The shameless hypocrisy of the press establishment and its hangers-on knows no bounds: whatever the press does, no matter how vicious, how venal, how dishonest, how spiteful, and how damaging, this is beyond reproach. It is, we are endlessly reminded, the exercise of free speech, to which we are all entitled. When those outside that establishment bubble exercise the same right, however, all is, in an instant, changed.
Fighting to be an establishment poodle, more like
Our free and fearless press is, like Caesar’s wife, beyond reproach. We should not so much as say boo to revelations of hacking, blagging, burglary, harassment and even the use of the platform given by that same press for some to run campaigns of vilification against those of dissenting view. The asymmetrical mindset of the press establishment is by now well-known. They are more of life’s perpetual victims.
So it should have been no surprise to see Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford go off the end of the pier in no style at all at the news that Evans Cycles have decided - of their own volition - to cease advertising in the Mail and Express titles, as well as the Murdoch Sun. Freedom of expression has suddenly become a challenging proposition for him.
Under the shrieking headline “Why UK's 70,000-plus journalists should boycott Evans Cycles”, Ponsford tells anyone who will listen “Today I urge [all cyclists] in the news media to boycott the UK’s leading bicycle retailer Evans Cycles”. Why so? “The reason why is that Evans has cast itself as an enemy of free speech by placing the Mail and Express titles and The Sun on a blacklist of advertisers who it will no longer spend money with”.
Think that’s “with whom it will no longer spend money”, Dom, but do go on. “Let’s set aside the fact that a couple of thousand journalists rely on work from these news organisations to pay their rent or mortgages … When advertisers start boycotting newspapers because they don’t agree with what they are saying it takes to a pretty dark place”. Really?
Why? “It is the same place we went to when HSBC notoriously, and apparently successfully, sought to influence Telegraph editorial coverage by withholding advertising”. No it isn’t: Evans Cycles is not seeking any influence. It has merely made a business decision. So when Ponsford bleats “I would rather have a partisan and imperfect press than one which is muzzled by advertisers wielding commercial pressure to influence editorial content”, he is just getting hyperbolic. No-one is trying to muzzle anyone.
And he does his cause no favours by headlining the piece with a photo of Channel 4 News main man Jon Snow - just because he is a cyclist. Nor is the cause of the press served by complaining about groups like Stop Funding Hate, who are also free to express their views. The group does not attempt to browbeat or bully others into making advertising decisions - it is merely a campaign of persuasion.
The reality of the situation is that the press is, indeed, free to publish what it wants, when and where: the Duke of Wellington’s dictum should endure. Also, potential advertisers are free to advertise when and where they want, subject to current codes and regulations. Evans cycles have done so. Ponsford is overreacting, and then some.
But good to see the press establishment sense of entitlement on view for all to see. Free speech, for them, is, as usual, the freedom to please themselves, and others to lump it.