but denied any criticisms that he was a hypocrite and the letter he wrote shows that he is right in saying that.

        And let’s not forget that Mehdi’s attack on the Daily Mail, on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, was spot-on. Even if he was the evil dissembler you and others would like him to be, those criticisms were, and are, accurate. Any attack on him is only an attempt to divert attention away from THAT uncomfortable fact,

      7. SteveE9

        We will have to agree to disagree. Hasan’s generally dishonest record on many subjects, especially on his Twitter account, have been carefully and honestly analysed and responded to by Media Lens on several occasions and it’s all in the public domain.

        You have an opinion Mike, and my view is that it simply does not stand up to scrutiny. You are clearly not a follower of Media Lens or people like Noam Chomksy or Norman Finkelstein. Maybe you should take some quiet time to research them with a genuinely open mind.

        Good luck.

      8. Mike Sivier

        No, I’m not a follower of Media Lens. I find their attacks on left-wing or liberal journalism highly questionable. The use of Chomsky is a diversion – if you agree with what he was saying, you should be supporting Mehdi’s attack on the Daily Mail.

        I think this discussion is over. You have presented unfounded opinions and put forward questionable sources to support them.

        Perhaps it is not my mind that is closed.

        I’ll leave it to other VP readers to decide for themselves.

      9. SteveE9

        ‘Shut up now! You’re wrong’
        Great censorship tactics. I’ll leave to your vanity blog.
        Good luck.

      10. Mike Sivier

        I was going to trash this, as I had already said there’s no point in continuing – but it seems to me that this again illustrates the point made in http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2013/10/06/lets-kill-the-myth-that-right-wingers-merely-think-those-on-the-left-are-misguided/

        Here is a person who absolutely would not accept that reasoned arguments contrary to his point of view might carry weight. After two attempts to get the last word (because people always remember the last comment made), he has ended by trying to put words in my mouth (or at least, on my keyboard), by telling me I am censoring him (all his comments have appeared in full) and by insulting the blog.

        I applaud him for refraining from profanity. But I fear this was a right-winger pretending to be sympathetic to the left (or at least impartial) in an attempt to undermine support for a person who has dared to vocalise what everyone knows about that pillar of the right-wing establishment, the Daily Mail.

      11. SteveE9

        I can’t let that nasty smear just go by. It’s actually irrelevant what my politics are, it’s the content of my posts. But I started attending Socialist gatherings over 40 years ago when I was 13, was a Labour Party activist for 28 years until the Iraq war, and a trade union activist for 36 years and local community activist first in my birth borough, Lambeth, and since 1983 in my beloved adopted home of Hackney ever since. I am a Marxist and had 20 years as a revolutionary politics activist here and abroad. I’m sorry you need to follow the decades old petit-bourgeous and Stalinist practice of smear and slander to somehow prove your metal. How very sad.

      12. Mike Sivier

        Then why have you now spent seven comments backstabbing someone who has made a significant and serious point against the political right and the media they support?

        Your argument does not stand up, and neither do your accusations of smear and slander.

  13. John Ohara

    Guys, we all have more important issues to involve ourselves in and to highlight, than bickering about who may or may not have slighted who. We see first hand our social system being systematically destroyed by the Fascist Ian Duncan Smith. IDS and the DWP refuse to give under the FOI act information which confirms the number of deaths because of their activities in denying the needy the help they require and are legally entitled to. We also need to consider our membership of the EU, we were promised a referendum by Cameron prior to him cheating his way to the PMs job in 2010. We need to worry about the next election, get it wrong and we will be completely screwed for decades. We need to harness the energy here in to brining attention to (in my opinion) the creeping advance of Fascism within the coalition, well displayed by Ian Duncan Smith, it perhaps behoves all of us to consider his background, I.e. Bettsygate, 2001/2, the degree he claimed from a university which does not and never has had a degree course, we need to bring to attention the deaths IDS is causing and which equal those in Syria, and which the clown Cameron re-called parliament to agree military action ( with what) the government has systematically dismantled our armed forces. So in my mind, we need to focus the energy within this site to bring correction to arrogant condescension expressed by the scheming idle money grabbing career minded spineless goverment.

    Now having got rid of the bile I feel much better

    1. Nick

      For the record IDS is a flawed politician as his background is false and at some point the press and the public will need to know i feel

      voting at an election for a person with a poor /rich background is one thing but to vote for a deceptive one that has gone on to hold high office is another and completely bizarre and shows just how foolish his constituents are

      1. John Ohara

        We know he’s a flawed incoherent deceptive individual and a proven liar, that he is so very well protected by Prime minister Cameron speaks volumes of the lack of integrity Cameron employs in holding together a very flawed coalition. Everyone knows IDS has strong Fascist attitude, and his activities via Atos is destroying hundreds if not thousands of lives annually. It’s my belief that IDS is the weak link in the coalition because of his previous lies and deceptions. He’s the one who could not survive a sustained attack for his removal

  14. Linda Rowlands

    What’s the point in character assassinations anyway. Isn’t that how five year old bullies in a play ground behave? I admire Ralph Milbands core values as a human being. Unlike the rest of them he didn’t have an outsized ego to deal with as some of the current members of our government have.

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