I wasn’t going to blog about the whole Daily Mail / Ralph Miliband saga because, well, I haven’t much to add to it. The Daily Mail is unremittingly awful and no one throws “the god of Deuteronomy“ into opinion pieces unless they’re aiming for anti-Semitic innuendo. The end. Except it isn’t because now it’s no longer about the reputations of the dead but the egos of the living.

It’s no longer enough to hate the Daily Mail. You have to be hated by it, and if not, you need to find a showy reason why actually, you’re even more righteous than the Daily Mail haters/hated. We’re defining ourselves by our relationship with a newspaper we’d rather didn’t exist. Is it just me or has it all become incredibly hard work?

It’s not that I’m not up for some Mail-bashing. As annoying as I find Mehdi Hasan — especially since last year’s ludicrous pregnancy/abortion mansplantation — I thought his anti-Mail rant on Newsnight was passionate and well-placed. No cringeworthy job application (or “sycophantic letter”) from three years ago can change that.* So what if he dines out on it forever more? His depiction of the paper was accurate.

It’s irritating, of course, to think that deep down, it’s unlikely that a self-confessed social conservative can be all that distressed by things that are anti-woman and/or homophobic, but never mind. Why go into the specifics? (Although I’m sure it would be an interesting experiment to sit down with Hasan and go through copy after copy of the Mail, asking for his view on which bits were sexist and which were merely “traditional values”. Just so that, come the revolution, we’d all know where we stood.) Anyhow, an anti-Mail rant is an anti-Mail rant and I liked this one. We could do with more of them, at least, that is, if we’re not Nick Cohen.

In a Spectator blog post entitled Who is the greater hypocrite: Mehdi Hasan or the British Left? Cohen produces a long-winded diatribe which must make anyone who is personally (as opposed to hypothetically) hated by the Mail want to bury their heads in their hands and cry. The argument seems to be this:

  1. Mehdi Hasan is a hypocrite because of THAT letter but what do you expect of, you know, someone like him?
  2. The Left – which sort of is and isn’t Mehdi Hasan — are even worse than the Mail when it comes to “progressive values” such as women’s rights, although having said that, “women’s rights” only exists as a concept to be used in attacks on straw man lefties who aren’t attacking straw man Islam enough
  3. Lefties themselves don’t care about sexism (sexism being strictly defined as “stuff Muslims do to ‘their’ women” which ‘we’ wouldn’t do to ‘our’ women — have you made a note of that, ‘women’?)
  4. Instead of attacking the Mail we should be attacking the real enemies of British society, such as Woman’s Hour (just why isn’t Jane Garvey running on-air prosecutions for FGM? Eh? Answer me that, liberal elite!)

It is appalling. Just when you think “bollocks, do I really have to side with Alistair Campbell and Mehdi Hasan over this one?” along comes Nick Cohen and you’re left thinking “damn it, I really, really do”. Yet it’s so far removed from the actual politics of the Daily Mail and what’s actually wrong with it that you start to wonder if there’s any point.

Macho posturing over who hates bigotry the most seems to involve zero engagement with actual bigotry, unless it’s toppling over into actual bigotry itself. How depressing. The debate replicates the power structures it’s claiming to critique. Meanwhile, I find myself thinking “the Mail – it really is that bad, isn’t it? Maybe I need to check. Maybe I should allow myself one last hate-read.” The siren call of Femail and Right Minds is powerful but I will resist. All the same, why does the rest of it have to be such a struggle?

* A very long time ago — definitely more than three years — I was the author of a Daily Mail Letter of the Day (on education). So I suppose if I had Hasan’s profile I’d have my own Daily Mail skeleton. It’d probably be a worse one, in fact, since I never even asked for any money *hangs head in shame, binge drinks to forget*