Newspapers Amend Careless Phrases in “Rothschild” Reporting

Metro reports on the tragic accidental death of Iris Goldsmith:

Iris Annabel was an heir to both the Goldsmith and Rothschild dynasties.

They are two of the most powerful families in the world who have had great sway over the UK’s political and financial worlds.

The wording here comes across as a bit off. “Two of the most powerful families in the world” is a crude formulation, the meaning of which is vague. How does one measure such power, either against other dynasties or compared to other examples and kinds of “power” in the world? The expression “great sway” gives an impression of informal and behind-the-scenes influence, and one is alas immediately put in mind of “Rothschild” and more general “Jewish banker” conspiracy mongering.

The paper’s editors appear to have realised this, and the passage has now been amended:

Iris Annabel was an heir to both the Goldsmith and Rothschild dynasties – two powerful families who have had great influence in the world of politics and finance.

Similarly, the Sun thought better of the following:

The two families are worth billions of pounds and they have maintained a powerful influence over Britain’s financial and political systems for decades.

The text after “pounds” has now been deleted.

The original versions both appear to derive from a phrase that appears in several Daily Mail / Mail Online articles, which remain unamended. According to the reports there:

Iris was heir to two of Britain’s, and the world’s, most powerful dynasties, the Goldsmith and Rothschild families. Together the two society bloodlines are worth billions of pounds and have had a powerful influence over the UK’s financial and political systems for decades.

This appeared first in an item by “Daily Mail Reporter”, and was then re-used in follow-ups by James Fielding (previously blogged here) for Mail Online and then in a co-authored piece by Richard Eden and James Wood for both brands. Like “sway over”, the expression “influence over” (rather than “influence in”) evokes some sort of executive control that goes beyond any sensible historical or political-science interpretation.

Of course it’s true that the two families are indeed incredibly wealthy, and that members of both dynasties have been influential in British public life, both in politics and the financial sector. Obviously, this is part of the story here, but as with other kinds of reporting the history of prejudice means that journalists ought to be mindful of how their words could be used to the advantage of bad actors. Most people have a very limited understanding of the financial sector and the position of the Rothschild Group within it, nor do they know anything much about individual members of such dynasties and their motivations. Someone curious to know what is meant by “two of the most powerful families in the world” is much more likely to find anti-Semitic “Rothschild” conspiracy ideas than serious and measured sources.

H/T: The original extracts were screen-captured by the Jewish Chronicle‘s Daniel Sugarman – here, here and here.