What the frack has happened to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper? they appear to have abandoned reporting news and have reverted to being the “Defenders of faith”. Today’s example steps way over the line and is nothing but a personal attack upon Richard Dawkins.
Today we find, not in the Opinion pages, but under “UK News” an article that proclaims … “Slaves at the root of the fortune that created Richard Dawkins’ family estate“.
Their “News”, is that some bloke with the name “Dawkins” happened to be a slave owner back in the early 1700’s. This is not news, its a smear campaign, but is such a bumbling attempt at one that it makes the Telegraph look utterly daft. We knew this was coming of course, Richard received a phone call from the reporter, Adam Lusher, yesterday …
He persisted by reeling off several of my forebears including, I think, Henry Dawkins (b 1698) and his father Colonel Richard Dawkins (d.o.b. unknown to me), giving gruesome (and indeed deplorable) figures about the numbers of slaves they owned, asking me whether I felt any guilt about it.
…he rang back: “Darwinian natural selection has a lot to do with genes, do you agree?” Of course I agreed. “Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”
“You obviously need a genetics lesson,” I replied. Henry Dawkins was my great great great great great grandfather, so approximately one in 128 of my genes are inherited from him
Gene for slavery … WTF!!
If you look through the telegraph article, it reels off a list of various ancestors, their crimes, and how religious they were … and this is supposed to be news!!
So in essence the UK news, according to the Telegraph, is …. Richard Dawkins has ancestors … (gasp, what a surprise that must be to the creationists) … and some of them were not exactly squeeky clean by our modern standards. Now hands up everybody who is prepared to vouch that all their ancestors have, by our modern standards, been fine unrighteous individuals … (is that the sound of tumble-weed I hear?). I think the religious way of putting that is something like … “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.
The “real” news here is the UK Telegraph appears to be campaigning quite hard to become kook central. Not only do we have a regular daily feed of daft anti-secular articles (for example here, here and here), we also find it is the home of James Delingpole, the anti-science climate change denier who thinks he is right about everything. It can of course be argued that all of that is appropriate, they are arguing for a specific but very ill-informed and ignorant viewpoint and is all stuff that is current news. However, this latest article is not news at all, but is instead a pure unadulterated smear campaign directed against one specific individual.
It tells us nothing about Richard, but a great deal about the compromised ethics of the UK Telegraph and self-identifies it as a source that cannot be trusted.
Folks on twitter have been mocking the daft Telegraph article (yea) … here are some examples …
Andy Birss @1957AJB
Richard Dawkins descended from prehistoric humans who practised cannibalism “The horror, the horror”!
Brett Leppard @TheBrettLeppard
I’d wager that the founder of the Telegraph, Colonel Arthur B. Sleigh, probably had ancestral links to slavery. Maybe they should donate?
As journalist and academic from the London School of Economics Charlie Beckett pointed out:
Charlie Beckett @CharlieBeckett
James Donaghy @thecoldgun
I’m going to bet that the Telegraph doesn’t usually value the opinion of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe
Just as Dawkins did himself, some Twitter users also questioned the logic that Dawkins’ should be held to account for the actions of his ancestors:
Bethany Usher @bethanyusher
The web news editor of liberal broadsheet The Guardian, a rival paper to the Telegraph couldn’t help but poke fun at the article:
Jonathan Haynes @JonathanHaynes
Next week in the Sunday Telegraph: how Richard Dawkins is descended from Adam and Eve, even though he calls himself an atheist!
Others joined in:
Ben Griffiths @beng
Somewhere in the Daily Mail a “Richard Dawkins’ ancestors were apes” exclusive is being written. With pics of scantily clad monkeys.
Claude Cartridge @CWNewsUK
Read tomorrow’s Telegraph for an exclusive on one of Dawkins’ scandalous bronze-age ancestors who imported baby mammoths for ivory.