The disquiet among not just the Muslim community, but the Jewish community as well, over the undisguised outpouring of bigotry by faithful Murdoch retainer Trevor Kavanagh in yesterday’s Sun has not died down, and nor should it. We have seen a journalist of decades’ standing, a supposed exemplar of his profession, and, whisper it quietly, a board member of press regulator IPSO, recycle race hatred from the 1930s.
Then, it was “The Jewish Question”, or “The Jewish Problem”. Had Kavanagh used those words yesterday, he would no longer be employed by the Murdoch mafiosi, and nor would he be welcome at any other reputable newspaper or other media outlet (pace Kevin Myers). But thus far he has got away with it, because his targets are Scary Muslims (tm) and it is deemed acceptable within the Fourth Estate to smear them at will.
That the disquiet over Kavanagh’s racism is not confined to followers of The Prophet has been demonstrated by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who have joined forces with TellMAMA and Faith Matters to submit a complaint to IPSO.
This states “The printing of the phrase ‘The Muslim Problem’ - particularly with the capitalisation and italics for emphasis - in a national newspaper sets a dangerous precedent, and harks back to the use of the phrase ‘The Jewish Problem’ in the last century, to which the Nazis responded with ‘The Final Solution’ - the Holocaust”.
It also bears noting that, firstly, Rupert Murdoch has significant previous for this kind of targeting, having clumsily gone after the New York Times by talking of the “Jewish Owned Press”. And secondly, this is not Kavanagh’s first excursion into Muslim bashing territory, as Zelo Street pointed out at the time. IPSO could, and should, make an example of Kavanagh and the Murdoch press. But the signs are that it will not.
As Miqdaad Versi has observed, the Editor’s Code excludes religious groups, and it is this loophole through which Kavanagh and his masters no doubt expect to effect their escape.
But that does not need to be the end of the matter: given the content of the offending article, which, like its predecessor, is little short of incitement, IPSO could, and should, exercise its powers to act on its own initiative. Kavanagh is one of their board members; there would be no clearer signal of disapproval but to dismiss him forthwith, following up with requiring the Sun to publish - prominently - an apology.
This, though, does not consider the reality of IPSO’s situation: the press establishment has this so-called regulator by the financial windpipe. IPSO dare not offend its paymasters if it knows what is good for it. Were it truly independent, there would be no such constraint. Thus the clearest demonstration of why the press was so aghast at the Leveson recommendations. Not being able to control the regulator would be unthinkable.
Moreover, as I pointed out during an edition of Al-Jazeera Listening Post recently, Rupert Murdoch has got his man on to the IPSO board; having Kavanagh there shows how he is giving the finger to press regulation campaigners, and showing that he is still strong.
IPSO is a sham regulator. It will do next to nothing about Kavanagh’s bigotry. And in so doing, it will strengthen the case for truly independent press regulation once more.