We have been told by Daily Mail executives defending the false headline, “The man who hated Britain”, that people should read the headline and copy together.
So, applying their helpful advice on how to read newspapers, I was careful to read today’s Mail splash headline, “PM backs spy chief’s attack on Guardian”, in company with the copy.
Look what I discovered. A spokesman on behalf of the prime minister was asked whether David Cameron agreed with the view of MI5 director general Andrew Parker that the revelations of secret files gave terrorists an advantage.
The Mail reports that the spokesman replied: “The prime minister thinks it was an excellent speech and we are, as you would expect, always keeping under review the measures that are needed to contribute to keeping our country safe.”
It would have been very odd if a British prime minister showed the least sign of disagreement with a speech by the head of the British internal security services.
So it is hard to imagine a No 10 spokesman saying anything else. But does it amount to a direct criticism by the PM of The Guardian?
A piece on The Guardian’s website, by Nicholas Watt, certainly takes the statement on Cameron’s behalf at face value and, by extension therefore, validates the Mail’s splash.
But the Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, is well known for using the bludgeon rather than the rapier against those it views as his enemies. And he wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to assault The Guardian.
So the paper’s leading article, “The paper that helps Britain’s enemies”, brought out the blunderbuss. And next to it was a lengthy piece by Stephen Glover in which he opened both barrels against Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger:
“I don’t accuse Mr Rusbridger of any lack of patriotism. I am sure he loves his country as much as anyone. But he does stand accused of the most stupendous arrogance and presumption.”
But there was still more. Douglas Murray, associate director of a neoconservative think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, was given space to snipe at the schoolboy vanity of a few left-wing journalists.
The Mail also had another of its favourite targets in its sights: the BBC. An inside spread, headlined “How the BBC buried the story”, claimed that the BBC2’s Newsnight “underplayed” MI5’s “scathing criticisms of The Guardian”.
Sorry, it did not claim that. Reading the copy in company with the headline, I note that a Tory MP called Conor Burns made the claim.
He suggested there was “a conflict of interest” because Newsnight’s editor, Ian Katz, was previously The Guardian’s deputy editor. I’m not certain that moving from one job to another amounts to a conflict of interest, but I think we get his drift.
The Mail’s article then extended Burns’s quote into a conspiracy theory involving the whole of the BBC’s news and current affairs division, including its security correspondents Frank Gardner and Gordon Corera.
Telegraph and Times run critical articles
Elsewhere, outside the Dacre acres, there were couple of follow-ups to the Parker speech in relation to The Guardian.
The Daily Telegraph carried a page 1 article based on a statement by the deputy national security adviser, Oliver Robbins, to the high court following the detention of David Miranda, partner of The Guardian’s journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Inside was a feature by spy novelist Alan Judd, “Who are the bad guys?” He argued that, “realistically” there is “no alternative” to the secret monitoring of emails by security agencies.
A short piece in The Times nosed off on a quote by Professor Anthony Glees, head of the centre for security and intelligence studies at Buckingham university, who suggested that if national security had been damaged by the leaks then “a prosecution [of The Guardian] under the Official Secrets Act should follow.”
The Sun’s columnist, Rod Liddle, accuses The Guardian of treason.
As for The Guardian, it carried a full page, with a news story, “Debate grows over ‘Orwellian’ NSA technology” and an analysis of Parker’s speech plus an op-ed article by John Kampfner, in which he contended that underlying the criticism of The Guardian is hostility to its stance on press regulation, “Payback for Leveson”.
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663879/s/32476459/sc/7/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Cmedia0Cgreenslade0C20A130Coct0C10A0Ctheguardian0Esurveillance/story01.htm