The Horrible History of the Daily Mail

This week the Daily Mail has teamed with up Horrible Histories to give out free copies of new, pocket-sized Horrible Histories of Great Britain. We take our own trip into the dark and deep depths of the Daily Mail’s racism and xenophobia through the last century.

Fanatical about fascism

Let us begin in 1930 when Adolf Hitler made considerable gains in the German elections. Mein Kampf had already been written, making clear Hitler’s ideas on the racial supremacy of the supposed ‘Aryan’ race. And yet, for the Daily Mail, Hitler, his party and their success represented the “birth of Germany as a nation”.

Fast forward a few years to January 1934, when they ran with the headline “Hurrah for the Blackshirts" with an article celebrating Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Mosley was highly influenced by Benito Mussolini, so much so that members of the BUF were given the nickname of ‘Blackshirts’ as their uniform was modelled on that worn by those belonging to the National Fascist Party in Italy. Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail and author of the article, praised Mosley and the Blackshirts seeing them as the correct party to “take over responsibility for [British] national affairs”. 

Not only did this positive reporting gain them exclusive access to publish interviews with Hitler, it also earned Lord Rothermere and his son a place at the dinner table as honoured guests of Hitler himself.

A move to disguised discrimination

As the Second World War loomed, the Daily Mail began to change its editorial line and moved away from explicitly supporting fascists and their regimes. But, the racism and xenophobia remained a key part of their ‘journalism’ and has continued through to this day.

A few weeks before the 2012 Olympics, the Mail claimed that the British team had 61 plastic Brits” due to the fact they had been born oversees, ignoring the fact that the majority of the 61 were entitled to British citizenship from birth due to having British heritage. Also, this takes a very narrow, and frankly wrong, approach to what it means to be British.

The Mail was also outraged when the opening ceremony depicted a multicultural family. Because, according to Rick Dewsbury, it was "absurd" and "unrealistic" to show a "mixed-race middle-class family in a detached new-build home". For him, this was done to appease the politically correct agenda that supposedly exists in Britain as he believes that in reality it would be a "challenge […] to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up". After a flurry of complaints the Mail simply took the offending material off its website without uttering a word and definitely not an apology. However, an archived screen print can still be found.

In 2014 the Mail published a cartoon likening migrants to rats. Not only is the cartoon racist in its portrayal of Muslims - one man cannot be seen in any other detail other than his beard and a rifle poking out of his bag - but the choice of animal used harks back to Hitler’s Germany in 1939 when cartoons in newspapers often depicted Jews as rats - vermin that had to be got rid of. 

Daily Mail cartoon comparing migrants to ratsNazi Germany cartoon

Even more recently the Daily Mail has received criticism due to its portrayal of Marine Le Pen and the Front National in France. After the first round of voting in this year's presidential elections, in which Le Pen came second, the Mail gleefully filled their front page with the headline “The new French revolution”. The Mail is once again overtly in support of a party which has definite flirtations with fascism.

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