A new documentary reveals more of the truth about the controversial F1 boss and privacy campaigner than his tabloid enemies ever could.
When Max Mosley died a couple of months ago, numerous cunts on Twitter – the sort who see themselves as morally upstanding types, no doubt – celebrated and mocked, because that’s absolutely a moral and decent reaction to have. Perhaps they were the sort who could never forgive Mosely for being the son of fascist leader Oswald Mosley or his support of his father’s politics in his late teens and early twenties – because certainly, we never change or mature between that point and 81, the age that Mosley died. maybe they were tabloid journalists who continued to hold a grudge against Mosley for not only giving the News of the World a bigger spanking than the one he received in his notorious sex scandal but also financially supporting the victims of that ghastly rag’s phone hacking – the genuine scandal that saw Neville Thurlbeck, the ghastly editor who had splashed Mosley’s sex life across several pages, imprisoned. Certainly, the tabloid press as a whole, fellow travellers in exploitation, lies and ruination that they are, never forgave Mosley for either of these actions or his support of pressure group Hacked Off and efforts to push through the findings of the Leveson enquiry. Mosley was demonised again and again from 2008 until his death by the likes of the Daily Mail (hardly the publication to take the moral high ground about a past dalliance with fascism, we might think) which, in 2018, unearthed an inflammatory election leaflet from 1961 – over half a century earlier, when he was 20-years-old and Britain, in general, was a lot more reactionary than it is now – as evidence of his racist views. Of course, the Mail has been racist a lot more recently and a lot more regularly than Mosley ever was, but let’s not allow facts to get in the way of character assassination.
Mosley was a contradictory figure, one who is both hero and villain in several ways. His attempts to control the excesses of the British press became themselves excessive at times and threw up all sorts of questions about free speech. As a free speech absolutist, I have an instinctive fear of any sort of censorship, and the notorious ‘right to be forgotten’ that seems, on paper, a good way of ensuring that people are able to move on from past indiscretions, but of course has been exploited by the corrupt and the shifty to cover their tracks. But there are limits – should we allow newspapers to freely libel people, indeed to tear their lives apart over private activities? Surely not. A right to privacy for non-criminal activity does not seem excessive or an imposition on free expression. Telling blatant lies about people who do not have the resources to fight back is simply bullying and who in their right mind would support that? That Mosley could take action against the clearly false and provocative claims that his BDSM parties had a Nazi theme is all well and good, but what about those without his resources?
The British press is almost a clichéd version of itself, full of seedy characters with a ludicrous sense of self-righteousness – the sort of people who will ruin people’s lives for shits and giggles and then attempt to claim the moral high ground. It’s a world where truly nasty little wankers like former Mail editor Paul Dacre can flourish, wallowing in bigotry and fake moralising, demanding the regulation and censorship of everything but then howling like stuck pigs when the mildest sort of control – literally the minimal rules required to stop them breaking the law or at least make them apologise when they do – is suggested. One rule for us, another for everyone else. People have died because of the actions of rags like the News of the World or the Mail, and they want to carry on with impunity. Never forget that.
Mosley’s sex scandal – a party with sex workers that was illegally filmed and then splashed across the pages of the News of the World with typical hyperbole and exaggeration – was hardly in the public interest, even if there had been a Nazi theme. People are allowed their sexual fantasies, and often these involve taboos. There is a thriving underground market for Nazi-themed porn in Israel, because of course, what is more forbidden? Lots of women have rape fantasies, but don’t actually want to be raped. Liberals role-play slavery scenarios while still finding the idea of slavery abhorrent. Sexual fantasy is just that – fantasy. In the documentary Mosley: It’s Complicated, Skin Two editor Tim Woodward is seen shamefully capitulating on some news show that the Nazi fantasies – then taken even by serious news sources as read because the News of the World said it was, a little like believing anything the office fantasist tells you – were ‘tasteless’ and Mosley’s career should be over; a little ripe coming from a man who published a fetish magazine and had lived through years of BDSM clubs being closed down, the Operation Spanner debacle and countless kinksters lives ruined by similar tabloid stings. What was he thinking?
Perhaps he too was caught up in who Mosley was. Son of a fascist, youthful supporter of daddy’s ideals and latterly a notoriously ruthless Formula 1 boss. He was never going to move beyond his family, his past and his reputation. The documentary – interestingly and, in this particular case, refreshingly unjudgemental – explores his lust for glory in the dubious world of motor racing, which has always struck me as second only to boxing in the ‘shifty sports’ department, but also covers how he pushed for improved safety – something that might never have happened in a free-for-all. When you see footage of drivers indifferently zooming past a burning car with one of their colleagues trapped inside, you suspect that no matter what his ambitions, Mosley was far from being the most unpleasant person involved in the sport.
In any case, Mosley’s push for car safety expanded to domestic vehicles through Euro NCAP, which helped make safety a selling point – and that’s all that car manufacturers really care about. Mosley claims in the documentary that some 78,000 lives have been saved through NCAP safety testing and pressure on the industry. If true – and even if a considerable exaggeration – that’s pretty impressive. I wonder how many lives his newspaper critics have saved? Actually, no need to wonder – the answer is zero. Less than zero, in fact.
Was Mosley a nice man? Perhaps not, though he seems fascinatingly open and witty in the documentary. But you certainly wouldn’t want to mess with him, it seems. Was he a Nazi? On the evidence of everything, absolutely not, unless you assume that no one can escape the influence of dodgy parents – in which case a lot of us are damned I imagine. Frankly, anyone who riled up the British tabloids as much as he did must have had something going for them – and while his pushback against them was at times excessive, his commitment to the idea that people are allowed a private life, no matter how much it might offend the tastes of middle England was admirable. the documentary might not be the last word on his life – but it is something very much worth watching.
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