Ever since it was dreamed up by our free and fearless press as a means of pretending that they had moved on from the bad old days of the discredited PCC, sham press regulator IPSO has demonstrated time and again that it is not fit for purpose. As I told Al-Jazeera’s Listening Post strand almost two years ago, IPSO is the same PCC fluid in a differently labelled bottle. It is the press’ poodle, fetching and carrying for them.
Why did Kavanagh cross the road? Because he realised it was in his interests to do so
No episode has shown this more clearly than its latest judgment, which follows a complaint about a Sun column by faithful Murdoch retainer Trevor Kavanagh from August, which, after running the gamut of dog-whistles about Scary Muslims (tm), concluded “One day soon … we will be back in charge of immigration. What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?” That last remark was as deliberate as it was loaded.
In Nazi Germany, it was “The Jewish problem”. Now, for the Murdoch mafiosi, it has been updated as “The Muslim problem”, following on the same pundit’s vicious attack on Channel 4 News presenter Fatima Manji, because she was on duty when news came through of the Nice truck attack. The Murdoch agenda then was that Channel 4 had deliberately used a Muslim presenter to report an alleged Islamist attack.
Soon afterwards, Kavanagh, realising he’d been rumbled peddling Nazi hate speech, tried to worm his way out of it: “My mistake, apparently, was to describe this as ‘the Muslim Problem’ … I can honestly say it never occurred to me that this could be interpreted as a play on ‘the Jewish Problem’ and I will happily apologise to anyone who is thus offended”. The Board of Deputies of British Jews was not impressed.
So it was no surprise when a complaint was made to IPSO. It was also no surprise when IPSO threw it out. There could be no complaint under Clause 1: Accuracy, as it was “only an opinion column”, otherwise known as the “Littlejohn Defence”. And a complaint under Clause 12: Discrimination was also bound to fail.
And so it came to pass: IPSO said on the subject of discrimination that “The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the article discriminated against Muslims. Clause 12 of the Code protects identifiable individuals from discrimination; it does not relate to discrimination against groups or categories of people. The complainant’s concern that the article discriminated against Muslims in general did not breach Clause 12”.
Yes, our free and fearless press can shit all over followers of The Prophet, providing they treat them as a group. Because the Editor’s Code allows groups to be shat on. The Editor’s Code is clearly unfit for purpose, but hey ho. And there was more.
“The Committee acknowledged that the question posed at the end of the column - ‘What will we do about The Muslim Problem then’ - was capable of causing serious offence, given it could be interpreted as a reference to the rhetoric preceding the Holocaust. The Committee made clear that there is no clause in the Editors’ Code which prohibits publication of offensive content. It was clear that many, including the complainant, were offended by this aspect of the article, but there was no breach of the Code on this point”.
You'll have to speak up, I'm a bit Mutt and Jeff
It’s not in the Editor’s Code, so Kavanagh and his pals can get away with it. Once again, the Editor’s Code is unfit for purpose. But nothing will change.
Trevor Kavanagh, to use his own vernacular, knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote that column. To claim otherwise is the most blatant and deliberate lie, and if he wants to take issue with that assertion, he is free to sue me. He won’t.
Also, Kavanagh’s position as a board member of IPSO remains unaffected, a clear “Up Yours” to all victims of press intrusion and misbehaviour over the years.
The reaction to another IPSO ceremonial wiping of the Press Establishment Arse has been less than favourable, as Mark Di Stefano at BuzzFeed News has reported. Marie van der Zyl from the Board of Deputies of British Jews noted “This decision suggests that the IPSO code is unfit for purpose … It is incomprehensible that the committee could at once acknowledge that the article 'was capable of giving serious offence, given it could be interpreted as a reference to the rhetoric preceding the Holocaust', and yet conclude that there was no breach of the code … The IPSO code clearly needs to be reviewed to protect minority groups, not least from comments that echo the tone of Nazi propaganda”.
Miqdaad Versi from the Muslim Council of Britain responded “What is truly astonishing is that regardless of the specifics of the code, IPSO does not seem to have any concern that one of its board members used this Nazi-like phrase about Muslims … One has to wonder what it would take for IPSO to act and remove [Kavanagh] from their board”. That, though, will not happen without the personal approval of Rupert Murdoch.
What has happened here is that IPSO has said that it’s OK to use the language of the Nazis, and indeed of the Holocaust, in order to whip up the mob against Muslims - or, indeed, any group that may in future be selected as a target by our free and fearless press. This, we are assured, is in the spirit of press freedom.
The only hopeful and positive aspect of this whole sorry business is that the Muslim community is no longer alone in tackling the vicious hate speech of the Fourth Estate. After all, the Board of Deputies, as well as Jews across Britain, know that once they finish with the Muslims, they will come after them. It is in the nature of the beast.
Zelo Street has been saying that IPSO is a sham for well over three years. And every time anyone doubts that analysis, the opposition comes riding to the rescue. On the Kavanagh use of Nazi hate speech, they came galloping.