Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Announcing OfBlog - the mother of all quangos


When David Cameron asked Lord Justice Leveson to investigate the phone-hacking outrage and other renegade sections of the press, it was certain to end with legislative proposals for state regulation. It is as natural for a judge to find solution in the statutory instrument as it is for an EU commissioner to advocate 'more Europe' when confronted by the 'xenophobic' forces of adversity. Professional deformation confines epistemology: people are restricted to what they know.   

We have yet to see the final wording of the Royal Charter, but we do know that Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Hugh Grant are all delighted. Invoking the spectre of Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister insisted that this does not amount to state regulation of the press. But Hacked Off would hardly be trumpeting victory if they had not got what they wanted - that is, regulatory powers underpinned by statute. Only the heir to Blair would try to sell a specific legislative amendment as a general underpinning of a non-statutory regulatory charter. This regulation may be obliquely established by Royal Charter rather than by an act of parliament, but the Queen is the State: Parliament effects the decree, and Parliament can (and will) amend it to suit itself, irrespective of some absurd 2/3-majority 'protection'.

When 2/3 of the House of Commons fail by just a few votes to amend (or abolish?) this Royal Charter, we must remind them of the scorn they heaped on the General Synod of the Church of England over women bishops. Why should amendments to a piddly press charter require a 2/3 majority when Magna Carta itself can be amended by a simple majority?

It beggars belief that an English prime minister - and a Conservative prime minister at that - could support proposals which will censor, inhibit or neuter investigative journalism. Not for 300 years have newspapers been 'licensed' by the state. Those which do not cooperate will face the possibility of draconian fines, such that their operations may become uninsurable.

Significantly, Lord Justice Leveson restricted his proposals to the print media. He was of the view that it 'operates very differently from blogs on the internet and other social media such as Twitter'. One may quibble with his ignorance of both the rate of decline of newspapers and the reach and influence of some blogs, but his proposal was clearly for a watchdog regime aimed at the press, enshrined in law: the internet was to be left unregulated.

But David Cameron's Royal Charter appears to extend the definition of 'publisher' to include online media:

This makes some sense: after all, some of the recent media scandals – like the Twitter slander/libel alleging that Lord McAlpine is/was a paedophile; or the breach of privacy legislation in the naming of Ryan Giggs; or the publication of topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge - have not involved print media organisations at all. It seemed naive to leave Blogger, Facebook and Twitter unregulated while imposing considerable constraints upon the 'significant news providers' - the press and its 'official' online presence.

Twitter may be too gossipy and trivial to regulate, but this Royal Charter effectively establishes OfBlog, and that is going to become a colossal quango bureaucracy. In short, if anyone should have a serious gripe against His Grace, they may henceforth complain to this new Regulator free of charge. If the Regulator finds against His Grace, he can forced to apologise and retract - which would be usual in any case of defamation. But under this Charter, His Grace is left to pay the costs of his accuser even if His Grace should win the case. This is not a Charter for justice, but a licence for the irritating, eccentric and vexatious. It is highly unlikely that His Grace would ever have investigated THIS or published THIS or THIS if OfBlog had possessed punitive powers and was a credible censorious option for ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop and Canon Peter Clark.

There is undoubtedly a House of Commons majority in favour of press regulation, and that is hardly surprising. The press hold our politicians to account: the chance to regulate their chief inquisitors and persecutors is an opportunity too good to miss. One might almost see it as revenge for the audacious journalism that 'caused' the expenses scandal, or the successful exposure of chronic moral and political hypocrisies which have led to some tragic downfalls.

But it is inconceivable that this non-statutory Charter will be whipped: the continuing existence of a free press ought at least to be determined by a free vote. And this will pitch the Whig against the Tory; it will divide the true conservative from the sham Conservative. In his evidence to Leveson, Michael Gove said:
I think the general case for free expression has to be restated in every generation, because we all collectively benefit from a feeling that we are and shouldn't be inhibited in stating our views on whatever platform is available to us on matters that engage us.

..by definition, free speech doesn't mean anything unless some people are going to be offended some of the time.

..I'm sure that there are cases where journalists and others will behave in ways which are deplorable. The question remains, however: what is the most effective means of ensuring that individuals do not behave in a deplorable fashion? It's often the case that individuals reach for regulation in order to deal with failures of character or morality, and sometimes that regulation is right and appropriate, but some of us believe that before the case for regulation is made, the case for liberty needs to be asserted as well.

..we should think carefully about the effects of regulation in the same way as a legislator, when any particular proposal is put before them to deal with a particular evil, thinks: is this legislation necessary or proportionate? Is it the right remedy for the particular problem that's been identified? And I'm unashamedly on the side of those who say that we should think very carefully before legislation and regulation because the cry "Something must be done" often leads to people doing something which isn't always wise.

..My instinct is, if we look over time at how we have reacted to other abuses and errors and crimes that have been identified, there has been a tendency - it hasn't applied in every case but there has been a tendency to meet that particular crisis or scandal or horror with an inquiry. That inquiry has come up with recommendations, some of those recommendations have been wise and thoughtful, others perhaps less so. But what has subsequently happened is that the regulation or the intervention which has flowed from that inquiry has then been gold-plated and applied in such a way as, in the terms that I used in my speech to the press gallery, to be a cure worse than the disease, and in my speech to the press gallery, I mentioned the way in which the vetting and barring scheme had grown and the way in which the Every Child Matters agenda had grown, and the way in which the Food Standards Agency had grown to interpret its brief in a particular way. Now, those were three examples where I believe - and it's perfectly open to others to disagree with me passionately, obviously - but where I believe that an unfortunate tendency arose, which is a belief that we could, you know, mitigate against the evil which is inherent in human nature by setting up bureaucratic bodies or enacting regulation.

..I have a strong - some might call it a bias, a prejudice, a predisposition to favour free expression, but by definition, one of the reasons that I favour free expression is that I believe that it is through public debate, the clash of ideas, that we can arrive at a better form of governing ourselves, a better method of helping the next generation and it's entirely possible - it's happening often enough - that I will be proven wrong in open debate and it may well be that the fears that I gave expression to in this speech prove to be phantoms.
Parliament urgently needs another John Stuart Mill to persuade the Commons of their folly, for the political pygmies who seek to regulate the press are devoid of any philosophical understanding of liberty. If this Royal Charter is enacted and Schedule 4 survives as drafted, it is difficult to see how His Grace could continue. The traumatic months of ASA harassment were bad enough: OfBlog, as Michael Gove notes, will 'grow' and become 'gold-plated'. It is likely to become an insufferable coercive hindrance - sufficient to effect termination.

42 Comments:

Blogger FrankFisher said...

Regardless of the principle that one shouldn't curtail free speech (which long ago went in the UK, but which some of us still support) I can't help but feel that's it's also not ideal to introduce laws that no one understands, introduce laws based on emotion, introduce laws in such an almighty rush, and introduce laws apparently drafted by a shower of Marxists like Hacked Off. I had thought that no government could be as inept as Gordon Brown's; Gordon, I apologise.

19 March 2013 08:50  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Your Grace,

I fully support the main thrust of your argument. We should all be prepared to suffer the occasional insult and upset in order to create a free market for the exchange of ideas, for it is from the resulting debate, that improvement results, and a better understanding of truth flows. We have a generation of political pygmies in charge. If this passes as at present, it's another nail in the coffin of freedom and a once great country.

19 March 2013 08:55  
Blogger David B said...

Any legislation with the potential to inhibit freedom of speech is worrying.

I somehow suspect that the Cranmer blog will be comparatively safe compared with, say, Private Eye, The Freethinker, even the cartoon antics (with comment section) of Jesus and Mo.

And, of course, any blog, publication whether on or off line, even any discussion board, which is critical of religion, either specifically or in general.

David

19 March 2013 09:14  
Blogger David B said...

As an afterthought, I wonder if there are not international obligations, whether regarding the UN or Europe or any other international treaty, that would protect the right of free speech at the expense of this prospective legislation?

There would be a certain irony, if so, about the Cranmer blog being protected from censorship by Europe, but I would be happy if European Treaties were to defend the free speech of us all.

David

19 March 2013 09:47  
Blogger Johnnyrvf said...

@ David B, Precisely,I no longer live in the U.K. but in Europe where free speech is supposedly protected, if I choose to comment what can the U.K. authorities do; but even more pertinent, what if a blogger in the U.S.A. writes a comment under the 1st ammendment......I can see that going a long way.

19 March 2013 10:37  
Blogger IanCad said...

Strange that a few days ago Brother Ivo posted about William Cobbett, a true champion of free speech. It was almost exactly two hundred years ago that he was in prison for the crime of speaking his mind.
We are going backwards fast.
Is it not time YG, to consider having your blog hosted from the USA where the First Ammendment will protect you from the wretches who are seeking to stifle robust debate?

19 March 2013 11:10  
Blogger Dudders said...

I think you need to set up a limited liability company to 'own' the blog and then have a team of 'guests' to write for you.

19 March 2013 11:45  
Blogger Richard Baron said...

The exemplary damages provisions are a way to make it expensive to be free of restrictions. We have been here before, with the stamp tax on newspapers. Let us hope that we shall see the same heroic resistance. See:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/PRknowledge.htm

19 March 2013 12:05  
Blogger SadButMadLad said...

You need to make a small correction.

The definition of 'publisher' is only related to those being appointed to one of the many boards and committees. How it will affect actual bloggers hasn't been announced yet.

Search the charter for "relevant publisher" and you will see that it only applies to the appointments, not to who is regulated.

19 March 2013 12:32  
Blogger John M Ward said...

Although this isn't exactly the same as Solzhenitsyn and the KGB, there are distinct parallels and the (intended, by officialdom) outcome will be much the same – perhaps more severe in practice.

Now, I do understand how this has become an almost unavoidable interim situation in the present political climate, in all its aspects.

The trick has to be not to continue down this road to totalitarianism (for this is the intent of those behind it all) but as a 'lay by' in which to stay and let the angry traffic pass by, until calmer and wiser times prevail and it can all be ditched as an embarrassing misjudgment from the (then) past.

It is probably more-or-less the only way it could be done, which is not exactly complimentary about our society, as it should have had to come to this in the first place.

All concerned, from certain journalists to politicians via Leveson, bear responsibility for today's situation and its current outcome – along with all those millions who buy newspapers and the like for celebrity gossip and salacious stories.

19 March 2013 13:25  
Blogger John M Ward said...

Incidentally, a big question for bloggers is whether the legislation will allow for actions taken against posts written before the eventual Act and quango come into being.

If not, then it means we can leave it all in place, even though we shall be inhibited in future. This can still prove valuable, though less so than if all this had never happened.

If, though, it can act retrospectively in that sense, it means that many 'blogs might find it advisable/safer to be taken down altogether.

That is a significantly more serious situation, on several levels...

19 March 2013 13:29  
Blogger John M Ward said...

"should not" in my first comment. Even I occasionally get it a little wrong...

19 March 2013 13:34  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

It beggars belief that an English prime minister - and a Conservative prime minister at that

Save your belief from being beggared, Your Grace, by facing up to the fact that Cameron is Conservative in name only. An old friend of his, Helena Bonham Carter, said last year that Cameron is ‘not that conservative, actually’, that ‘he’s not a right-wing person’ and that if he were American, he would be a Democrat.

The last genuine Conservative politician was Enoch Powell, and the Conservative Party reacted to him by holding its nose and scraping him off its shoe.

19 March 2013 14:34  
Blogger graham wood said...

Are we coming to a place in which free information will eventually be restricted to a form of 'Samidzat'?
This was a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader. This grassroots practice to evade officially imposed censorship was fraught with danger as harsh punishments were meted out to people caught possessing or copying censored materials.

Vladimir Bukovsky defined it as follows:

I myself create it,
edit it,
censor it,
publish it,
distribute it, and ...
get imprisoned for it.

Agree, the time may come when vehicles of free speech may indeed have to be hosted via the USA under the First Amendment, until the madness passes.


19 March 2013 14:43  
Blogger Roy said...

Never mind, all will be well Your Grace since we have the Human Rights Law.

Oh, I forgot, that law exists for the benefit of terrorists, criminals (except those guilty of "thought crimes") and lawyers, not for ordinary people.

19 March 2013 15:48  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Blast you, Johnny Rotten.

You beat me to it! ;-O

Sid Blofeld

19 March 2013 16:21  
Blogger Paul Burgin said...

Your Grace. Perhaps you can tell me then the best way to deal with abuse of free speech and privileges by newspapers (they haven't consistently been as noble as your photo shows) and to make sure victims know that is acted on

19 March 2013 16:45  
Blogger IanCad said...

Paul Burgin,

For the life of me I can't figure out how, if we have free speech, their can be abuse of it.
Goodness me! How many have died to secure this privilege.
Anything short of threatening behaviour, (physical,) or incitement to violence, is fine as far as I'm concerned.
We still do have the law of libel which is a pretty good tool where false witness is involved. Nothing else is needed.

19 March 2013 17:22  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...



It pains to see regulation of the press in any form, but the past disgraces will only be repeated without. One can feel sanctified in as much as the organisation that has done ill to the press is the press itself, no other. Let them now work within a restraining framework they themselves haplessly advocated for construction.

But wait, why should Cranmer be concerned ? Surely the whole point of needing the legislation is not what is reported, but how it is collected, to save the indignities and intrusions suffered by those who do not deserve it.

If what is to follow includes the hounding of respectable blog sites, then we are about to enter that dark age Winston Churchill was always on about….

So, no defeatist talk. We will just not put up with it, any of it !





19 March 2013 17:51  
Blogger bluedog said...

Your Grace, these are terrible times for British democracy and once again David Cameron proves that the answer is UKIP.

Has Cameron never heard of the First Amendment to the US Constitution which says congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or of the press?

And is Cameron totally ignorant of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says in Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."?

Cameron's proposal to allow the intrusion of state power into a free press is quite extraordinary and a mark of his own fear and desparation. That so many members of the House of Commons are remotely compliant with Cameron's wishes is truly chilling.

Cameron forgets that we remember that it was his idea to get too close to Rebecca Brooks and the News Group, actions which have lead to his own downfall. That British dmocracy should be discarded to save Cameron from himself is the true measure of Cameron's own inadequacy.

The 1922 Committee must rise to the occasion and dump Cameron, now.

19 March 2013 20:18  
Blogger David B said...

Is it my imagination, or do these comment threads get very much shorter when there is nothing remotely about sex either in the OP or in later comments?

If I am right, I can only speculate about the reasons for that. Are those who claim to have adopted a Christian view of sexual morality trying to cover up something of an obsession with sex?

One can only wonder.

David

19 March 2013 22:07  
Blogger bluedog said...

David B @ 22.07 says, 'Are those who claim to have adopted a Christian view of sexual morality trying to cover up something of an obsession with sex?'

Not all, David. We are enjoined to go forth and multiply, so we do. Entirely consistent with biblical teaching.

Feeling left out?

19 March 2013 22:34  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

Revenge for the discovery of the expenses scandal.

Where is Britain's Bepe Grillo? Is it now time fof Ian Hislop to enter politics?

The 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war is no time to be reducing the ability of the press and internet to investigate and hold our rul ers to account.

19 March 2013 22:37  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

Johhny it beggars belief that anyone thinks Cameron a conservative.

I wish more people would read Peter Hitchens' book 'The Cameron Delusion' for the relevant facts.

19 March 2013 22:42  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

David B. One of your shorter posts, what !

19 March 2013 23:15  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

@ Rambling Steve Appleseed (22:42)—In one of his Telegraph blogs, Lord Tebbit acknowledged that the Conservative Party had been taken over by people who would be more at home in the Liberal Democrats or with Labour. He urged his readers to join the party and change it from within. I think change will be achieved by the party losing support to UKIP.

19 March 2013 23:30  
Blogger David B said...

Your post raised a chuckle, bluedog.

David

19 March 2013 23:41  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Rambling Steve Appleseed,

You are spot regarding Hitchens' book. Reading it , about three years ago, helped me complete my migration from being a life long One Nation Conservative to joining Ukip, and now becoming a local activist. Tebbit is absolutely right. I know many fine , upstanding, patriotic and Christian Conservative supporters, who because they are elderly and unable to face the changed reality, sometimes simply not grasping it, continue to put their cross against the same people. They are being conned of course. With age , change is often painful or impossible. I am a mere 62 and found I needed a lengthy period of relentless fact gathering and a forcing of myself to reach a conclusion, evidence based, before I could wrench myself, emotionally , from my habits, but a lot of people find these changes of loyalty impossible, due to intellectual laziness, lack of time and age , I think. However we are wining.
But Ukip also contains some loyal Brits of the principled Old Labour type who recognize that the NHS and the welfare state are threatened as they are being, or could be, swamped by the sheer numbers of new arrivals. These people are welcome too, as Ukip is fast becoming a Broad Church, and better for it as well. At a typical Ukip meal one can have a wealthy landowner on one side, and a hard working father and son dairy owner on the other, that is what I find. This suits me fine as being brought up in Wales, where the class system has never been as rigid as England was, I found that class, money and denomination was always a bit more mixed up than on the other side of Offa's Dyke.
I am still at heart a One Nation Conservative but now the "C" is a small "c", as Ukip carries the flag for Queen, Country and Faith (I quote our sometimes OTT, great extrovert, Farage) " Ukip are happy to carry the flag for the Judaeo-Christian heritage". Hence the support for the Established Church and traditional marriage, ie opposed to the present proposals. I respectfully rest my case, Your Grace.

20 March 2013 09:30  
Blogger Paul Burgin said...

IanCad

We have tried softer measures before in dealing with the Press such as the PCC. That failed, and with the phonehacking scandal, the way some sections of the press have behaved over the years, notably The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, and The Sun, we have had a situation where some in the Met were cash in hand with some in the media, we need something to bring confidence from the victims that justice is being done! And if you want to blame someone for the current situation, blame some of the tabloids for not playing by the rules of decency!

20 March 2013 10:12  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Burgin @ 10.12, you need to be very clear in your understanding of the philosophical shift being proposed by the Cameron-Clegg government.

In the first instance, if any member of the press commits a criminal offence, that matter can be dealt with appropriately by the police. It is naive, dishonest and/or illogical to suggest that a government censor is going to prevent the sort of criminality to which you refer. It isn't.

Historically the British press has been free to discipline itself and not subject to government licence. Cameron and Clegg now propose that the press should be subject to the supervisory power of the state. This is a change of momentous importance.

Can't you see where it leads? Vexatious complaints brought by government agents can tie the press in knots and prevent the exposure of critically important information by the media. Critical analysis of government policy can be supressed by the government itself. What of an article that draws attention to an unfavourable opinion poll? Will a government press release have any credibility at all? The result will be an even more bitter and cynical electorate with, if possible, even greater contempt for the political class.

All this seems to be designed as an act of revenge against the 85 years old Australian-American Rupert Murdoch. Let us be in no doubt that Cameron's premiership is mortally wounded by Brooks and Coulson and the PM burns with rage. Ironically Cameron's solution is to hire yet another Australian, Lynton Crosby.

In the context of whom, similar action to apply government supervision of the press is currently being proposed in Australia itself. It is almost as though the two actions are being co-ordinated, and the similarities extend in both cases to a grossly incompetent and unpopular administration that seems headed for electoral oblivion.

If these suspicious of collaboration are correct, it adds a further dimension to the risks of government intrusion into the freedom of the press. It is deplorable and bizarre that a centuries old commitment to freedom of speech is being overturned to neutralise a man with only a few years to live. Is all they have to do is wait.

Fortunately the Australian opposition with the support of cross-benchers seems likely to reject the Gillard government's attempt at media control.

It is to be hoped that somewhere within the Palace of Westminster there is a cross-bench grouping of true democrats who have the imagination and analytical ability to identify the risks to Britain's democracy.

From what we have seen recently from the Mother of Parliaments, one shouldn't hold one's breath.

20 March 2013 11:36  
Blogger IanCad said...

Paul Burgin,

A free press is not bound by laws of decency. Were it so the press would no longer be free.
The laws of the land are quite sufficient as they are. As bluedog illustrated so well in his last comment.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but, judging from your posts you seem to have a less than resolute commitment to the notion of free speech.

In fact you bring to my mind the "Gay Horse" incident of a few years back. One of the more distressing aspects of this action was, when, after the case was dropped, a friend of the perp stated that another reason the prosecution should not be continued was because "It was said in jest."
A sad reflection on how far the true understanding of liberty has faded from our land.

20 March 2013 14:25  
Blogger Paul Burgin said...

Bluedog,

I am very suspicious of how Murdoch conducts his power, and tend to feel that it is a tyranny for one person to exercise the degree of influence he does! I appreciate that what is proposed could be open to abuse, no system is perfect, but the details have yet to be set in stone and there will be those who will want press freedom, but expect it to run along decent standards. To put it planly, to be more of the sort of newspapers that broadsheets adhere to in terms of content!

IanCad, I am all for free speech, but am against the abuses that people commit in it's name. In the same way it is okay for people to drink alcohol, but not to get intoxicated and get behind the wheel of a car! I have heard people use the phrase "Nanny State" in this context and others that I notice it usually seems to be used by people who want to be irresponsible and abuse the freedoms of others!As for the Gay Horse incident, yes there is too much red tape and abuse of authority, but also there are examples of the reverse, where people see their selfishness and the distress they bring others as "Freedom!"

21 March 2013 13:29  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

One of the problems that is less acknowledged is that the dreadful dreadful libel that should never have been printed (shock, horror) of yesterday can become the horrendous almost unbelievable truth of tomorrow (frequently after the person is dead). Some of the people involved with "Hacked Off" have every reason to complain. I would like to think that time will tell who the others are, but see that as under threat. It is a vital judgemental call as to who are scandalmongers and who are whistleblowers. Often whistleblowers are treated with contempt until proved right, as they were with Jimmy Saville.

While I would not wish to say that McAlpine is guilty, I would wish massively strongly to say that I find his taste in art sometimes has been abhorrent, and that the female models who posed when underage naked and making seductive eyes have every right to say they were wrongly treated by the artist and that it has ruined their lives. See Graham Ovenden court cases.

21 March 2013 13:50  
Blogger IanCad said...

Paul Burgin,

So, according to your drunk driving analogy, may I assume that you propose to jail those who "Abuse" free speech?

I believe you may have missed my point re: "The Gay Horse" incident.
The fact that it was "said in jest" is irrelevant. It gives the impression that if he had meant it the prosecution would have been justified.
Not much support for free speech there!

21 March 2013 15:11  
Blogger Paul Burgin said...

I also said, not every incident is the same! i.e. you have to judge each situation on it's merits

21 March 2013 16:03  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Gentlemen. ‘Gay Horse’ incident ? Post a fellow a link would you...

21 March 2013 19:27  
Blogger IanCad said...

OIG

Here you go Inspector--

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/oxfordshire/4606022.stm


http://apolyton.net/showthread.php/147292-Excuse-me-do-you-realise-your-horse-is-gay

21 March 2013 19:50  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


The Inspector is obliged to IanCad for providing the answer to what would otherwise have kept your man awake all night.

Rather reminiscent of the old joke. What animal has a c__t halfway up it’s back....

21 March 2013 21:48  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Bergin @ 13.29 said, 'I am very suspicious of how Murdoch conducts his power,'. Maybe, but Mr Murdoch shares an attribute with you, he is innocent until proven guilty. Recent attempts to throw mud at Mr Murdoch in the House of Commons failed dismally in so far as none stuck. If the United Kingdom is to make laws on a purely subjective basis as you seem to infer it should, in order to proscribe the influence and commercial activities of individuals of whom individuals such as yourself are jealous, it will be the end of British commerce. Let us be in no doubt, your principle objection to Mr Murdoch is his power and wealth, resulting in his capacity to influence. In short you are jealous, and jealousy is a second rate emotion. Perhaps your objection is based on your disapproval of Mr Murdoch's politics, but this is a democracy. If you wish the law to be based on your subjective assessment of personalities rather than on more serious criteria, God help us all.

Mr Murdoch is a very old man and he has a sense of history. If you were to buy a copy of one of his many broadsheets, specifically 'The Australian' and if you were to turn to the back page of that paper you would see the forecast weather in Australia and also the weather in most capital cities of note around the globe. Running your eye down the column of names you may, if observant, notice a name that seems completely out of place. That name is 'Gallipoli', and the weather at Gallipoli in the Dardenelles is faithfully reported every day. Why? Because it was at Gallipoli, 98 years ago this year, that Rupert Murdoch's father, the then Keith Murdoch, made his reputation by reporting on the plight of the Allied force trying to defeat the Turks with shocking and futile loss of life. Keith Murdoch was one of those gifted individuals who operated at the very highest level and his journalism was completely credible so that his recommendations were successful and many lives were saved as a consequence.

Now if Keith Murdoch had been subject to the sort of controls that you and your like wish to see imposed on a free press, in this instance many more lives may have been lost.

This communicant writes this in the faint hope that next time you feel moved attack Mr Murdoch for purely subjective reasons you may remember this story about the importance of press freedom.

22 March 2013 09:35  
Blogger Paul Burgin said...

BlueDog,

You seem to have put attributes and opinions to me in that latest post that are a little off the mark

I am all for free enterprise and commerical activity in the press, but that comes, like all power, with responsibility. In other words I beleive in the freedoms of the press where I am not happy with one individual holding too much power, because that is not a level playing field and is open to abuse of power! I suppose I tend to come from the Harold Evens school of journalism in these matters!
But it is not just that, it wouldn't be so bad if Murdoch, instead of promoting an educational, neutral viewpoint, has downgraded newspapers and gone for the tacky, populist view, which does not inform, give people alternative views, and help educate people, but rather cultivates their prejudices, increases influence of a Right-Wing populist agenda (and I would take the same view with some aspects of the Left), and has encoraged the type of journalism(if one can call it that) that has encouraged misery for many people!
You are also selective about types of journalistic stories. Gallipolli, MP's expenses, Clerical abuse, corruption in the police force etc.. are fine examples. Indeed Journalists like Hemmingway, Orwell, Woodward and Bernsteen are people I admire, but this isn't what we are discussing. We are discussing hacks, gutter press, who do grubby stories about celebrities and invade peoples privacy and damage the lives of many for titillation of it's readers1 The ideal tabloid should be like a broadsheet using a different language, not behave like a bullying gossip! If it isn't clear already about what I think constitutes good newspapers and bad newspapers (and that it is irrespective of whether they are left or right wing) I hope it is now! Put basically Journalists carry a lot of power, like all who are powerful, they should recognise that brings moral responsibility!

22 March 2013 15:17  
Blogger bluedog said...

' We are discussing hacks, gutter press, who do grubby stories about celebrities and invade peoples privacy and damage the lives of many for titillation of it's readers1'

Sorry, this comment reeks of cultural snobbery and elitism. One rule for the tabloid readers and another for the readers of broadsheets who, of course, know so much better? In any event, minor celebrities like Hugh Grant and the footballing fraternity thrive on publicity. When it backfires they bleat, but that is no reason to introduce censorship, quite the reverse.

Try reading Brendan O'Neill's excellent articles on the topic.

To repeat earlier points, there is a world of difference between criminality and the legitimate junctions of an investigative journalist. Criminality of any kind is to be deplored and the appropriate sanctions are on the statute book. It is essential not wreck the existing system in order to over-compensate for the transgressions of a very small minority.

Why is the Left suddenly so keen on dismantling our Civil Liberties?

22 March 2013 21:40  
Blogger Paul Burgin said...

I may be guilty of cultural snobbery at times,a fault I am not happy with, but hardly elitism! I have nothing against tabloids per se, but they do tend to be more of a "Take someone behind the bike-sheds and beat them up!" mentality, rather than have a debate about things, and yes broadsheets are hardly paragons of virtue, but they do journalism well a lot of the time! And yes, tabloids can be outstanding! One thinks of the Daily Mirror's articles covering the atrocities under Pol Pot, or the Daily Mail's campaign for the Lawrence family, but if only they always did that type of journalism! And if only (left or right) they were not personal and less aggressive in their political and social attacks! I think it is important to value the dignity of others (which tabloids rarely do) and I also think with regards to people playing the media game, well the press play along and they also look for dirt, it is a two-way thing!
As for transgressions of a small minority, don't be too sure! The investigations into phone hacking are far from other and we still hear of more arrests

25 March 2013 11:42  

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