Rich Desmond's white paper

Those who would cast racist aspersions on the Express’s owner are the very people who lap up its headlines

By David Aaronovitch, July 28, 2010

Some people will no doubt see the hidden hand of International Jewry behind Richard Desmond's purchase of Channel 5 this week. They will be updating Nick Griffin's old list of media bagel-eaters, and quite conceivably putting this particular ownership at the very top - especially now that Michael Grade has laid down the burden assigned to him by the Elders back in the day.

Of course, to such people, Jews are very distinct. Far more distinct than Jews think they are. There's the expression of tribal interest - even if it's unconscious; there's the (let's be frank about this, Hymie) telltale physical nature of Jewish difference (remember the nose job story?); there's the funny language; separate holidays; quaint customs and peculiar cuisine.

In my imagination, I see folk who think like this about Jews, also being impressed by a front-page headline in the Daily Express on July 13. We will recall here that the Express is owned by Richard Desmond, and take note of the suggestion from several sources that Mr Desmond himself approves all the headlines. Anyway, the huge text read: One in five Britons will be ethnics.

We'll come to the story in a moment, but dwell on the word "ethnics" for a sentence or two. The thing about a headline is that you must understand its meaning immediately - so it must be clear to the reader what, or who, is meant by "ethnics". And surely "ethnics" means non-white. But "ethnics" is also sly and knowing - not unlike describing blacks and Asians as "our coloured brethren".

So the headline is simultaneously a jibe and a warning, surely? At some point in the future (actually based on a very silly projection for 2051) the appalling truth is that one in five of us will be dusky.

The appalling truth is that by 2051 one in five of us will be dusky

We cannot suppose that such racial pessimism (if you're all white) is exceptional for the Express. In June 2008, the front page read White men to face jobs ban: new law will favour ethnics and women. Others in the same series included Strangers in our own country, Keep out, Britain is full up and Migrants take ALL new jobs in Britain.

Now, I know that Mr Desmond is a philanthropist. In fact, I know from a full-page feature in the Express that, not only is he generous with his millions (and he has won awards for it), but also that he is very reluctant for there to be any publicity about what a good man he is.

In his comments in that feature (doubtless dragged from him by a fearless and intrepid Express writer prepared to intrude upon his reticence), Desmond spoke about what he gets from his charitableness.

"I think", he said, "the more you give, the more you get back - not in material terms but in what I suppose you could call karma." His example was the extra money that his titles got from Jade Goody's extended dying. He took the profits and divided them up among Jade's charities. "The day after, I had a letter from the Inland Revenue saying that some matter they had been investigating for a long time had been settled. You see? Karma."

Ah yes, karma. I am pretty sure, after an afternoon's research, that Mr Desmond's forebears are Friedmans out of Liepaja and Diamondsteins out of Godknowswheresk. They came over between the 1880s and the 1930s, with their funny ways and strange habits, and took the jobs and made the English feel like strangers in their own cities. That's us, that is. Desmonds and Aaronovitchs.

So is it karma - is what came around now going around – that we "ethnicise" recent others? I wonder, and perhaps Mr D will tell me, when did Jews change, magically, from them to us? When did Yids become WASPs? Or, if they didn't and if only one in five Britons are to be ethnics, then what on earth, Mr Desmond, will the other four of us be? Milk jugs?

Last updated: 2:24pm, August 13 2010


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