Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 23 April 2004

Don't talk about the war!!!

Nothing to do with current events in Iraq. No, this is the catch-phrase from a classic episode of 'Fawlty Towers', a sit-com some years ago that was about a very bizarre seaside hotel in the south of England where the owner's (Basil Fawlty, by name) idea of hospitality was somewhat unorthodox and the rest of the cast were unusual in different ways, too. A very British kind of humour indeed.

The episode in question centred around the visit to this eccentic (aka 'horrible') hotel of some Germans and Fawlty's injunction to the staff forbidding them from mentioning 'the war'; as expected, they all complied with this without any problem, except of course that Fawlty himself proceeded to make increasingly absurd allusions, finally ending up 'goosestepping' around the dining room. Amazingly I understand that Fawlty Towers, and this episode in particular, is quite popular amongst many Germans.

Anyway, why do I bring this up? Well, quite incredibly, it seems that yesterday the owner of one of the UK's major newspaper publishing groups (the one that owns the Daily Express), a certain Mr Richard Desmond is alleged by senior Daily Telegraph executives to have recreated the 'goosestep' and other stereotypes associated with Nazi Germany, during a Board Meeting of a printing company owned jointly by Express Newspapers and the Telegraph Group. It is believed this was a very unsubtle allusion to the fact that Hollinger International (the owners of the Telegraph Group) is possibly going to be sold to Axel Springer, a major German publishing group.

Mr Desmond is Jewish and has, it seems, made a habit of making Nazi insinuations against others. According to the Telegraph article I link to, the Telegraph's Chief Executive Jeremy Deedes pointed out that:

... Axel Springer made the reconciliation of Germans and Jews a publishing principle and that the group's staff were required under their contracts to support the state of Israel.

It is reported by the Telegraph that this brought the retort from Mr Desmond:

"They're all Nazis."

The meeting continued to deteriorate, it seems, until the four Telegraph people decided to leave. Read the whole sordid tale here.

Added piquancy, if any were necessary, is involved in this story because only yesterday the Daily Express chose to switch political allegiance from the Labour Party (the party of Prime Minister Tony Blair), to which it had earlier offered financial support, to the Conservative Party (led by Michael Howard).

A company profile for Northern & Shell plc, the owners of the Daily Express, is here. I should record as a sort of 'full disclosure statement' (ha! ha!) that a magazine I buy regularly, called Attitude, is owned by Northern & Shell plc - Attitude is a popular monthly glossy magazine for the gay market in the UK; it does not seem to have its own website.

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