To the bewilderment of many of their readers, the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog have launched an attack on Byline Media and its new head man Peter Jukes over a judgment by sham press regulator IPSO. This may strike observers as a bit rich, considering The Great Guido is on record as denouncing IPSO as a “Kangaroo Court”. So why are they bothering?
Ah well. The Fawkes blog, which has for some time been merely an extension of the press establishment to which it has so shamelessly sold out, has been helping out with a crude and unsuccessful attempt to discredit Byline Media, and try to damage campaigning group Hacked Off into the bargain. The opportunity came in the aftermath of the Whittingdale revelations, with a Sunday Telegraph hit piece by Andrew “transcription error” Gilligan.
Gilligan, whose “research” for his article did not extend to actually contacting either Byline or Hacked Off, made several untrue or highly misleading statements in his article - you can see the Zelo Street fisking of it HERE - and so Jukes made a complaint to IPSO.
In the meanwhile, the Tel’s stance was undermined by the Mail, which had also run the story, conceding that an accusation that Hacked Off was funding Byline was not true. This was picked up by the Guardian. The Tel was also forced to concede that its claim “Jae-woong Lee, a South Korean billionaire who is the father of the site’s founder, Seung-yoon Lee” was rubbish. The two are not related; Lee is a common South Korean surname.
The difficulties in calling "tinfoil hatter" on others
Worse, the Tel also had to row back on its claim smearing original Byline backer Eric X Li “Until 2014 Mr Li wrote regularly for The 4th Media, a website promoting anti-Western conspiracy theories and supporting authoritarian regimes”. The 4th Media is an aggregator which lifts articles from other sites. Eric X Li has never written for them
In the meantime, the Fawkes rabble had attempted to smear Eric X Li as part of an anti-Semitic conspiracy site over the 4th Media appearances, as they too could not be bothered to check first. Meanwhile, the charge sheet against Gilligan made grim reading.
He suggested Hacked Off revealed the Whittingdale story. They did not.
He invented a reason why papers had not run the Whittingdale story. None was given.
He inferred that Byline’s original backers dictated its content. That’s totally untrue.
He asserted that Hacked Off had claimed the Whittingdale story had been held back by the press in order to threaten him. They made no such assertion.
He claimed “byline.com worked alongside Hacked Off to promote the story to the BBC and other outlets”. They did not. Byline did not promote the story to the BBC. Hacked Off did not promote the story full stop.
He claimed that Hacked Off supported “state-backed regulation of the press”. They do not.
He claimed Max Mosley had personally given large sums to independent press regulator Impress. He has not.
He claimed Byline had “promoted and defended” a number of conspiracy theories. They have not done either.
Why The Great Guido is in no position to call out others
Gilligan made further claims about the Whittingdale story which were largely untrue, along with more claims that Hacked Off had tried to interest media outlets in the story, which they had not. Interestingly, this is the agreed press establishment line - that Hacked Off were somehow pushing the story, or demanding its release. This is totally untrue.
Despite having already rowed back on a number of points - effectively admitting that Gilligan’s original published article, from the paper’s print edition, was wrong - first the Telegraph, then IPSO, maintained that there had been no breach of the editor’s code. But had there been no breach, there would have been no need to row back. Moreover, there would have been no need for the Mail to issue a correction on a point where the Tel was still claiming it was in the right.
But still The Great Guido has persisted. Here are his conclusions, along with a little factual response.
“Calling Jukes Byline’s manager was not a breach of the editor’s code”. He wasn’t the manager at the time.
“It was ‘not misleading’ to say the site had been funded by billionaires”. That was not the point at issue. The original backers were not paying for content. Gilligan was at the very least inferring that they were.
“‘Not misleading’ to say Byline had ‘promoted and defended’ the paedo ring conspiracy, it had in fact published several articles supporting the theory”. Wrong. It had not defended or supported it, nor had it published articles “supporting” it. Talking about a subject may mean supporting it in Fawkes land, but not in the real world.
“‘Not inaccurate’ to report Jukes had been paid by Hacked Off, he admitted he had received money from them”. Not at Byline he hadn’t: Jukes’ live-Tweeting of the Hacking Trial had been crowdfunded, Hacked Off had contributed … and so had a bloke called Rupert Murdoch.
“‘Not misleading’ to say Hacked Off and Byline worked to promote the Whitto story”. Nah, not misleading, just totally untrue. But IPSO and the Telegraph have other reasons for defending Gilligan’s characteristically lamentable journalism.
Whittingdale was a story the press establishment did not want to get out there - as soon as it did, their leverage on Whittingdale, and his usefulness and credibility, was shot. Hence his removal as soon as Theresa May got her foot in the door of 10 Downing Street. Those who could be smeared as a result were duly smeared.
Also, Byline has thrown its weight behind Impress and signed up with them. So IPSO is not likely to yield to an organisation regulated by a rival regulator.
And when the Fawkes rabble snigger “In other words, IPSO say Jukes’ complaint was itself inaccurate and misleading … Embarrassing”, they embarrass only themselves. They’ve once again sold out to the press establishment, their defamatory smear of Eric X Li is still live, and all they’ve done is driven more traffic to Byline. Another fine mess.