I, like virtually everybody the world over, was shocked at the scale of the phone hacking allegations that rocked print media. The most devious methods had been employed, seemingly with the complicity of editors, and over a large time-scale. If I were one of the victims of this wolf pack I’d understandably be wanting to have them all leashed and muzzled.
But… I don’t want to see tighter press regulation, as recommended by The Leveson Inquiry. It’s quite possible that a lot of facts are eluding me as I write this post, but the comments section is there to educate me. So, I’m strangely with our current leader David Cameron on this one.
While I do think that something has to be done, I’m really uncomfortable about the government stamping down regulation. No one seems to have discussed lately the fiasco between former PM Tony Blair and Andrew Gilligan who accused Blair of rightly sexing-up the dossier on Iraq having WMDs. If we get tighter press regulation, the government can more easily stub out dissident voices; unPC-means to unearth an important right would be over. And while Gilligan was spot on, even if he were wrong, the fact that the press can mistakes either by malice or incompetence is an acceptable side effect of a free press. A free press can make a mistake and then reverse it, a non-free press has to be ethically sound always from the get go so that subsequent revision is deemed unnecessary. It’s like laying a holy book and saying that nothing can follow it.
Lack of ethics of course causes pain and grief, but I’d rather there be some kind of ethics course for journalists if there isn’t (I assume there isn’t, or no one was paying attention) and maybe some added rules, but that’s about it. If a journalist feels the need to be unethical to be ethical (a wrong for a right), then that’s a choice they make and they can accept to be praised or burnt for it.
My fear is that with set law that everything has to always be done ethically (something best reserved for science) and be politically correct. We’ll be taking the orange juice out of the press and basically make it an impotent parrot of what’s perceived to be right over wrong.
The real people who are to blame for this is us. We feed the tabloids. If we didn’t have the appetite for intrusions into celebrities lives etc. the press wouldn’t deliver it. So there’s a bit of hypocrisy in that many gossipers are the ones holding the morality flag. I agree with some other commentators that the whole thing has become a bit overly emotionally charged; since the first denting of the Murdoch empire everyone wants to see the bad guy die in the Hollywood flick; but many of those carrying the knives are the ones who helped make the empire. No one forces people to view certain outlets, so no outlets should be forced to cater for the people.
To emphasise, what happened to the victims was entirely wrong, but I don’t want to stop nailing real perpetrators to even the balance.
Boris Johnson. “It is one of the glories of this country that we have a free, exuberant and sometimes feral media,”