The trouble with Paul Dacre isn’t that he is in emotional purgatory with his late father.
Purgatory can be Ok, you get out.
Paul can’t find his way out.
The Mail shows particular attention to people who move past their family situation, or at least create new worlds to run parallel to it. It’s not so hard.
New country, new interests, new lover. What’s in front of your eyes, right now.
It easily becomes more relevant than whether or not one’s birth family is “functional” or “interesting”.
People move worlds.
Not in the unhinged, dramatic way full of REGRETS and APOLOGIES and SHAME and VALIDATION and self-justification which the current media climate seems to demand. But an organic, instinctive, ongoing process.
This, of course, is not acceptable to those who are stuck.
They would like to engineer situations so people who don’t dwell in some inherited emotional world of guilt and shame are punished, dragged back into the past.
This represents Paul Dacre’s own world view.
For Paul himself does not want to be left behind.
Paul Dacre’s only emotional world is The Family. His family. He reminisces on his father.
He claims he spent his childhood “Seeing everything through the prism of people”.
A child: not working out what excited him, or interested him, or what he felt passionate about.
But seeing life throught the eyes of the General Public.
A half-life, obsessed with celebrity.
He obsesses about Britishness, non-Britishness, the British way of life. He thinks this is natural.
This is due to feeling shamed at Peter Dacre not serving in WW2.
Paul Dacre has lost himself in that (fairly stupid) competitive game of patriotism, over who is the better or truer Englishman.
This obsession is getting worse as he ages, spilling over into everything.
Competitive patriotism is a destructive fetish. THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN was Dacre’s chosen headline about
his own father Ralph Milliband.
It’s fine to be interested in, and a product of one’s upbringing. Paul’s issue is he is now 65 and lives entirely in that space: he has not put down the groundwork to get himself an emotional life beyond his parents.
Single Mothers: he hates them. And yet, he is fascinated with them, wants to write about them. After my starter marriage ended, Dacre assigned someone specifically to check whether I had children.
Perhaps: he wonders why Joan Dacre didn’t put her children first and become a Single Mother and then those dreadful Sunday lunchtimes wouldn’t have occurred?
He is trying to prove his childhood was actually happy and “right”.
If he accepts Single Mothers are fine, then he has to face there was stuff going on in his childhood that was unpleasant.
It wasn’t all actually “better” just because his parents were married and his father technically faithful.
The point isn’t whether or not his childhood was “right”: it’s the obsessive effort he goes to to try and convince himself that it was.
(It’s ok to say “bit interesting” and move on, it really is).
On his attitudes to women: we note Paul must feel let down by not only his mother, but his wife.
The one thing that I reckon could’ve saved him, would’ve been a partner who was confident enough to act as his Muse. I don’t mean standing round being painted, but showing some initiative.
Birth families can’t be chosen. A partner, and/or companions can move things around in your adult life.
His wife Kathleen could have done what many women have. Been a genuine support to her partner.
I’m not talking of sex, housework, or money. But dialogue. Strong opinions and ideas. Honest feelings, authentic feedback: Eve risked first.
Even the Mail agrees: cool feminine women step up, often emotionally lead from the front.
Did, does Paul’s wife Kathleen not love her man enough to do this?
Does she enjoy seeing her husband obsessing about other women? (like his father before him). Does she just turn a blind eye, see him as My Husband With A Good Salary, rather than a person in his own right?
Another experience I had with the Mail: my words, on the front page. They printed a (private) letter I had sent to a family member: I expressed my anger at my father for demeaning himself to people I despised. No big deal to me.
But: I would observe that rather than obtain my letter and stick it on the front page of the Mail, Paul Dacre needed to send something similar himself, in his own life.
Fallen child was another Dacre phrase used to describe me.
I think that was a wonderful, wonderful term. I think children do have to fall. Dying a thousand times, changing, evolving. It’s painful, but it’s living.
For Paul Dacre, himself, was never a fallen child: that makes him still a child.
Dacre’s contradictory personal views have been the subject of much speculation.
They make perfect sense, if we realise we’re not dealing with a man, but a clever, resentful little boy trapped in a 65 year old man’s body.
His emotional reactions are of a child. He quickly switches from I’m a hero to I hate you to You’re going to be really, really sorry for that .
He has no sense of self. He is no man. He still is that little boy, watching his father in his alcohol induced gloom.
He veers from attacking people to insisting they and his paper have a Special Relationship and they’re new best friends.
Paul Dacre is a capable, resentful, little boy who is simply repeating his father, Peters whole emotional life, and his pain: nothing original.
In a speech to the Society of Editors, he criticised some men for having sex.
Dacre was furious at Judge Eady for “ruling that there is no public interest in revealing a public figure’s involvement in acts of depravity”.
Paul Dacre would like society to be aware of, to correct, this depravity.
He would suggest if a child is bought a football shirt, and the men who professionally wear the same shirt have an unconventional sex life (behind closed doors, in private) the child will be harmed. Betrayed.
I do believe the energy Paul Dacre expresses is authentic, honest. He is angry and frustrated: he would like society to do something.
But his rage is directed at the wrong place. He demands THE TRUTH about others: because he does not want to face the truth about his own birth family.
He associates depravity with people having sex.
What is depraved: his father, Peter Dacre, transmitting his rage and his lack of backbone onto his captive spouse and sons. Paul never grew up and made a life for himself.
Children are harmed and betrayed every day, and this is something to get worked up about. Something to pay attention to.
But they feel betrayed by seeing their mother not intervening in their angry gloomy husband emotionally abusing his son. Just like Joan Dacre.
I believe that is THE TRUTH Dacre does not want to face.
His (seemingly) irrational ideas about Things That Harm Children makes sense when we realise it’s a game of distraction and emotional survival for himself.
Only connect he likes to say.
He does, but for other people: he is terrified of connecting with himself.
And yes, society has failed children in similar situations. Especially when Paul was growing up: he is right to be angry.
If Paul paid some attention to what is going on in the world, outside of the pain in his own head, he would realise that people are, have been, campaigning to protect and make things better for trapped children and men and women.
Supporting Family Values, in other words. Making the family better, and safer, and more supported.
Not via public shaming for profit, but legislation and policy.
This would be a better place to put his energy: he is no doubt a capable man, judging by the commercial success he has made of the Mail.
Where now for Paul Dacre?
Despite the actions of the Mail towards me (won’t dignify with a comment) I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Dacre be courageous. I’d like him to move on and own his own life now.
I know there’s a lot of criticism of him.
That’s kind of the trouble: he hasn’t got an escape route where he can save face.
Paul Dacre is emotionally overcommitted: he’s backed himself into a corner.
The Rothermeres have betrayed him and turned him into a spectacle, flaunting his little boy rage for the world to see.
He’s only got one world, the media. He’s spent all of his adult life moving to the rhythms of the now long-dead John Junor, and his father, whilst others have created new worlds.
I am curious to see what he does next.
by Sufiah Yusof