From the point that Lord Justice Leveson delivered the report that followed from the Inquiry he chaired, much of the Fourth Estate has maintained the pretence that adhering to his recommendations would mean an end to press freedom as we know it, raising the spectre of interfering politicians telling them what they could, and could not, write about, despite nothing of the sort being suggested.
Typical of the scare stories was a Daily Mail Comment titled “Press freedom and a life and death matter”, assuring readers that the cross-party Royal Charter would lead to the use of prior restraint, with the Mail’s ability to run public interest stories so constrained that there would be a risk to peoples’ wellbeing. That means, one might conclude, that politicians sticking their bugle in is A Very Bad Thing.
But anyone concluding thus would be wrong, as yesterday’s events have proved: Young Dave has made veiled threats against the deeply subversive Guardian over its revelations of the scale of the surveillance undertaken by the NSA in the United States, and GCHQ in the UK. “Prime Minister threatens Guardian with legal action over 'damaging' spy leaks” reported the Mail yesterday.
So the Mail calls the Royal Charter “chilling”, but is comfortable with a Government defining what is “damaging” and then wading in and dictating what a newspaper can and cannot publish. That’s the most blatantly stinking hypocrisy going, but the Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor has no problem with it – because it’s the hated Guardian, and they rumbled his pals over phone hacking.
And what is worse, so many of those who have been quick to subscribe to the “Leveson equals prior restraint therefore bad” meme have been even quicker to applaud Cameron, with an honourable mention for Nick Cohen, who has called the PM’s threat for what it is, even though he wrongly calls the Royal Charter “state regulation” and claims politicians want “state licensing”.
But the likes of Tim Luckhurst, who claims to be a “democrat”, while opposing measures agreed by all parties in a democratically elected Government, is not concerned. Former Tory MP Louise Mensch, who has championed a free press, has gone further, and supported Cameron’s threat. Neil “Wolfman” Wallis is blaming those campaigning for a reform of press regulation.
The Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn has swallowed the PM’s line, duly cheered on by stupid Tory MP Julian Smith. Others are silent. The stench of double standards is truly rank, even by the routinely low standards of the more opportunistic politicians and those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet. And the shallowness of the “press freedom” cry is laid bare.
“First they came for the Guardian” ... does that ring a bell? Wake up, press people.