After the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Mail titles, along with his colleagues editor emeritus Peter Wright and head of legal services Liz Hartley, joined forces to threaten legal action against Byline Media, the last surviving UK outlet for crowdfunded journalism, one might have expected this assault on free speech - hypocritically, by those who claim they are in favour of it - to galvanise campaigners.
So there must be lots of free speech devotees and promoters up in arms about the bullying behaviour of Dacre and his pals, right? Er, wrong. Whether it is master contrarian Brendan O’Neill and his like-minded pals at Spiked, so named because it should have been long ago, or Zelo Street’s sparring partners Michael Harris and Padraig Reidy at 89up, there has been little more than a deafening silence.
That the Spiked gang depend on the press establishment to get their propagandising out there, and 89up depend on that same establishment for their continuing existence, is I am sure a mere detail in the great scheme of things. But there is one group that claims to be independent and ever ready to “kick over the tables” in defence of free speech, and that is the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog.
What the f***'s a photo of me doing here, c***?!?
So what has The Great Guido had to say about this blatant attempt to crush a source of truly independent journalism? Where is Staines’ outrage at the use of those hated lawyers to silence investigative reporting that might prove inconvenient to the Mail titles, and the Vagina Monologue’s 25 year legacy of decisively stamping his authority on the inmates of the Northcliffe House bunker from the vantage point of the editor’s chair?
But you know the answer: Staines and his gang have responded to the Mail’s attempt to crush Byline Media with nothing more than stony silence. The Great Guido, who made his reputation telling the world of the evils of using the defamation law to bludgeon the little people into silence and chilling free speech, is so much a stooge of the press establishment that he now stands by and keeps schtum when someone else is on the receiving end. Paul Staines has sold out to that establishment.
Indeed, the Fawkes blog’s only mentions of Byline have been to promote the press establishment line, claiming that the site - which imposes no editorial agenda or control over its contributors - is “anti free speech”. Orwell would have been interested to see that Nineteen Eighty-Four had finally arrived, albeit three decades late.
The craven capitulation of Staines and his rabble is, sadly, predictable: it was, after all, The Great Guido who was as clueless as the rest of his press establishment pals over phone hacking, which was not happening, honestly. Now that Byline Media has evidence of at least one more newspaper group trading in a different form of illegally gathered information, the Fawkes mob is once again absent elsewhere.
Behold the reality behind those who claim to uphold freedom of speech, of the necessity to speak truth to power, of exposing criminality and other wrongdoing. They’re all in the pocket of the press establishment and frightened witless of losing their paycheques.
Free speech is such a flexible concept when keeping quiet pays rather better.