Those who are uneasy about the continuing investigations into past bad behaviour by our free and fearless press are inevitably among those most ready to denounce those doing the investigation: from the Leveson Inquiry, to Nick Davies’ tireless exposing of The Dark Arts, to the efforts of the Morgan family to secure justice for the memory of Daniel Morgan, anything that might reveal the sordid reality of the Fourth Estate gets shouted down.
Those performing these less than principled acts of denunciation may seem a diverse bunch, but all share one creed: devotion to preserving the status quo, upholding the iron law of press establishment Omertà, telling the little people to run along and not make a fuss, and all the while minding one another’s backs.
One less than appealing example of this genre is Kevin O’Sullivan, a journalist-turned-TV pundit who may derive more reward from the broadcast media than print, but like his hero Piers Morgan, retains those fierce Old Media loyalties - as well as a penchant for sneering dismissal of those who dissent. For Morgan, his moment of truth came when an attempt to trample over Evan Harris of campaigning group Hacked Off on Good Morning Britain went horribly wrong and co-host Susanna Reid had to rescue him. His target bit back.
But O’Sullivan has, like the Sun’s social media person Sarah Douglas, chosen instead to go after playwright and author Peter Jukes, but not as a means of rubbishing the Daniel Morgan Panel Inquiry and publicity surrounding it, oh no. Like Dr Harris did with Piers Morgan, Jukes has no intention of letting the self-appointed, sneering Old Media hack walk all over him. So O’Sullivan has deployed his most potent weapon: the mardy strop.
This has involved protesting rather too loudly whenever Jukes tweaks his tail: “Bet you say that to all the guys. I really take you seriously, Pete … Won't be happy until we have North Korean style restrictions on the free press. Not sure why he's so obsessed but he's kinda funny”. Only O’Sullivan is for real press freedom, and anyone dissenting is obsessed.
This swaggering braggadocio, however, comes to an abrupt halt when O’Sullivan is asked one simple and straightforward question. Back to Peter Jukes: “Ever hired a private detective, Kev. Yes or no?”. How does The Great Man plead to that one?
“You may have nothing better to do than conduct fatuous debates on Twitter, but I fear that I do … I hope you sort your issues out, Pete. I really do. But you don't interest me … I'm not answering you about anything. You're just a crazy troll making utterly baseless allegations. Get some help”. As I said, protesting just a little too much.
But O’Sullivan has secured an interview with his hero - yes, Piers Morgan - for the New European in which we learn from O’Sullivan that Morgan hasn’t ever hacked a phone. He does seem to know an awful lot about this kind of thing.
Sadly, his knowledge doesn’t extend to answering a straightforward question on whether he participated in The Dark Arts. Still, I’m sure that has no bearing on O’Sullivan’s antipathy towards Leveson Part 2. Others, though, may come to different conclusions.