I know, I know, I am almost sixty years old, a grown man even … and yes, if my Mum was still alive, she’d say ‘tut, tut, Alastair, why are you bothering to make a film about that silly man from the Daily Mail that most people have never heard of, and none but his family and staff could pick out of an identity parade?’
That is partly my purpose, in fact, about banging on as I do about the Daily Mail, and its editor, Paul Dacre, for whom the old label ‘power without responsibility’ could have been invented. The public ought to know more about someone who runs such a commercially successful and influential organisation. He and his paper are the very worst of British values constantly posing and preening as the best.
We should neither understate nor overstate its importance, however. The Mail is culturally vile, for sure, and its most negative impact, in my eyes, has been its ability to influence other parts of the media, and so the broader debate. But part of the reason for my little ‘I’m still standing’ video is to emphasise to people who, willingly or unwillingly, are in the public eye, that the only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. Of course, what a newspaper like the Mail says about you might at the margins have an impact on the way that some people view you. But provided it has no impact upon you, both your character and your determination to do whatever it is you are minded to do, then any power it feels it has is removed.
Name drop time. When Bill Clinton was talking to me about how he survived the Lewinsky scandal, when papers all around the world were hounding him to a seemingly inevitable downfall, he said that part of his survival technique was the insight that ‘you must give permission to people’ to bring you down, to change your mood for the worse. Once you see a thing like the Mail as comic, and an editor like Dacre as the comic-in-chief, worthy of pity, a source of humour and ridicule not fear, then you have the right approach.
So in these dark post-Brexit, Trumpian, Corbynista times, we must find reasons to keep smiling. I enjoyed making the #hatemail film, and I am pleased that in the reactions so far, most have included the fact that it made people laugh or smile. A producer from Sky News asked me if there was a ‘deeper meaning’ to me doing it at this time? No. I had the idea, I made the film, bit of fun, hate the Mail.
But alongside the #hatemail hashtag is #ripitup, and I do feel that one day my campaign to stop airlines and other travel operators handing out free copies of the Mail will win. These freebie giveaways are all part of a scam to keep sales figures fraudulently high, so for that reason alone we should not play along. But as you can see in the video, the Mail’s paper is eminently tearable, it is a nice feeling, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is reading this in an airline lounge or about to get on a British Airways or Virgin flight. These genuinely great British brands really ought to know better.
For those who don’t know what the hell I have been talking about, and with thanks to Silverfish, here is the #hatemail #ripitup film Now let’s get out there and rip it up.