The News of the World is one of Rupert Murdoch’s many papers, and it has a mass circulation, mostly on account of the smut it likes to publish about people known or unknown. Its reporters do not hesitate to use any underhand method that might bring results, for instance false identities, hidden cameras, the payment of large fees to informers, and so on.
The latest victim of this newspaper and its techniques is one Max Mosley. Presumably as a result of a tip-off, he was filmed secretly taking part in some specially rigged-up dungeon in London in a sado-masochistic orgy with five prostitutes. This little squad were engaged in being guards and victims in a simulated Nazi concentration camp, complete with punishments and humiliation and pain. Some of the recorded conversation was in German, a language Mosley learnt during two years in Germany as a young man.
For Mosley, 67 and a married man these past forty years, the embarrassment is excruciating, privately and publicly. In the world of motor racing, he is an important person, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the body that governs Formula One and Grand Prix racing. A big race is due to take place soon in Bahrain, and the Crown Prince has told Mosley to stay away as his presence would be “inappropriate.” Apparently Mosley is unwilling to respond to calls for his resignation from the FIA, improbably trumpeting that he will sue the newspaper for invasion of privacy.
Salacious as the story is, its deeper interest is that Mosley is the son of Sir Oswald Mosley. In 1931 Oswald Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists. He took money from Hitler, and saw himself as the Leader of Britain once Hitler had incorporated it into the Nazi empire. In 1936 in Berlin, he married Diana Mitford, with Hitler and Goebbels as witnesses. Early in the war, when their son Max was just born, the Mosleys were imprisoned as a precaution. To the end of their lives, they were unapologetic, always Nazi sympathizers, always rabid Jew-haters who went as far as they dared in denying the Holocaust. In the course of my own researches, I met both Mosleys and saw for myself what ugly bullies they were. If I did not withdraw the book I was then writing about Unity Mitford, Diana’s extreme Nazi sister, they would not be responsible for the consequences. What might that mean? my lawyer asked. Quite simply, fascist violence, some kind of accident to my car or my house.
Commentators have often noted how Nazism attracted followers by means of showy sexual elements in parades and uniforms. The notion that a Nazi concentration camp could provide any such sexual element is in keeping with the doctrine and practice of Nazism, though it has a sinister perversity all its own. But you don’t have to be an expert in psychology to see that a straight line runs from the father’s past fantasies to the son’s enactments of them in the present.