Declaring “Mission Accomplished” prematurely is not a new phenomenon, and “Dubya” Bush takes the biscuit for the finest recent example. But that memory has not entered the thoughts of James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole as he crows long and loud at his vindication by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
In a characteristically sneering post titled “UEA: the sweet smell of napalm in the morning”, Del Boy tells of a complaint by the University Of East Anglia (UEA) against him that “They lost. We won”. He then refers to the PCC – and this one really does need a leap of faith to make credible – as a “quasi-official” body.
Delingpole and his echo chamber of like minded souls may not take time out to think through this episode, and that is their problem. The behaviour of the PCC, its judgment, and its credibility do not stand up well to the most basic of scrutiny: a few pointers from the case should be considered.
One, the PCC is not a “quasi-official” body. It has been set up to supposedly provide self regulation of the print media, and in this it has consistently failed, invariably siding with the newspaper establishment, and routinely hiding behind procedure to avoid even considering complaints. It is a toothless, useless laughing stock.
Two, the defence on which Delingpole relies is that what he wrote was “opinion”, and should be treated only as such. This will be recognised by observers of the PCC as the “Littlejohn defence”, after the recent complaint by blogger Primly Stable. It may not be beneficial to Del Boy’s credibility to be aligned with Fat Dick.
Three, the PCC has allowed Delingpole to also use the “opinion” defence to justify making his selective and unchallenged interpretation of statements made by Phil Jones of the UEA. That, in plain English, means the PCC says it’s OK to say “statement X means Y, because I say so, end of story”. No expertise necessary.
Four, the “free speech” argument cuts both ways. The UEA and its staff are also permitted to speak freely, and equally are allowed to defend themselves from anyone making statements and accusations designed not to further scientific discourse (Del Boy doesn’t do science, remember), but merely to do damage.
Five, as the PCC has once again showed itself to be little more than useless – unless you enjoy the patronage of the print media – the inevitable consequence will be an increase in business for the legal profession. The “no win, no fee” brigade may already be en route to East Anglia.Finally, Del Boy’s choice of napalm for his title is something he and his pals may come to regret: it was the consequences of the use of napalm that lost the propaganda war in Vietnam, and from that point it was downhill all the way.