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In the first two years of World War I, over three million men volunteered to serve, but after initially high recruitment, the rate began to decline in 1915. This was problematic after significant losses of men in major battles, especially Ypres, Loos and Gallipoli, prompting the government to appoint a Cabinet Committee to address the problem. King George V (1865-1936) made an appeal, with the conservative government supporting “compulsion”, against the Liberal and Labour Party. In August 1915 the Daily Mail began to promote conscription, and openly supported the concept of National Service. Northcliffe’s stance was validated in January 1916, when the Military Service Bill was introduced, meaning single men between 18 and 41 years of age could be called up for service (with a few exceptions). In response to the Military Service Act, both pacifists and absolutists emerged: pacifists believed that killing in combat was wrong, and many joined the armed forces in non-combat capacities; and the absolutists refused to serve at all.
The Daily Mail openly criticised Lord Kitchener (1850-1916) in the article ‘The Tragedy of the Shells’, which criticised him for his role in a disaster surrounding munitions supplies that ended tragically. Letters to the Editor give indicators that the public did not fully agree with the Daily Mail, and such was the public support for Lord Kitchener that the London Stock Exchange protested, staging an “unfriendly demonstration” by burning copies of the Daily Mail and calling for a boycott on the newspaper. The Daily Mail’s coverage of the war also had wider ramifications, and proved to be influential among the public and the government: it did not just criticise Lord Kitchener, but the government as a whole, contributing to the eventual resignation of Herbert Henry Asquith (1852-1928) as Prime Minister in 1916. After the resignation, the new Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863-1945) asked Lord Northcliffe to be in his cabinet in an attempt to prevent further negative coverage, an offer that Lord Northcliffe declined.
Begun during the 1950s and 1960s by missionaries from Japan and South Korea, the Unification Church of the United States became a new religious movement that (according to some commentators) established itself in the United States as the “hippie” era was in decline due to its appeal to young people through its liberal values. The belief in highly unorthodox theologies saw increasing criticism during the 1970s, and particular controversy arose around the lifestyles of members that was suggested as an outcome of extreme religious conversion and cult mind control. Members of the Church became derogatorily referred to as “Moonies” in the media, and the Daily Mail were quick to pick up on the stories of people being held by the Church, and brainwashing activities of the “mind benders”, running an award-winning investigation into the Moonies in 1981. The Unification Church sued the Daily Mail for libel, but lost the case, and the Daily Mail were awarded a £175,000 payout, a record for libel cases at the time.
On the 22nd April 1993, Stephen Lawrence (1974-1993) was murdered whilst waiting for a bus in east London. The attack was racially motivated, and the subsequent investigation was heavily criticised for failing to convict five suspects. A public inquiry into the investigation concluded that the Metropolitan Police were “institutionally racist”, and this culture had affected the investigation. The murder led to significant changes in British law, most notably the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that removed double jeopardy, allowing suspects to be tried for a murder a second time should compelling new evidence be found. The Daily Mail campaigned heavily for justice, and their campaign led to the public enquiry. As part of their campaign, the Daily Mail ran one of the boldest, brashest and memorable front pages in the history of the British press. Publishing the simple headline “Murderers” above the photographs of five suspects, the Daily Mail ran with the subhead “If we wrong, let them sue us”. Although all five were acquitted initially, two were later found guilty and given the equivalent to life sentences in 2012, a move only possible due to the revisions made in the 2003 Act that started from the newspaper’s campaign.
During the 1930s, the Daily Mail supported the rise of fascism, running many headlines and editorials in support of fascist regimes, especially those in Germany and Italy. Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail at the time, was friends with Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), and deliberately guided the newspaper to support them. The support extended to fascism in the UK, with advocacy of British fascism declared in one of the newspaper’s most famous articles, ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’. The advocacy of fascism did stop, but there are conflicting theories as to why: on the surface, it stopped as a reaction to violence committed by the British Union of Fascists (BUF) rally in 1934; but Oswald Mosley (1896-1980, leader of the BUF) suggested it was threats of reduced advertising from the Jewish business community—a significant threat to the newspaper’s profits—that was the real reason for the change in stance.
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