The Commons vote tomorrow is concentrating the collective minds of the Fourth Estate and their hangers on rather too well: the cacophony of ranting, cajoling, pleading and patronising, all topped with a distinctly unsavoury coating of abuse and dishonesty, has reached a crescendo today. It is the last desperate writhing of an argument long ago lost, but clung on to like a comfort blanket.
Typical of the tantrums being thrown today is that of Benedict “famous last words” Brogan, who re-heats the phone hacking argument of Tim Montgomerie and declares that this is payback time for the left. But Brogan fails to see that his argument depends on there being a constraint on press freedom, the false premise advanced to cover the real purpose of the opposition to Leveson.
So his argument goes in a circle: once a Mail hack, and all that. We all know why he’s frothing, and that is because of the prospect of truly independent regulation: no more would the press mark their own homework or choose which complaints to consider. Why else does Brogan think that the Mail, Telegraph and Murdoch titles want a veto on who might join the new regulatory board?
That false premise is also being peddled by the Sun: “Don’t snuff out beacon of freedom” comes the plea, reinforced by “Press Censorship” and “gag-hungry MPs”. That would be why the World Press Freedom Index has at the top of its pops a country which has independent press regulation underpinned by statute (Finland, in case anyone was wondering).
Over at the Telegraph, Matthew d’Ancona, to no surprise at all, sides with Brogan and brings the “messy politicking” line. All this deadline stuff is just too tawdry for such business, he declares. Well, he ought to tell Young Dave, because it was his actions that precipitated the situation. But he won’t. The paper’s editorial is also whining on about a “free press”, which is also what Hacked Off wants.
You might not think that from the Mail, though, and its “Exposed: Secret dossier reveals 'cynical ploy' by Hacked Off campaigners to target Tory rebels and exploit misery of murdered Milly Dowler's family to force new press law”. Note the position of the quote marks there. There is no secret dossier: it’s a briefing note. An editorial says “A critical day for democracy”, so it’ll accept the will of Parliament, then.
But the biscuit is well and truly taken by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, who raises the spectre of bloggers’ arguments being brought before the new regulator, to which I call bullshit. We can tell the difference between news and comment websites – he should try looking at the HuffPo (rather than just pretending he does, so he can kick Mehdi Hasan).
Today shows that some people protest rather too much. No change there, then.