DM can stand for Direct Messages in Twitter or the Daily Mail out there in the big bad world. I don’t read either, and all my friends know that I never read British newspapers of any kind.
Nonetheless there are always those that like to sympathise: today I’ve had plenty of, “Ooh you seem to have riled the Daily Mail” and “The Daily Fail have got it in for you today”… tweets. None of which has made me turn to the loathed organ in response and dignify it with reading whatever it is that it has written about me. I have pieced together that it’s the usual “what right does the pompous luvvie have…” etc etc. Well, the same right as the pompous journo who wrote the piece I would assume. In other words the right of free speech. Are they suggesting I actually don’t have the right to blog? Apparently the hate-piece* was put together by a disc jockey called Colin something or other whose great use for Lord Dacre, the Mail’s autocratic führer, is that he is gay. “Hurrah! Stephen Fry doesn’t speak for all gay people!” Well, of course I bloody don’t and would never claim to. But if there’s one thing the Mail can do better than any other paper it’s erect a fake coconut and then knock it down and claim a prize.
I have helped spark a debate about the Sochi Olympiad and I can be as proud (or “smug” as they would undoubtedly call it) about that as I like.
There’s no real personal animus in this at all. A friend gave me a “Hated by the Daily Mail” badge and it remains one of the proudest things I own.
But there’s form here. The Mail still can’t quite live with the shame that it has always, always been historically wrong about everything - large and small - from Picasso to equal pay for women. Because it has always been against progress, the liberalising of attitudes, modern art and strangers (whether by race, gender or sexuality). Of course they’ll leap on a Stephen Lawrence bandwagon once the seeds of their decades of anti-immigration racism (read a 1960s or 1970s Daily Mail) have been sown, but deep down they have always come from the same place and had the same instinct for the lowest, most mean-spirited, hypocritical, spiteful and philistine elements of our island nation.
Most notoriously of all, they loved Adolf Hitler when he came to power, and as the Czech crisis arose they were the appeasement newspaper. And woe-betide any liberal-minded anti-fascist who warned that the man was unstable and that consistently satisfying his vanity, greed and ambition was only storing up trouble. The whole liberal left, not to mention Winston Churchill, were mocked and scorned for their instinctive distrust of Hitler. The Daily Mail knew better.
In January 1934 Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, younger brother of the paper’s founder Alfred Northcliffe (the 4th Viscount Rothermere is chairman of the company that still owns it) wrote an article called “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”. He was sending congratulatory telegrams to “My dear Führer” as he liked to call him, right up until a few months before the outbreak of war. For more details read this article by Richard Norton-Taylor
Of course I know Putin isn’t Hitler. But then Hitler wasn’t the full Hitler we now think of in back in 1935 either. The death camps and atrocities were years away. He became the Hitler of 1939 because we never stopped him. All historians agree now on how doubtful and uncertain he was in 35, 36, 37, and 38. The occupation of the Rheinland provinces of Alsace Lorraine and the annexation of Austria went unchallenged. The Olympic games reinforced his huge status at home.
Nor was Stalin the full Stalin in 1920. True terrible bloody leaders become so because they are not stopped. The last four lines of W. H. Auden’s The Tyrant come to mind:
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.
Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Franco and any other despot you care to mention: they become despotic, maniacal, more autocratic, more insane every time they are given a greater sense of their own power. The fanatical junior KGB officer Vladimir Putin will become, if he is allowed to get away with it, as autocratic as any Tsar or any Soviet chairman. Vladimir the Terrible will have blood on his hands. He already does, but there will be so so much more. Little children will die in the streets. All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. That saying is so well-known it’s hardly worth repeating. You would think…
But apparently I don’t have the right to bleat my liberal opinion. Apparently because one of my livelihoods is acting (oh how they love to forget the fact that I’ve written books and even more millions of words of journalism) makes anything I say “luvvie talk”. It rather amuses me that the Oxford English Dictionary cites me as the first person to use the word luvvie. The word has come back to bite me in the arse, you might say…
IL DUCE DACRE
I should add this, just because you have a Right To Know. Lord Dacre is himself a frothing autocrat. An absolutely foul-mouthed boss, who constantly screams the c word at just about anyone. He would have read my Open Letter to David Cameron and yelled that “that cunt Fry needs another fucking dressing fucking down” — just the kind of language that his paper would prissily decry of course, there’s the glory in the vile bastard’s hypocrisy. He sends his son to Eton, but somehow mocks me for being posh. He bullies, swears and shrieks, but presents his paper as having the values and standards of a misty Midsomer Britain. He decries indecency on one page and pushes his male readers into a semi over a semi-nude actress on another. His cancer scare, miracle cure stories are sickeningly anti-science and the only good thing to be said about his Mail is that no one decent or educated believes in it. Which is what you can say about psychics, mediums, homeopathy and the casting of runes, but that makes it, like them, more exploitative and wicked, not less.
Dacre is, all those who have had the misfortune to work for him assure me, just about as loathsome, self-regarding, morally putrid, vengeful and disgusting a man as it possible to be. His power is absolute. Cross him either in private or public and you will be assassinated by his sycophantic squad of columnist minions, all of them infected with his brand of repulsive hypocritical and gleeful spite, ready to vomit out a screed against the BBC (watch this hilarious Vine loop as an example http://entertainment.ie/wtf/Watch-If-you-think-Sky-News-was-bad-with-the-royal-baby-coverage/202884.htm ) or any other institution they hate.
He absolutely despises me and thinks I stand for everything that is wrong about Britain and I think exactly the same of him.
Well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. In the case of the Daily Mail that’s 50p or whatever it is now and in the case of me it’s for the low, low price of free.
*hate-piece is a genuinely used term: I can remember being rung up by an editor in the 80s when I still wrote for papers and magazines. “Yeah, we need a hate-piece on x by tomorrow”. It was one of the moments that eventually stopped me from ever writing for papers again. That and the blessed advent of sites like this and twitter.