Ruling

03137-18 Ashton v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      6th December 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03137-18 Ashton v Daily Mail

Summary of Complaint 

1.    David Ashton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Malign Mosley shadow that still casts its evil over Britain”, published on 28 February 2018, and an article headlined “Even at Oxford he battled with the Press”, published on 2 March 2018. 

2.    The first article was published online with the headline “Malign Mosley shadow that still casts its evil over Britain: Neo-Nazi group - which idolises Jo Cox's killer - today draws inspiration from fascist Union Movement that Max championed... with his fists”. The second article was published with the headline “Even at Oxford he battled with the Press: The untold story of Max Mosley’s first clashes with the journalists who crossed him”. 

3.    The first article reported on the legacy of Oswald Mosley, and his Union Movement (UM). It alleged that the activities of UM “have left a malign legacy, insidiously undermining many areas of life in modern Britain”. In support of this claim, the article reported that contemporary figures on the far-right of British politics had affiliated themselves with Oswald Mosely. It quoted from a 2007 book about the revival of post-war British fascism, which claimed that “The Union Movement…was an ideological conveyer belt transmitting its own particularly malignant set of political and cultural idioms…to a new generation of activists”. 

4.    The first article later described the complainant as a “personification of the Mosleyite ‘ideological conveyer belt’”. It reported that the complainant had been “recruited” to help with Oswald Mosley’s writings while at Oxford, which it said he had done for almost two decades. It reported that he contributed to the “vehemently racist Action newspaper”, and that in one article, he wrote “we should stop the introduction of contagious disease into Britain by immigrants”, and that he “advocated that ‘coloured doctors’ should also be sent ‘home’”. The article reported that the complainant went to stay at Oswald Mosley’s Paris home to complete his editing of the book that would become “Mosley: Right or Wrong”. 

5.    The article claimed that the complainant “is a regular presence on white supremacist and neo-fascist website forums”. It claimed that in August 2017, he had referred to the “JQ”, which it claimed “was a shorthand among the far-right for the ‘Jewish Question’, the alleged Jewish desire to have world domination”. The article stated that Hitler had decided that the Holocaust was the answer to the “Jewish Question”, and that only a few months ago, the complainant had said “I still think there are effective and counter-productive ways of dealing with the JQ”. 

6.    The second article discussed Max Mosley’s history of clashes with the press. It stated that the complainant had been in the audience when Oswald Mosley had spoken on the subject of “race relations” at Oxford University’s Humanist Society. It said that while at university “as a young neo-fascist”, he had been recruited by Max Mosley to help his father. The piece quoted the complainant who said that “The reason why Oswald Mosley took advantage of occasional university invitations, and tried to gain support among students and teachers, is surely obvious.” 

7.    The complainant said that the articles contained a number of inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1. Above all, he was concerned that the newspaper had seriously misrepresented his political opinions and actions. He accepted that he had always opposed uncontrolled permanent mass immigration into the UK, but he was not a racist, a white supremacist or an anti-Semite. 

8.    The complainant said that the first article had inaccurately described him as “a personification of the Mosleyite ‘ideological conveyor belt’”, which suggested that he was a ”personification” and “conveyor” of the “evil” referenced in the article. 

9.    He said that the article had inaccurately suggested that he revered Oswald Mosley, whom the newspaper had wrongly portrayed as an “evil accomplice to mass murder”. He had never idolised him, though he had admired his intelligence, and had agreed with many of his post-war policies. He had also not stayed at Oswald Mosley’s Paris home while he worked on his book, as reported. In fact, he had stayed in a building owned by him, but he had never visited his home. In total, he had helped him between 1959 and 1968, and not for “almost two decades”, as claimed in the article. The biography, published in 1975, referred to in the article was not controlled or authorised by Oswald Mosley. Furthermore, he had never been a member of the UM or its Action party successor; he had attended five indoor and several outdoor UM meetings, plus several Action dinners, but he had not spoken publicly for the organisation, or canvassed or leafleted for Oswald Mosley. 

10. The complainant said that the article had given a misleading impression of his political comments by taking them out of context. His contributions to Action newspaper were never “racist”, as suggested by the first article. Furthermore, he did not believe that contagious diseases were imported because their carriers were “coloured”; his concern was that immigrants who brought in unchecked serious diseases happened to come from “non-white” countries. While he had said that doctors from overseas should return to their homelands in order to treat the sick there, he had not suggested that they should be forcibly deported.   

11. The complainant said that the first article had inaccurately attributed to him Hitler’s idea of the “Jewish Question”, and had suggested that he agreed with his genocidal “solution”. This was utterly contrary to his beliefs. He explained that he had not used the term “Jewish Question” in the same way that Hitler had used it. Rather, he had used it to refer to the issue of Jewish relations with others, and the future of Israel. The newspaper had ignored his comments on the Occidental Observer website in which he had made clear that he opposed discrimination against Jewish people. 

12. The complainant said that he had not accused Jewish people in general of white-collar crime, as suggested by the first article, which had reported that he had said that “ordinary Jews…don’t make their money by burglary or mugging, nor do they get into drunken brawls: their anti-social activities are more ‘sophisticated’”.  Rather, he had pointed out the cultural difference in the offences committed by “high-IQ professionals” in comparison to those committed by “ethnic groups of lower comparative social status”. 

13. The complainant accepted that he had referred to the Holocaust using the term “’six million’ cliché”, as stated in the first article. However, he had used the term “cliché” to mean that the six-million figure had become a “mechanical slogan” often used to promote political correctness and to discourage criticism of the Israeli government. He believed that murder was murder, and considered that the precise or probable number of Holocaust victims was a matter of genuine dispute and one for objective democratic and documentary analysis. 

14. The complainant denied that he was a “regular presence” on white supremacist website forums. He said that he commented on Quora, an open opinion site; the Zionist Gatestone Institute site; the Genetic Literacy Project, a site run by a Jewish writer which looked at scientific issues; Spiked Online, an open forum for debate; Quarterly Review, a cultural site with a right-wing orientation; and American Renaissance, a “race-realist” site, supportive of white interests. He said that he was now banned from commenting on the Occidental Observer site, which he described as “anti-Jewish”, because he had “attacked” its anti-Semitic contributors and Holocaust deniers, and had challenged its attitudes towards Jewish people. 

15. The complainant said that the references to him in the first article, alongside images and information about two National Action members, had given the misleading impression that he shared their ideologies or that they were his personal comrades. 

16. The complainant said that he had not been a “young neo-fascist”, as stated in the second article, and it was inaccurate to label his views as “fascism”. In fact, he had always advocated free speech, a free press, peace and free elections, and Oswald Mosley had said himself that his policy had “passed beyond fascism”. In addition, the complainant said that both of the articles should have pointed out that Oswald Mosley’s books with which he was associated “explicitly condemned” antisemitism, Nazi race policy, and the Holocaust. 

17. The complainant said that he had not refused to meet the Daily Mail reporter, as stated in the first article. In fact, the reporter had arrived uninvited at an inconvenient time, and the complainant had agreed to answer his questions by email. 

18. The newspaper denied that it had breached the Code.  It said that the first article was a piece about Max Mosley’s involvement in the far-right UM movement and Oswald Mosley’s “malign legacy” in modern Britain; it had been entitled to describe this as “evil”. This article’s headline was part of a quote from the book Very Deeply Dyed in Black, written by the academic Graham Macklin, which stated that the UM movement was an “ideological conveyor belt transmitting its own particularly malignant set of political and cultural idioms…to a new generation of activists” It had not named the complainant as a “personification or conveyor of evil”. In fact, it had named him as a “’personification’ of Oswald Mosley’s ‘ideological conveyor belt’”, based on his connections to the Mosley family, his historic contributions to the UM, and his more recent postings on far-right websites. 

19. The newspaper did not consider that it was inaccurate for it to have reported that the complainant had contributed to Oswald Mosley’s work for almost two decades. This covered books and articles in Oswald Mosley’s name, such as his 1968 book Right or Wrong; his 1968 autobiography; his 1975 biography (republished in 1980) which it said was written by a friend of Mosley, and had been published under his control and approval; and UM newsletters, such as Action, which were published until 1980. 

20. The newspaper said that it had accurately reported excerpts from historical articles, which had been written by the complainant, and comments he had left online and beneath the online article about Holocaust denial. It considered that as the article had made clear where the comments had come from and in what context, readers would reach their own conclusions as to their meaning. 

21. To support its position that it had accurately reported the complainant’s comments, the newspaper provided an article from Action, dated 15 September 1961, in which the complainant had written: 

We should also stop the introduction of contagious diseases into Britain by immigrants. Keep it out of Britain – then the National Health Service can get on with its job. It will be a far more efficient health service – run by doctors, nurses and other professionals, and not by bureaucrats. As for coloured doctors – they must go home to the places where disease is rife, and where they are most needed. 

22. The newspaper also provided a letter from the complainant, published in Action on 13 June 1959, in which he had commented on the “problems arising from uncontrolled alien immigration”, and advocated a “a racial separation policy” to “prevent any further race violence”. 

23. Contrary to the complainant’s position, the newspaper said that the article had not attributed to him Hitler’s idea of the “Jewish Question” or his “Final Solution”; nor did it consider that it had suggested that he was an anti-Semite or a supporter of the Holocaust. Rather, the article had explained the meaning of the term “Jewish Question”: the alleged Jewish desire to have world domination. This definition had been adopted by the complainant in a comment he had made on the Occidental Observer website, where he had said “I also thought and still think there are effective and counter-productive ways of dealing with the JQ”, and in relation to an interview Oswald Mosley gave in 1967, he had said “As for the Frost interview, this was dominated by the JQ”. In that interview, Oswald Mosley had said that he had a “quarrel” with “certain Jews” before the war because he thought they wanted a war with Germany. 

24. The newspaper said that it was fair for it to have described the sites to which the complainant contributed as “white supremacist” and “neo-fascist”. The complainant was a prolific commentator on web publications, such as the Occidental Observer, whose editor it said had been described as “online anti-Semitism’s new voice” by the Anti-Defamation League, and which had been described by the prosecution in the trial of Thomas Mair as a “far-right online publication that covers politics and society from a white nationalist and anti-Semitic perspective”. It said that he had also commented on the American Renaissance site, which it said was created by an alt-right white supremacist, and which was currently banned from Twitter because of its extremist content. It noted that Spiked Online and Quora, where the complainant was also a commentator, allowed unmoderated or lightly moderated comments to be published. As evidence for his online activity, the newspaper referred to the complainant’s Disqus profile, which showed that since 2012, he had made over 15,700 contributions, most frequently on American Renaissance, and it provided some examples.  

Relevant Code Provisions 

25. Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. 

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. 

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for. 

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. 

Findings of the Committee 

26. The article had not described the complainant as “personification or conveyor evil”, but had referred to him as a “personification” of Oswald Mosley’s “ideological conveyor belt. The reference to “ideological conveyor belt” had come from an academic text, as made clear in the article, which had gone on to explain the basis for describing the complainant as such.  The article had explained that as a younger man, the complainant had contributed to the Action newspaper; that he had assisted with researching two of Oswald Mosley’s books; that he had contributed to his biography; and that Mosley considered him to be one of his own “young literary friends”. It then gave examples of the complainant’s more recent political comments on the “Jewish question”; the “’six million’ cliché”; and his view that Jewish people’s “anti-social activities are more ‘sophisticated’.” The newspaper had set out the basis for its characterisatio;, the description was not misleading. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i) on this point. 

27. The complainant had stated that he had not idolised Oswald Mosley, or revered him, as stated in the article. However, he had accepted that he admired his intelligence, agreed with his post-war policies, and in correspondence with the reporter before the first article was published, he had said that while he was not “overawed”, he was “justifiably impressed” by him. In light of these comments, the Committee did not consider that it was inaccurate for the newspaper to have asserted that the complainant “still revered” Oswald Mosley. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

28. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that he had not worked for Oswald Mosley for “almost two decades”, or lived in his Paris home while he contributed to his book. However, he had accepted that he had worked for him for nine years between 1959 and 1968; in 1975, he had contributed to his biography, which was republished in 1980; and he had contributed to UM publications. Furthermore, while he had not been a visitor at Oswald Mosley’s Paris home, he had stayed in a property owned by him. In light of this, and in the full context of the first article, the Committee did not consider that these points represented significant inaccuracies that required correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on these points. 

29. The complainant had maintained that his contributions to the Action newspaper were “never racist”. However, the newspaper had not described his contributions as “racist”; rather, it had described the publication itself as “vehemently racist”, and it had given an example of the complainant’s contributions. The newspaper was entitled to give its opinion of this publication and to characterise it as “racist”. The description was not inaccurate. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

30. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that he had believed that immigrants had spread disease because they had not received medical checks; he had not believed that they spread disease because of their race specifically. However, in the Action newspaper, the complainant had written, “We should also stop the introduction of contagious diseases into Britain by immigrants”. The newspaper had accurately reported this statement; its inclusion in the article was not therefore misleading. Furthermore, the complainant had said, “coloured doctors…must go home to the places where disease is rife, and where they are most needed”. The Committee did not consider that the newspaper’s statement that the complainant had “advocated that ‘coloured doctors’ should also be sent ‘home” gave a misleading impression of this comment. There was no breach of the Code on these points. 

31. The complainant had referred to “the JQ” when he had written on the Occidental Observer website that he thought there were “effective and counter-productive ways of dealing with the JQ”. The newspaper had accurately reported his comment. The newspaper also explained one definition of the term which it said was adopted by the far right and the association between the term and “Hitler’s “Final Solution”. The fact that the complainant said that he had intended to refer to an alternate “Jewish question” did not mean that the explanations of the term provided in the article represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article. The article had not asserted, as fact, that the complainant had used the term in these ways and neither had the article claimed that he was an anti-Semite. There was no breach of the Code on this point. 

32. The newspaper had also accurately reported the complainant’s comment in which he explained his belief that Jewish people’s “anti-social activities are more ‘sophisticated’”. It had not given the significantly misleading impression that he had accused Jewish people generally of “white collar crime”. Similarly, it had accurately reported that he had used the term “six million cliché” to refer to the Holocaust. It was not misleading to interpret this as the complainant having “cast ‘doubt’ on the widely accepted total number of Jews who died in the Holocaust”, when his position was that the exact number who died in the Holocaust was in dispute. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on these points. 

33. The complainant had made comments on the American Renaissance website, which he accepted was a site that was “supportive of white interests”. He also used to comment on the Occidental Observer website, which he accepted was “anti-Jewish”, and where he had referred to the “JQ”. In these circumstances, it was not misleading for the newspaper to have reported that he was a “regular presence” on white supremacist and neo-fascist websites. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. 

34. The Committee did not consider that making reference to the complainant as well as to two members of National Action in the first article was misleading. The newspaper had explained its view that all three were examples of Oswald Mosley’s reported “legacy”. There was no suggestion that they knew one another or had a shared ideology. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. 

35. The complainant had been unable to speak to the reporter face-to-face because he had called at an inconvenient time; instead, he had answered questions by email. In addition, the reporter had emailed and offered to visit at a different time. The complainant, for various reasons, declined these offers. It was therefore not inaccurate for the newspaper to have reported that the complainant “would not meet” the reporter, but had “engaged in an email conversation”.  There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. 

36. While the complainant had never been a member of Oswald Mosley’s UM, he had been a regular contributor to its newspaper, and he had attended numerous UM events. In these circumstances, it was not misleading for the newspaper to have described him as a “young neo-fascist” in the second article. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. 

Conclusions 

37. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required 

38. N/A

Date complaint received: 21/05/2018

Date decision issued: 06/11/2018