Scapegoating is central to the Daily Mail. But if you've not yet seen today's issue (26 October), I challenge you to pause for a moment and have a guess at which group of people they are demonising today.
This task may be difficult, given how widely the Daily Mail spreads the net of its hatred. Groups which the paper have attacked in recent years include immigrants, benefit claimants, asylum-seekers, Muslims, environmentalists, gay people, young people, Polish people, single parents and social workers. Back in the 1930s, the Mail denounced Jewish people moving to Britain (they were fleeing Nazi Germany).
What many (but not all) of these groups have in common is that they are relatively powerless people on the margins of society.
But today the Mail is attacking a group of people who are almost universally admired – firefighters.
The Mail reports on its front page that, “The Fire Brigades Union has said it will stage a highly provocative two-day walkout from the morning of November 5”.
This conjures up the image of a union spokesperson appearing at a press conference and declaring, “We will stage a highly provocative walkout”. I strongly suspect that is not what the union said.
The Mail states that the “action prompted fears of a new wave of union militancy”.
If the term “union militancy” has any meaning, then it surely refers to reckless strikes called on the spur of the moment. It cannot meaningfully refer to a democratic process through which a large group of people consider all the options and then cast a secret ballot.
The Mail insists that people will be in danger because of the strike. What they overlook is that people are in far less danger the rest of the time precisely because these same firefighters are prepared to rush into a burning building without a second thought to rescue anyone who needs their help – you, me or the editor of the Daily Mail.
It is a job that few of us would even consider doing. Yet we are protected all year round by firefighters' commitment and bravery. Where are the headlines applauding the work that these people have done day in and day out, year in and year out? The only reason that we might be in danger without firefighters is because they do work that is so vital the rest of the year.
Of course, if the Daily Mail are so concerned about public safety, perhaps their editorial staff could volunteer to take the place of the firefighters for two days. That would mean they were unable to write their newspaper on the days in question. But whereas two days without a fire service gives cause for concern, two days without the Daily Mail would be a blessed relief.