Well, it was only a matter of time.
The tedious, long-running, press-bashing, minor-celeb tufty hunt that is the Leveson Inquiry has finally wrought a backlash.
And leading the charge are the lefty-libertarians at spiked, which has launched The Counter-Leveson Inquiry.
In his article announcing the launch, spiked editor (and Telegraph blogger) Brendan O’Neill notes that ones re-opening the inquiry on Monday, Lord Leveson mention he found ‘publicly expressed concerns’ about the inquiry ‘troubling’.
The most remarkable thing about Leveson’s admission to feeling troubled by public criticisms is that, sadly, there has been very little public criticism of his showtrial of the tabloids. You could count on one hand, or at a stretch two hands, the number of journalists and politicians who have dared to question the right of one judge to marshal celebrities and coppers to the cause of redefining the ethics of the press.
Quite so. There has been the usual drooling over the attacks on the Murdoch tabloids by the more totalitarian-inclined of our “liberal” lickspittle media – The Guardian, The Independent, the BBC etc – but the rest of the mainstream media has generally cowered in the corner, with only the Mail‘s Paul Dacre putting up any semblance of a fight in what is really a kangaroo court.
And it is a kangaroo court. Witnesses line up and grab their allotted 15 minutes of fame – or, the case of faded celebrities and failed politicians, to grab another 15 minutes of celebrity – making whatever allegations fits their agenda of vengeance, outrage, paranoia and shamelessness. There is no forensic cross-examination of these allegations such as would occur in a court of law, either criminal, where the criteria is beyond reasonable count, or civil, where the criteria is the balance of probabilities.
Instead, they are met with gentle questions eliciting their feelings, impressions and thoughts more appropriate for a student counselling session than a formal, quasi-judicial inquiry. For many of the witnesses, this is true nirvana: not only do have a spotlight of a softer, more flattering hue cast upon them, they get a free ego-massage thrown in too.
One troubling aspect of the Levenson inquiry that O’Neill doesn’t comment on in his article – strangely, since it’s one of his hobby-horses – is that by almost solely attacking the tabloids, this is really just another extended prole-bash. The tabloids cater for a sizeable readership who loves celeb gossip; some of the tabs catered to this demand by nefarious means, by illicit phone-hacking or paying cops for tip-offs of celeb shenanigans etc. Of that there’s no doubt.
But hang on: during the Leveson recess, we had the unedifying sight of the usual suspects – the aforementioned Guardian, Independent, BBC etc – drooling over “hacked” documents “proving” that the right-wing US Heartland Institute, which takes a robust anti-man-made global warming line, along with many other activities, was plotting to use the untold millions it gets from Big Oil to foil pro-climate changee scientists by “dissuading teachers from teaching science”.
The fact the central “strategy” document was a crudely cobbled-together fake and that the genuine documents – which were blandly routine meeting reports that hardly showed Heartland wallowing around in Big Oil bucks like Scrooge McDuck – had been obtained by fraud by pro-climate change activist, Peter Gleick, who has since confessed to the phishing, though not to the faking.
That they had tacitly supported and thereby endorsed illegal activities because it suited their news agenda in this instance did not seem to faze then usual suspects. Indeed, the Guardian even ran an extraordinary piece by The Ethics of Climate Change author James Garvey in which he said:
Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland’s money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. It could go the other way too – maybe he’s undermined confidence in climate scientists. It depends on how this plays out.
So: the ends justifies the means, eh? But only if it’s the Guardian’s ends, it would seem. It certainly doesn’t apply to those filthy red-tops’ ends. Some may call that moral relativism. I call it rank hypocrisy.
But don’t expect such high-minded shenanigans to get even a mention at Leveson. It’s the tabloids which are in the firing line, and while it’s them, the usual suspects will happily cheer the inquiry on.
But O’Neill is surely right to note that whether they are active cheerleaders or cowering curs, mainstream journalists are oblivious to the bonfire which is being built under their feet:
It is alarming that, in a country where the poet John Milton demanded freedom of the press more than 350 years ago, and where many other writers and activists subsequently fought tooth-and-catapult to expel state forces from the worlds of writing and publishing, so many should now acquiesce to an inquiry which gives a judge and his chums the power to tell the media what its morals should be.
O’Neill ends his call to arms with another fiery quote from Milton which I urge you to check out for yourself. Because whatever you might think of their views on other topics (which I myself have a love/hate relationship with), on this issue, the spiked gang is definitely on the side of the angels.
Excellent comment from Fleet Street Blues about how David Leigh, investigations editor of The Guardian, is now in the frame for his self-admitted hacking into a phone. Oh, says the Guardian, between mouthfuls of humble pie, it wasn’t for “tittle-tattle”. It was for “investigating corruption and bribery”. Fair enough. Still illegal, though. Tittle-tattle, corruption- and bribery-busting, intellectual-profiles: if the means by which you gather these things are illegal, sorry, you’re nicked my beauty. What is it about the word “illegal” you up-yourself ponces do not understand?
As FSB said way back when this whole scandal first broke, journos have long used illegal, immoral and sometimes criminally dangerous ways to get stories. Yes…and? If they got away with it, well, they got a front page splash, maybe a promotion or a bonus and a round of drinks in the pub. If they got caught, they got hauled up before the beak fined or, rarely but occasionally, chucked in the nick, and when got out, a round of drinks in the pub.
Let’s not forget what has been behind the holier-than-thou stance of the Guardian and the BBC on this matter: the chance for a good round of Murdoch-whacking.
The Guardian has been caught out with its hypocritical knickers down with Leigh (I see Guido has another pop today), and I suspect there may be others to scurry blinkingly out into the limelight from Rusbridger Cathedral.
Then there is the BBC. Is it whiter than white? I suspect not, but I do not know. What I do suspect is that if someone manages to lift Auntie’s skirt, there will probably be an almighty stink, most probably from the direction of Panorama. I thought it odd of the Beeb to have Peston covering this whole affair. I mean, the Business Editor? Strange call: the US and EU economies are going to hell in a handcart, but never mind that, you haul in your Business Editor to cover a story about media phone hacking.
What’s that all about?
From Rod Liddle, in the latest Spectator:
I felt, as we all rounded with glee upon the MPs two years ago, that sooner or later [journalists] would cop it, a feeling of foreboding compounded by my trade’s astonishingly sanctimonious outrage that we were having a privacy law imposed upon us by judges.
Read the whole thing: it’s rather fine.
What was it that Northcliffe said about “man bites dog”?
You can link to it here.
I’ve been amazed by the response to the NOTW hacking scandal and the media’s reply to it.
Apparently there is nothing worse in this world than hacking into the mobile phone of a murdered schoolgirl. Well, maybe I’m not alone in thinking there could be worse things, such as those where people die not from madmen, but stupidity implemented by government and reinforced by an unthinking media, not just on people who live in faraway countries of which we know nothing. Nor the horrible means of death of young schoolgirls in counties which our own common sense (a sense not common, it seems, with our governing nor media classes) tells us is actually pretty uncommon.
But what I mean is the avoidable, commonplace and equally shocking deaths in places we know where our loved ones, our relatives, our neighbours are. And whose deaths are routinely ignored by a stupid, press-release government and a media whose ignorance borders on the mendacious.
Well, it’s time to be a bit callous here but it needs to be said: Milly Dowler was dead, and as much as you may complain about the NOTW’s actions thence, it didn’t make a lot of difference. She was still dead when the NOTW did what it did. And the police weren’t that much closer to finding her killer when the NOTW did what it did. The police hadn’t actually done a lot, though the NOTW had. Sherlock Holmes would understand, even if the editor of the Observer does not.
What I do think makes a lot of difference is the following story, covered by everyone. You may remember it. What I think is interesting is how quickly the usual suspect news outlets have dropped it. I’ve done a google to see where they might have followed it up:
The BBC. Nope.
The Guardian. Whaddyathink?
The Independent. Uh-uh.
Well, I guess in the wonderful Cameroonie world in which we now live, the hacking of a mobile phone of a tragic young murder victim is more important than the deaths of our grandmothers from lack of water – lack of water! – in our state-funded NHS hospitals. But of course you can’t fault our wonderful NHS.
Nor any drop to drink, indeed.
Isn’t the internet wonderful? It’s amazing the links it throws up, seemingly randomly, but often to an extent you wonder whether there’s some evil Blofeld-type mind behind it, pulling the strings of the Matrix in the devious way his fluffy white cat might play with a mouse.
For instance, Guido’s story tonight on the cover of the last edition of the NOTW there was carried an ad for this book on its right hand sidebar:
Never Say Goodbye, eh? According to the Irish Independent:
Former journalist Linda Kavanagh’s experience as a writer and observer comes through in this, her fifth novel, exploring the self-perpetuating nature of bullying and the lasting effect it can have on young lives. Alternating between past and present, Never Say Goodbye draws the reader into a web of deceit and suspense. It keeps the pages turning right up to the denouement, which comes as an unexpected and horrific climax. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, this one’s for you.
I thought Staines had built up a successful mega-business selling ad space on websites? He hasn’t just been using Google ads like the rest of us nerds all along, has he? But maybe Guido has actually specifically placed this ad on this page with this story? If so, what exactly is he trying to tell us?