The gutter press front pages look like Britain just surrendered to an invading Iranian army on donkeys. A law to prevent a Royal Chartered being tampered with? A democratically instituted body only amendable with 2/3 majority of the democratically elected members of parliament? It’s Democracy Gone Mad! The End of Civilisation. Again. Where have we heard that before?
Every advance from the abolition of slavery through to the invention of the internet has been greeted with howls of reactionary doom, for dire forecasts of apocalyptic proportions. Mass adult literacy was seen as a necessary evil at best, and a death sentence for the status quo at worst. Which of course it was.
By keeping Rupert Murdoch’s sticky fingers off the charter, and bolting the back door of number 10 to other press barons, this tweak in the existing legislation will have no effect on what is laughable called ‘freedom of the press’, meaning the freedom of the monopoly media machines to make as much money as possible regardless of the suffering and injustice caused. It will only effect those companies ruthless enough to put profit before anything in their greed to get the story. And those ready and able to use intimidation to control the political process, as the corporate media have done for decades. More stringent and intrusive measures in other countries have not had any significant effect. British newspapers do not have to produce a special Irish edition.
The Sun’s political editor Trevor Kavanagh was on top form today talking about the ‘flourishing yet declining British press’ . That clarity of thought completely sums up the reactionary hysteria over the curbing of the power of billionaires. That does represent a step back for them, wherever it happens.
All legislation and shifts in morality represent a shift in the value of something, in this case, the value of personal information and dignity, which the print-age dinosaurs liked to think they owned, while also knowing they could suppress all dissent with (or without) the law. Now the law has for once excluded them from backstairs power, which is the real reason they hate it so much, and why David Cameron has lost the battle, and will have to walk the carpet of shame. Downing Street doublethinkers will be working furiously to turn this into a victory, but it’s transparent swank. Which complements the bluster from Wapping. The sound of reactionary calling to reactionary across the Strawman marshes.
The main threat to democrac yand freedom of speech in the last 30 years has come from the politicised corporate press itself. News International in particular, but not alone, who have been guilty of perverting the course of history. The 1980′s, as we are now discovering, was a very different place from the one portrayed in the Sun, and voted on during that delusion. The system is corrupt and needs rescuing from itself, if the press are to retain any credibility. If people are to believe anything it publishes.
This parochial bye-law merely keeps their sticky mitts off the Royal Charter. In ten years time reactionaries of all kinds will still be able to publish their hysteria. Opposition to legal protection is merely opposition to the eradication of another unelected privilege, the one which would give a tory government in cahoots with Rupert Murdoch free rein to cripple the Charter over tea and sandwiches.
Investigative journalism is expensive, and scandal pays the bills. And advertising has never been much cheaper. So the phones have to be hacked, the tabloid mud has to be thrown, and the victims paraded, and bullied into silence. And until we are not all rivals , and the suffering of others therefore no longer gratifies us, the gutter press will have a market, and foster it. Until then, corporations have to be controlled. The TV industry is, and now that newspapers are also de-facto TV stations, it’s their turn.
The tabloid trade in phone-hacked toxic information is the exact journalistic parallel to the trade in toxic debt by bank traders in the years leading up to the 2008 crash. The motives and the commercial reality were the same, ‘If you don’t do it, you lose your job.’
The banks couldn’t regulate themselves, with disastrous consequences for all, and neither can the press. The market can never be trusted to nurture civilisation, not least because it has to make us fight each other and despise the weak, as every tabloid slag-sheet demonstrates.
Their days of perverting history and degrading their readership may not be completely over, but at least they will now have to pay a reasonable price for it, and won’t be able to bully people into silence quite as easily. The result will be healthier more robust journalism, purged of toxic information dealing.
Meanwhile, everyone is still waiting for one concrete example of a valid story which might be crushed under the new tyranny.
Armageddon – Day 2
The media barons have faces like slapped bullies. They are refusing to sign up for Leveson. For the time being.
It’s quite simple. Murdoch and their buddies have had some of their backstairs power removed. And are now sulking. If they can’t be allowed to break the rules they will take their ball home.
In all yesterday’s insane, double-thinking, Orwell-abusing Sun there was not one concrete or hypothetical example of a single story which would be blocked or hampered by Leveson – because they were too ashamed to name the only kind they could think of. Namely the kind they have been finally brought to book over – and many which the PCC ignored. Those stories which involved gratuitous abuse of the rights to peace, privacy and respect of those unable to afford to take on the News International legal team, which includes those with Hollywood bucks on the hip. But then, The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins couldn’t come up with anything better than the Scientologists use of the libel laws, which is not Leveson.
Meanwhile, so much for the myth that laws as such curtail press freedom.
According to international journalists, the press in Ireland (editors chained in dank dungeons) is freer than ours.
“The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders based upon the organization’s assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year. It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations, and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom”.