The ruckus over who at the National Council for Civil Liberties knew what and when has provided an opportunity for some who want to raise their profile among those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet. Typical of this wannabe band is Dan Hodges, formerly the Colonel Nicholson of the Labour Party, who has decided once again to push the idea that Leveson equals censorship.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014
Hodges appears to have tuned in to Channel 4 News yesterday evening as Jon Snow interviewed Steve Coogan, who was in Los Angeles, on the recent behaviour of the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre. In the studio, showing his willingness to shill for the Mail as a way of perhaps securing future employment, was the loathsome Toby Young.
Coogan was forthright in his condemnation of the Daily Mail – and its hypocrisy of calling others out for allegedly helping paedophiles while running photos of under-age girls on its website. “Steve Coogan’s appearance on C4 instructive. If he and his Hacked Off mates get their way stories like NCCL will never see light of day” observed Hodges dishonestly.
Evan Harris was on the case in short order: “Spurious from [Hodges] again. As with Miliband story, nothing in Charter ... acts pre-publication ... reform is about remedy for inaccuracy (or other code breach) and access to justice if defamed”. He then quoted Schedule 3/17 of the Royal Charter: “[self regulator] should not have the power to prevent publication of any material”.
Such factual analysis was too much for Hodges, who proceeded to suggest that Harris “look over there”: “So you disagree with Steve Coogan? The Mail has not been acting like a ‘playground bully’. This is legitimate journalism”. That, of course, is not the point Harris was making – which was that Hodges had been caught lying, a charge he was unwilling to confront, let alone answer.
Evan Harris, with characteristic good humour, set out to Hodges what the latter was still unwilling, or unable, to see: having a legitimate story does not justify making allegations that are not – such as accusing others of “backing” paedophiles, or “apologising” for them. It also does not justify bullying the targets of the story into complying with a remedy that Dacre has specified (apologise for it).
And, of course, the playground bully will never rest with one compliant apology, when more damage can be done. But still Hodges was not for listening: “Is it a legitimate story being covered in a legitimate way. Yes or no” (punctuation eludes Dan at stressful moments such as this). Harris had, of course, already given him the answer. That was not the point – Hodges had to worm his way out of his dishonesty.
Getting righteous about others’ candour while doing that is never a good idea.