Sunday, October 06, 2013
Is the "Daily Mail" antisemitic for pointing to out that the father of the present British Labour Party leader was a prominent Marxist theoretician?
Abuse and accusation is the Leftist modus operandi so I doubt that anyone is much surprised at the torrent of abuse heaped on a newspaper that pointed out the fervid Marxist background of Britain's current Labour Party leader. The accusation that the DM is antisemitic is rather desperate, considering that both the author of the offending article, Geoffrey Levy, and the paper's deputy editor, Jon Steafel, are Jewish. But the article by Alex Brummer below answers that accusation comprehensively anyway.
Amid the abuse, however, it is interesting to see if any substantial refutation -- of the claim that Ralph Miliband hated Britain -- has emerged. The only one I have seen is that Ralph enlisted in the British navy during WWII. Note however that he first volunteered in January, 1942 and was finally enlisted in June 1943, both dates being AFTER Hitler had attacked Stalin (in June 1941). Ralph's loyalty was to Stalin, not Britain
With my psychologist's hat on, it seems fairly clear to me that Ralph's hostility to Britain and British society was at least partly personal. To the British establishment, he would have been seen as an ugly little troll (which he largely was) and definitely "not one of us". To be "one of us" in the Home Counties, the usual minimum requirement is to have been educated at a British "public" (i.e. private) school. A Polish Jew doesn't cut it.
As an intelligent man not inducted into the intricacies of the British class system, this would have provoked in Ralph a not incomprehensible resentment. Had he been more sophisticated, he could have nonetheless gained considerable acceptance by immediately cutting his hair, abandoning those dreadful spectacles, acquiring a "cut glass" accent and cultivating an air of self-confident detachment. No doubt, however, he was too rage-filled for any of that
As it is, Ralph didn't even get on all that well with his fellow Jewish Marxists. His big row with Hobsbawm (born "Obstbaum") has been noted. But perhaps in that he was just being a good Marxist. Karl Marx hated more or less everyone -- even his own mother -- JR
This year I celebrate my barmitzvah (13th year) as a Daily Mail journalist — having made the long ideological journey from my previous job at the Guardian newspaper.
The very idea that I would have made such a move across the spectrum of economic and political thinking, and stuck with it for so many years, if I believed that this paper was anti-Semitic, is utterly risible.
Indeed, the cynical attempts by Lord Kinnock, the political Left and the Labour Party to shift the debate about the Mail article that explored Ed Miliband’s late father Ralph’s views on politics, international affairs and economic models, to one about alleged anti-Semitism within the Associated Newspapers group is absolutely deplorable.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, I, as a practising Jew in the orthodox tradition, regard myself as something of an expert with very sensitive antennae.
This is not surprising. My wonderful father, just like Ralph Miliband, arrived in Britain on a boat as a refugee, from what is now Ukraine in 1939 after the Jewish population where he lived was rounded up and deported to Nazi concentration camps.
My father’s parents died at Auschwitz. His younger sisters survived the horror of the death camps, partly because Nazi doctors found them useful as human guinea pigs during their eugenics experiments.
I regret to say that any Jewish child brought up in Britain in the Fifties and Sixties, when the world was still trying to come to terms with the horror of the Shoah (Holocaust), will likely have experienced anti-Semitism.
For instance, a brilliant City fund manager friend of mine who went to Rugby School before Oxford University suffered virulent anti-Semitism and tells me that is still fresh in his mind.
For myself, as a grammar school boy in Brighton, I encountered frequent taunts and abuse from teachers and pupils alike. It was part of the minority upbringing experience.
At the Guardian, though, which I joined as a graduate trainee in the financial section, my Jewish origins never seemed to matter as I rose through the ranks, eventually becoming Associate Editor of the paper.
But as events in the Middle East changed in the later decades of the 20th century — and given the way the Zionist dream was portrayed by the Left — I felt increasingly uneasy. Coverage of Israel had become hostile, with the country’s leaders depicted as bullies — and, in most part, the Arab world as ‘victims’.
There was at least one occasion, when attending the morning news conference, that I felt it necessary to challenge a news editor publicly over what I regarded as a deeply anti-Semitic attack on Israel’s behaviour. He apologised.
Since arriving as a Jew at the Mail, I have felt much more comfortable away from the knee-jerk anti-Zionism shown by the Left and its totally disproportionate efforts to demonise Israel.
Over the past 13 years, I have taken part in the Mail’s leader conferences, where the paper’s policy is set under the watchful eye of editor Paul Dacre, and where rigorous discussion has taken place about Israel’s behaviour and the moral contribution of Judaism to the world.
If Israel has been perceived to have behaved badly towards the Palestinians — such as over the Israelis’ enthusiastic settlement development in areas like the West Bank and the Golan Heights — criticism has been voiced.
But throughout my time at the Mail, the paper’s loyalty to Israel, as a beacon of democracy and economic success in a region of often ghastly sectarian dictatorships, has never wavered.
Moreover, it is a newspaper that has nurtured and promoted Jewish staff in every editorial department.
When the allegations of anti-Semitism emerged — a sub-plot to attacks on the paper from the Left for its coverage of Ralph Miliband’s views — a colleague (who has worked on the paper for 34 years) burst into my office to express his outrage at the very suggestion that this was the case.
But the real danger in these completely phoney allegations is that they detract from the genuine anti-Semitism that is suddenly on the march again in Eastern and Southern Europe.
For example, in Hungary, we are witnessing the rise of the virulently anti-Semitic nationalist party Jobbik, which is linked to paramilitary-style militias. And in Greece there has been a surge in support for the extremist Right-wing Golden Dawn party, which beats up immigrants on the streets.
It is absurd to suggest that the Mail is anti-Semitic — for its deputy editor has Jewish origins, and a leading columnist and many other staff are Jewish.
It is hardly likely that Melanie Phillips, one of the most outspoken and fervently pro-Jewish, pro-Israel voices in British political discourse, would have served the paper for so long, so bravely and so brilliantly, were that the case.
As for the article itself about the beliefs and politics of Ralph Miliband’s life, it would have been impossible for the paper, or anyone else for that matter, to try to piece it together without referring to his arrival in Britain as a refugee from Nazism and his Jewish background.
The fact that he and others on the Marxist Left happened to be Jewish cannot be avoided. But it doesn’t mean that anyone who writes about such issues is anti-Semitic. Nor is such journalism a ‘smear’.
The Mail’s reasons for scrutinising the family background of Ed Miliband, in an article by Geoffrey Levy, cannot be attributed to the base notion of exposing his Jewishness. It was simply to try to explain why Ed Miliband was, as he declared (from a soapbox in my home town of Brighton a few days earlier), a ‘socialist’.
And it was also to get a better understanding of where some of his more extreme anti-free market views came from. As an experienced financial writer, it was hard for me to ignore the repeated assaults on enterprise in his party conference speech.
It included a threat to freeze prices of energy companies; to grab back land from house builders suspected of hoarding unused real estate; to punish big corporations with higher taxes and to increase the so-called ‘bonus’ taxes on the banks.
Understanding where a political leader’s deep-rooted political beliefs stem from is what newspapers and biographers have done over the ages.
Nearly always, the first couple of hundred pages of a political biography investigates the subject’s family background.
For example, Charles Moore’s recent biography of Margaret Thatcher partly explores the sometimes starkly conservative views of her shop-keeper father Alfred Roberts, including some latent anti-Semitism.
Such views, absorbed at the hearth during childhood, help to frame adult beliefs. Of course, these may be shed in adulthood — as they were in Mrs Thatcher’s case — but they are a fascinating part of the human puzzle.
The next time anyone wants to accuse the Daily Mail of poor standards of journalism, I suggest they talk to the paper’s department editors first and learn about the rigorous standards that are followed to produce accurate reporting.
Also, the next time someone wants to accuse the paper of anti-Semitism, I have an invitation for them.
Join me in my office with other members of staff — Jewish and non-Jewish — as we light the Chanukah freedom lights in that season of the year, or join us for apple and honey at the Jewish New Year.
That is part of our lives on a news floor where different religions and cultures are celebrated.
The Guardian and Left-wing mass murderers: a love story
First, an admission. I’ve worked for both the Guardian and the Mail, and I can report that both papers are staffed by lots of nice, intelligent people. Really.
But that doesn’t stop these papers making complete fools of themselves – as the Guardian has ably demonstrated this week, during the debate as to whether Ed Miliband’s dad, Ralph, was just an amiable old duffer with a penchant for Marks and Spencer vests, or a grisly Marxist quisling, hell-bent on blowing up Prince Philip (personally, I suspect the truth lies somewhere between the two).
As of this morning, the Guardian has published approximately 3,894 articles on the Miliband-Mail spat, a frenzy of moral superiority which culminated in an editorial, couched in lofty tones of weary disappointment, in which the Guardian gently reminded its readers that the Mail used to support the blackshirts in the 1930s.
And this is true. The Mail did publish some odious bilge back in the day.
But is the Guardian completely blemish-free when it comes to Dubious Opinions From The Past?
Here’s the Guardian in 1919, getting an interview with Lenin. The Guardian finds him “pleasant” and “refreshing”. This, of course, is the same pleasant refreshing Lenin who, alongside the humorous, delightful Stalin and the wryly charming KGB pleasantly refreshed 30 million Russians into their graves, in a decades-long campaign of torture, starvation, imprisonment, slave labour and brutal purges.
But maybe that was a one-off? After all, anyone can be taken in by a dictator with a really nifty goatee.
Well, no. Here in 2007 is Guardian writer Neil Clark hurling rose petals at agreeable, kitten-saving Slobodan Milosevic. Yes, that Slobodan Milosevic – the one who, six years before Clark’s article, was brought to The Hague, accused of savage war crimes and racialised slaughter.
According to the Guardian’s Neil Clark, however, Milosevic was just a victim of nasty western neo-liberal discrimination. I’m not joking. These are Clark’s very own words in The Guardian, after Slobo’s death in prison: “Milosevic was mourned not just in Serbia, but throughout the world: in China, Africa, Asia and South America, as a hero of the anti-imperialist, anti-globalist struggle.”
The Guardian’s refreshingly pleasant tolerance of unusual journalists does not begin and end with Clark. They are also happy to hire enemy spies who work constantly to undermine Britain, in fact, I understand they positively prefer it. For instance, in the 1930s their Chinese correspondent was Agnes Smedley, an enthusiast for all things communist, and a big, big fan of that affable Chairman Mao. Trouble is, in 2005, it was proved she was actually a secret agent working for the Soviet Union and Comintern.
The pleasant experience with Smedley was such a refreshing success the Guardian later went on to hire Richard Gott, a public-school Marxist (like his younger Guardian colleague Seumas Milne). In 1994 it was revealed that Gott had been working for the KGB for years and had taken Red Gold. Gott tried to dismiss his espionage as an “enjoyable joke” (yes, how they laughed in the Gulags when they heard); nonetheless Gott was, eventually, forced to resign in disgrace.
And yet he didn’t. He’s still working for the newspaper now. In 2007 the self-confessed KGB informant Richard Gott wrote an article in the Guardian, saying that Britain really should hand the Falklands back to Argentina, “regardless of the islanders’ wishes”.
Imagine if the Daily Mail hired a journalist. Imagine the Mail was then told this journalist was a fascist spy, taking money from fascists, so they were forced to sack him. Imagine the Daily Mail then thought "To hell with it", and hired the same guy again – to write some more sinister articles? How would the Guardian react to that?
Perhaps they would find it all rather refreshing.
Ever since I criticised a leftist icon, the Beeb hasn't stopped calling me
Ring, ring goes the telephone every minute God sends. Sometimes I pick it up and say hello, sometimes I don’t. I know who is calling, anyway. It is one or another media representative from the bien-pensant absolutist liberal left, and they are all in a dither about a man called Ralph Miliband, of whom they had probably never heard until a few hours ago, and whom they have most certainly not read. Their sense of excitement, these youngish callers from a multiplicity of BBC news stations and, of course, Channel 4 News, is palpable; it fizzes and crackles down the line, their outrage and their delight at possibly finding someone who might add to their outrage, perhaps cube their outrage. Unless it’s just the jackdaws hacking away at the telephone lines again. It could be that.
The phone only ever rings like that when I’ve made a transgression against the sensibilities of these relentlessly busy people by saying something with which they disagree. Then all hell is let loose and my wife wanders into my room with a terribly weary expression on her face and says, ‘Why can’t you just keep your bloody mouth shut for once, you imbecile?’ and slams the door. Quite often the provisional wing of the bien-pensants gets involved, the Press Complaints Commission. But only when it’s the liberals who have been transgressed.
The odd thing is, it never, ever happens when I have a go at the right, no matter how recklessly, personally or unpleasantly. Sometimes when I’ve been spiteful about the crop of smug and inept public-school boys who currently run this country, I sort of hope that the phone will start its incessant ringing, because it would make a nice change. But it never does. I could write an article insisting that David Cameron was created from the frozen semen of Adolf Hitler by Soviet scientists and that he enjoyed nightly intercourse with feral goats — and the Beeb and Channel 4 wouldn’t give a monkey’s. ‘He’s probably right,’ they’d all be saying to themselves, ‘for once.’ There would be no calls for sackings, or prosecutions. The Guardian Comment is Free website would be utterly uninterested.
The problem on this occasion was a blog I had written for The Spectator agreeing, in a small part, with an article written by the Daily Mail’s Geoffrey Levy about the sociologist and, uh, activist, Ralph Miliband — father of the Labour leader Ed, of course. As it happens, I don’t think it was a particular brilliant article — as I said in the blog, I thought Levy’s hatchet was constructed from thinnish gruel, to coin a somewhat confusing metaphor. I don’t think the comments of a very young Ralph Miliband about Britain being full of horrible gung-ho nationalists should define the man forever as a hater of the country which took him in, as an émigré from Belgium, all those years ago. Nor do I think that Ed’s politics owe very much to his father’s view of the world, which, like that of most mid-20th century Marxist academics, was Manichean and corrupt. Further, if the Levy article was a smear, an attempt to sway voters away from Labour, I don’t think for a second that it will have worked; if anything, Ed’s stoic defence of his father might have swung a few votes his way.
But Ralphy? Not good, really not good. A competent writer (for a sociologist, at least — certainly a lot better than his mate C. Wright Mills), but possessed of views which wished to see the overthrow of the British state. A view steeped in a sort of intellectual, distanced, hatred; effete and pointless and hugely damaging to the Labour party, of which Ralph Miliband was a member for most of his later life. (To his credit, he never quite signed up to the Communist party.)
My real objection is the way in which these British-based Marxist academics are still revered, still taken seriously, despite having been proved wrong about almost everything. It is true that Ralph Miliband was markedly less of a poisonous influence than the ghastly Eric Hobsbawm, or the gentle and deluded E.P. Thompson, or Raymond Williams, or Stuart Hall or John Berger. Universities are just about the only place in the western world where you will find people who sign up to the dull, Victorian, mechanistic plodding of Karl Marx; somehow both Marx and his disciples have a sort of tenure in the soft social sciences, the faux disciplines of sociology and lit crit and meeja studies, and of course any module with the word ‘ethnic’ or ‘cultural’ in its heading. It is a form of radical chic dilettantism, laughable today (ever since Malcolm Bradbury created Howard Kirk in The History Man), but dangerous in the scary postwar years when the Communist party controlled several major unions and still posed threats both existential and via the ballot box.
And I repeat the charge. If George Osborne’s dad was as far to the right as Ralph Miliband was to the left, and this fact was reported (having read interviews with Osborne’s father, this might not be far from the truth), nobody would howl in anger that this was a smear, would they? The BBC and Channel 4 News would, instead, leap in and kick the living daylights out of Osborne Sr and think themselves entirely justified in so doing. Ralph Miliband may have been a lovely dad, but he was a damaging and unjustly revered influence. It should not be a crime to say as much.
Another shifty Shi-ite
Mehdi Hasan, who writes for the Huffington Post UK blog, attacked the Daily Mail over the Ralph Miliband controversy on BBC1's Question Time on Thursday.
But the senior political journalist was not always such a passionate opponent of this newspaper.
Indeed, in July 2010, while working at the left-wing New Statesman, Mr Hasan wrote to the Daily Mail editor asking if he could write for the paper.
Here we print extracts of what he said then - and what he said on Question Time on Thursday.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.