Thursday, February 02, 2006

When the Mail backed the Men in Black shirts

DAILY MAIL, January 15, 1934
Proprietor Viscount Rothermere enthuses over a fashion item

Guardian diarist Duncan Campbell has been promoting a competition to win "the new must-have fashion item - a black T-shirt with the legend 'Hated by the Daily Mail' on it". He says people qualified to wear it would be Gypsies, asylum seekers, gays, single mothers, trade unionists, social workers, etc . One woman contacted him to say she qualified in nine categories.,,1698425,00.html,,1699945,00.html

But why black? I know Henry Ford said customers could buy his cars in any colour they liked, so long as it was black, and it may be flattering for those of us with the fuller figure. (I can still just about struggle into the black "Down with the Occupation" tee shirt my friend Sue brought me fifteen years ago, a souvenir from her time with Women in Black, Tel Aviv, which I've kept very proudly).

But mention black shirts and the "Daily Mail" to anyone my age or over, anyone who has listened to their parents or knows their history, and it brings to mind the uniform worn in the 1930s by followers of the British fascist Sir Oswald Mosley.

A black tee shirt hardly seems appropriate for anyone who feels hated by the newspaper which once ran the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!" Indeed, its companion the Sunday Dispatch, owned like the Mail by Lord Rothermere, ran a prize essay competition for enthusiastic readers entitled "Why I like the blackshirts".
(as we're reminded by Martin Pugh in Hurrah for the Blackshirts, published last year by Jonathan Cape, from which I've taken the illustration).

I've dropped a note to Duncan Campbell asking if the choice of shirt colour was meant to be ironic. I don't want to be thought slow on the uptake.

An opportunity to make the punishment fit the crime

Talking of fascists, now that they wear suits, we have had British National Party leader Nick Griffin assuring a court that when he was secretly filmed addressing his yobs in a Yorkshire pub about "Pakis" carrying out instructions in the Koran to impregnate white Yorkshire women, he was merely criticising the Islamic religion, and not inciting hatred. Yeah, join the BNP and discuss theology with your mates.
Meanwhile, Muslim cleric and self-claimed Afghan war veteran Abu Hamza al-Masri has been complaining that his trial for inciting hatred is 'politically motivated'.

Egyptian-born Abu Hamza came to Britain, and obtained UK citizenship, when the Tories were in government. He was shielded from extradition to Egypt and Yemen while much more deserving asylum seekers have been locked up and deported Of course, when Uncle Sam wants him, the Blair government takes more notice.

Writing in the Sunday People some years ago after the preacher first attracted tabloid attention, former Tory Home Office minister David Mellor demanded to know "who let this man in to the country?"
I like quizzes, and having checked the dates, I wrote back saying "You did!" But my letter went unprinted and unacknowledged. Mellor did not send me a prize, nor even thank me for refreshing his memory.

Anyway, though I'm no expert on penal reform, the coincidence of the two hate trials now leads me to wonder: if both these gentlemen, Abu Hamza and Nick Griffin are found guilty, why not give them time to educate each other, and develop their philosophies, by placing them in a cell together? Just an idea.

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