Some of us on the fringes of the Fourth Estate are getting tired of the hypocrisy about press freedom
All kinds of pompous tweets abound this evening following the discovery (was anyone really surprised?) that those seeking to publish mass media articles are being routinely watched and overheard by all those goings on at GCHQ that were vehemently denied by the Labour Home Secretary Jacquie Smith throughout 2008. George Orwell famously wrote that real journalism ‘is the practice of publishing something the powerful prefer to be kept secret – everything else is just PR’. Now that the technology (and the craven cooperation of internet ISPs) are readily available, printing what’s meant to stay secret has become well-nigh impossible. Add to this the idle cynicism of most tabloid journalists – alongside the surreal agendas of their owners – and you have the supremely fertile ground in which to grow State mendacity and deliberate ambiguity.
Leading the charge (as you’d expect) are the purists of the Right and Left. This was my tweeted response a little earlier to a request for me to ‘sign up’ to the protest:
I looked at it and felt it made me sound a bit Leftie, so a few minutes ago I added this:
Bit of a Freudian stammer on the Guardian word there – but it makes little difference, because all those in the Tent will feel it their God-given or humanist right to ignore the contrarian outside.
My feeling about this issue remains staggeringly simple: if the press wants 100% freedom to print the facts, then it must at least aspire to have the invented bollocks down to as near as damnit it 0%. And when it says ‘facts are sacred’, it should not try and suppress them.
Do I want to give unrestricted freedom to a press pack owned by 2 former pornographers, 2 expat tax avoiding families, and 1 Russian oligarch…or run by a few unrepresentative bourgeois Trots, edited by a man consumed with arrogant hatred of all authority, owned by corrupt socialist liars, and targeting the BBC for its own grubby ends? Of course I don’t: why would anyone want to do that?
The flaw in the ‘defence’ of the Press being trumpeted at the minute is this: we are using the word ‘free’ in the liberty sense, when what is desired by too many in this up-itself community is license: not freedom from censorship, but the freedom to distort, attack, accuse, and censor others. The MSM press coverage of the Scottish independence referendum has been nothing short of disgraceful: discuss.
If media ownership is almost totally restricted to an élite less representative than the Bourbon monarchy, why should I award it a privileged freedom from scrutiny? If it has an unhealthy relationship with a political Party, I reserve the right to punish its self-interested spin in these columns without censorship. If it is hand in glove with the police – and perverting the course of justice in the pursuit of base monopolism – I demand the freedom to publish any and all facts that support that reality. If it appears to exist largely as the craven mouthpiece of corporocratic interests with anti-socially damaged frontal lobes, I don’t want any elevated, EU-bankrolled Labour Party pervert shutting me up – or even down.
One of my heroes Jeremy Bentham called for all members of society, whatever their calling, to use one criterion: the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Recently I tried to update that (in the light of later knowledge from experience) as ‘the greatest enlightenment of the greatest number’. Objectors made many constructive criticisms of that…and I have in turn looked at ‘the greatest fulfilment of the greatest number’, and more latterly ‘the greatest benefit of the greatest number’. You can’t please everyone: but everyone who reads The Slog regularly is I am sure by now aware of what I’m on about: a civilisation in which the main thing guiding responsibility should be the mutual consideration of those who earn our consideration.
The best advice I can give to the British press tonight is this: physician, heal thyself.
Earlier at The Slog: why the fastest way to curtail Jihadism is to take John McCain’s passport away