‘The new fascists’: Brendan O’Neill trolls the nation in the Daily Mail

An old abuse of language could fuel real threats to free speech


We can learn much about the Daily Mail‘s business strategy from its recent appointments as star or guest columnists.

Professional wind-up merchant and failed reality-TV star Katie Hopkins recently jumped ship from the Sun – where she argued that ‘cockroach’ refugees should be left to drown – to the hallowed ground of the MailOnline.

Her voyage coincides with two editorials this week by fringe Marxist turned anti-PC warrior Brendan O’Neill, who fulminates in the Spectator about the evils of Left-wing politics.

On Wednesday he trained his guns on snooty TV comedians, (as deserving a target of a moral crusade as any other, I suppose, though their alleged contempt for ‘ordinary people’ might fall short of tax-evasion hero Viscount Rothermere’s…)

As Left Foot Forward has reported previously, O’Neill is a sort of up-market Hopkins – the thinking man’s Rod Liddle – whose schtick involves looking at what well-intentioned but silly people are saying and unloading with both barrels, or simply staking out the polar opposite position for the sake of internet traffic. (‘He’s all about those clicks, ’bout those clicks – no scruples…’)

Sometimes he’ll make a valid point in defence of free speech, for example, but this is incidental to his main position, which is that all modern politics Left of the terminal centre is mad, bad and dangerous. (Even his free speech work has its financial dimensions. As editor of website Spiked, O’Neill has secured thousands of pounds from the Joseph Rowntree Trust to catalogue free expression on campus.)

Today’s piece in the Mail is unremarkable in this context, except for its mainstreaming of a serious abuse of language.

In the closing paragraphs, discussing the hateful burning of Left-wing newspapers by some students at Cambridge and Goldsmiths Universities, O’Neill writes:

“The word ‘fascist’ must never be used lightly. But to destroy with fire words you don’t like? That is fascistic, and the very opposite of the freedom of thought that should prevail on 21st-century campuses.

As we have seen, the New Fascists, and the academic apologists who cave in to their censorious demands, frown on alternative thinking and seek to eradicate dissenting thought.”

Sadly, his phoney-reluctant use of the word allows the Mail to use it as lightly as a puffin feather, both in the headline of the piece and on its front page.

Daily Mail 20 11 15

O’Neill is right to be cautious. As far back as 1944, George Orwell wrote in Tribune that the word ‘fascism’ had become little more than a swear word, (though he took the movement seriously enough to have nearly lost his life fighting it in Spain). Nevertheless, he wouldn’t have confused an outbreak of Mary Whitehouse-ism on campus with the boots of the Wehrmacht, and he was always certain of the nature of fascism as an a counterrevolutionary force on the side of big business and the boss class.

So while the no-platformers can try to impose their own petty tyranny on campus, (where do they find the time?), they are unlikely to secure the backing of the military, political parties or the church, nor the backing of any major capital.

What we have instead is a national newspaper with politics to the Right of the Tory government, owned by a millionaire aristocrat, accusing students and academics of representing the return of a movement the same newspaper supported when it was in the cradle.

It’s true the paper swung round to noisy support of the allies when the crunch came, but old habits die hard, and its coverage of migrants remains a standing disgrace. Just this week the paper ran a cartoon depicting refugees as the carriers of a plague of rats.

As with the paper’s recent branding of my friend Charlotte Proudman a ‘feminazi’ for the crime of highlighting sexism in the legal profession, the real power to vilify and silence remains where you might expect – in the hands of rich men and on the levers of cultural and political power.

The British tabloids are notorious around the world for their rough and tumble approach to the news, but they pale in comparison to newspapers in countries like Turkey, where the the Orwellian term ‘hate speech’ has real meaning. If we hope to preserve the relative freedom of the British press from the vultures of supposedly benign regulation, we would do better to stand against its degeneration into a vehicle of hatred, rather than trying to change the subject on their dime.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13

Sign up for our weekly email by clicking here.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

27 Responses to “‘The new fascists’: Brendan O’Neill trolls the nation in the Daily Mail”

  1. Sid

    But the Daily Mail is spot-on in its analysis of our nations ills.

    Cultural Marxism is a major porblem, but the real problem is the spread of islamofascism.

  2. Cole

    Gee, profound thinking here.

  3. Mike B

    We really do live in interesting times as the cliché has it. Far right wing newspapers posing as defenders of free speech and pseudo lefties trying to close it down. Never has there been a better time to re-read Orwell and have contemporary writers add to the debate from a democratic socialist viewpoint. I remember reading an account from the late 1940s of the small Tribune office containing Nye Bevin, Michael Foot and George Orwell. It is not difficult to imagine all three of them reacting to today’s political debates. Those of us in the the traditional Labour traditions are despairing of events. Dorethy Parker wrote of her era as ‘Scoundrel Time’. What an apt description of today.

  4. DaveAtherton20

    Apologies for being rude about your friend Ms Proudman. The term “feminazi” can seen as slightly ironic in the context of health fascist and grammar Nazi but much of the opprobrium that has befallen her is self inflicted. She published private correspondence and her sin was compounded by being a barrister.

    I for one are sick to death of especially feminist crybullies being offended at every opportunity and for the most trivial reasons. The blatant misandry, silencing and no platforming is an affront to democracy.

    Your cultural relativism is poor too. I could go for the cheap shot Muslim stone age barbarians. what do you expect line but I want a better best and for the UK to be an example to the world.


    Tony Blair thankfully was the first PM to start standing up to Islamic Fascism in Britain. Someone was always going to make a stand against the hate preachers and recruiting. We knew it was going on since at least the seventies. And Blair stepped forward. I admire the man.

  6. jesus

    Katie Hopkins got to the final of the Apprentice and was the runner up in Big Brother. As reality stars go that’s hardly a fail.

  7. Bosun Higgs

    Adam, are you a teensy bit worried about the suppression of free speech universities?

  8. Rick

    The Mail tells it as it is

  9. Asteri

    “failed reality-TV star Katie Hopkins” judging that she is still being talked about and is a very prominent media personality even after eight years I would say she was one of the most successful. Not that i’m defending her.

    There is a lot of truth in the campaign of intimidation by SJW and extreme feminists on campus who want to control everyone and decide what is and what isn’t acceptable speech. When they try and disrupt lectures by people they disagree with by setting off fire alarms and hurling abuse at other students calling them ‘scum and filth’ that is a descent into authoritarian censorship. Even Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel aren’t allowed because they slightly deviate from the ideology.

  10. John Allman

    I grant you that some of the opinion pieces published nowadays in old, long-established mainstream publications such as the Mail, are just poorly written, unintelligent rants that are annoying to read, which dot about all over the place, and seek to discredit opinions by the shallow insulting those who hold them. It would have been a pleasure to read a piece that critiqued one specific such diatribe, refuting a bogus argument. This piece, however, was bad enough to earn the writer a column in a different newspaper that, in its own way, set out to extinguish thought rather than to stimulate thought – perhaps The Guardian?

    I’ve found myself often reading better copy in blogs than in newspapers for years. However, this mediocre piece is not an example of that. I give it a C minus.


    PS For my (very short) comment about Charlotte Proudman, please see

  11. John Allman

    Interesting indeed, with some surprising twists and turns, e.g. the Asher’s case, or, as I call it,

    No platform for gay cakes!


  12. Richard Simon Preston

    Whilst I’m hardly a fan of SJW politics (political horseshoe theory, and all that) the fact that Brendan O’Neill, a man who has written several articles over the years defending Vladimir Putin from, amongst other things, imprisoning Pussy Riot and invading Ukraine, is complaining that people who disagree with him are fascists is downright laughable. I tried pointing that out on MailOnline, but for some reason that didn’t pass comment moderation. Funny, that…

  13. Wobbly chops

    His faith schools really helped . Ffs.

  14. damon

    Adam Barnett, you got it wrong again.
    Brendan O’Neill is alright compared to what he’s speaking out against.
    The left has become pretty shrill and domineering. How many examples do you need?

    In the USA, black students are now acting up in a way that accuses anyone who disagrees with their political programe, as probably racist.
    And at least O’Neill’s online magazine will do some useful analysis of that movement.
    On Left Foot Forward, nothing worthwhile.

  15. Esmee Phillips

    Orwell did not ‘fight fascism’ in Spain. He fought a nationalist coalition of which the Falange, which admired Mussolini’s Italy but was not formally aligned with it (unlike the Stalinist Spanish Communist Party of which Orwell’s POUM comrades fell foul) was a small component. The Nationalists included conservatives, two sorts of monarchists, freemasons, Catholics, Anglophile liberals, Catholic ultramontanes, businessmen and landowners… all sorts.

    Spain never became a ‘fascist’ nation. Nor did any other except Italy. The Duce always said ‘fascism is not an export article’. After winning the Civil War Franco moved to assimilate and sterilise the Falange and its leader, Hedilla, barely escaped execution.

    Orwell could not have confused fascism with ‘the boots of the Wehrmacht’ either, since National Socialism in Germany was different from Italian fascism, and at one moment in the Thirties they almost came to blows.

    The F-word remains a popular misnomer today because it makes a more satisfying sound when hissed by ignoramuses than ‘Nazi’.

  16. Esmee Phillips

    Bevan, not Bevin.

    The author of ‘Scoundrel Time’ was Lilian Hellmann- herself a fellow-travelling scoundrel of no small stature.

  17. Mike B

    You are quite right. Two errors in one comment. It might be a record for me. Mind you I think Hellmann was quite a good writer and she was correct about scoundrels.

  18. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    ‘On Left Foot Forward, nothing worthwhile.’
    And yet, here you are commenting on it.

    As for the ledt becoming shrill and domineering, it’s got a long way to go before it catchs up with the right, and particularly the bilious, frothing rants of the Daily Mail.

  19. Pretty_Polly

    No you’re wrong there I’m afraid..

  20. damon

    It´s a website presenting itself as left wing.
    I used to think of myself as leftish, but can’t be now if this is what it’s become.

    Just because the Daily Mail is generally crap, doesn’t let off the people who Brendan O’Neill rightly denounces.
    Quibbling about the missues of the word ”fascist” is reaaly neither here nor there. The left do it all the time.
    Everyone they don’t like gets called a fascist or a Nazi.

    So how about facing up to what the O’Neill chap was saying in the first place?
    The left have become quite awful and censorious.
    You disagree I take it.

  21. Cole

    Who cares?

  22. Cole

    Are you seriously saying the Falange weren’t fascist just because they were slightly unlike Mussolini’s lot? Fascists were part of Franco’s hard right coalition. Of course conservatives were also part of Hitler’s first government, fascism/nazism being essentially an extreme version of conservatism.

  23. Esmee Phillips

    Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera’s Falange Espanola was a small part of the nationalist coalition. It was deprived of its leader (whom Franco had feared as a rival) by his capture and murder in the SCW’s early days.

    The FE had some supporters in the army, such as Yague, but it differed from Mussolini’s one and only genuine fascist movement in adopting socialist economic polices, which Jose Antonio admitted he had cribbed from the Spanish socialists. After the nationalist victory and the fall of Hedilla, the FE was increasingly marginalised– Munoz Grandes was allowed to lead a volunteer detachment to the Eastern Front to get them out of the way– and after WW2 its most prominent figures were mostly placed in second-order posts and ministries.

  24. Stay Puft


  25. Stay Puft

    Mao are you?

  26. Stay Puft

    How’s things at Ox Brookes?

  27. /O43 |_|K19!!

    So basically what you are saying is that you – or more likely the miserable dykes who teach your politics classes – “own” the definition of fascism, and anyone who disagrees with your definition is wrong. You’re a little bit fascist yourself, aren’t you?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.