Sunday 27 February 2011

Can't somebody teach the Mail some history?

The Daily Mail often campaigns for more history teaching in our schools - something on which we would very much agree; and this blog was able to conduct some citizenship education, at the end of which we could happily agree with the Mail on who counts as British too.

But it seems that much more needs to be done to promote the case for more history teaching for the Mail newspapers' editorial teams too.

Mr Dacre's team on the Mail on Sunday are very happy this morning with the apparent triumph of their campaign against putting Britain on "Berlin time".

If the Mail doesn't want to put the clocks forward, then perhaps we can understand the case for that.

Yet they are even gloating at the unfortunate histories of their rivals.

The proposal was even backed in a Leader page opinion piece in The Times – perhaps appropriately, given that the same newspaper backed the appeasement of Hitler in the Thirties and Stalin in the Forties

A hat tip to Christopher Cook of the FT who tweets:

Mail attacks The Times for its support for appeasement in the 1930s. Did none of them think to check the Mail's line?

Some people would say let bygones be bygones.

But if the Mail disagrees with that, then it seems inevitable that they are going to end up with people dragging up all of that unpleasant business of the Mail's own Hurrah for the Blackshirts editorial of 15th January 1934, in which the newspaper set out the case for Mosley's British Union of Fascists

"a well organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed"

Or noting some of Lord Rothermere's many other sustained and insistent objections to anti-Nazi scaremongering (though he sounds not so keen on the Germany-bashing of today's Daily Mail).

"These young Germans have discovered, as I am glad to note the young men and women of England are discovering, that it is no good trusting to the old politicians. Accordingly they have formed, as I would like to see our British youth form, a Parliamentary party of their own. . . We can do nothing to check this movement [the Nazi's] and I believe it would be a blunder for the British people to take up an attitude of hostility towards it. . . We must change our conception of Germany. . .The older generation of Germans were our enemies. Must we make enemies of this younger generation too?"

This meant ignoring pesky leftie hysteria in trying to imply the Nazis were not splendid chaps.

They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call "Nazi atrocities" which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.

The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war.

Under editor Geoffrey Dawson, The Times self-censored its news reporting of German affairs, patrticularly anti-semitism, to suit its pro-appeasement editorial line, in which Dawson was closely involved as a player in diplomatic policy-making as well as a public champion of the Chamberlain government's policy. Of course, that is not a proud chapter in The Times' long history.

But The Times would have struggled to match Lord Rothermere's enthusiasm for appeasement, and was certainly not nearly so keen on Nazism itself.

On 1 October 1938, after the Munich agreement, Lord Rothermere telegrammed Hitler

‘Frederick the Great was a great popular figure in England. May not Adolf the Great become an equally popular figure? I salute Your Excellency’s star which rises higher and higher.’

On 28 March 1938, when the Nuremberg laws had long been in place, the Daily Mail wrote regarding Jews attempting to flee Nazi Germany:

‘To be ruled by misguided sentimentalism would be disastrous. Once it was known that Britain offered sanctuary to all who cared to come, the floodgates would be opened and we would be inundated by thousands seeking a home.’

The current Viscount Rothermere was born in 1967. Clearly, while he has an important position in public life because of his many inheritances, he could not be held personally responsible for the past. But it would be as well to acknowledge it, and perhaps just occasionally to reflect on whether anything might be learnt from it, or, if that seems too much, they might be well advised (again) to at least desist from throwing stones from a glass house.

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