I’m not sure why people are getting so hot under the collar about this:
When Labour MPs say ‘change is coming’ to the press, what they really mean is the press will be subject to regulations, inquiries and political intervention. They mean the death of the free press. #FreeThePress pic.twitter.com/lLxSXfFUPT
— spiked (@spikedonline) February 21, 2018
I remember when the phone hacking scandal broke, middle-class lefties lined up in their thousands to denounce Rupert Murdoch and call for the government to strip him of the right to publish newspapers in the UK. The phone hacking itself was pretty scandalous, but it was not a practice limited to News of the World and the News International papers, nor was the cosy relationship between newspaper journalists and corrupt British policemen. The political pressure which resulted in the Leveson inquiry came mainly from the left, people who were fully paid up supporters of Blair and Brown, and fervently hoped Rupert Murdoch would be banished from British shores forever. So let’s not pretend that the press isn’t already subject to regulations, inquiries, and political intervention.
If a free press and freedom of speech are principles which the British people, especially the lefty middle classes, hold dear it is news to me. I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve seen in The Guardian which contain the phrase “I believe in free speech, but…” and which go on to suggest these freedoms should extend only to those who share the author’s political views on any given subject. And it was the British middle classes who voted for Blair, Cameron, and May all of whom were keen proponents of more restrictions on what people can say and what they can publish. For as long as I can remember, regular, robust defenses of freedom of speech have only been found in fringe publications and libertarian blogs. The Mohammed Cartoon controversy proved that beyond doubt way back in 2005.
For at least the past decade we’ve been bogged down in vague and draconian “hate speech” legislation, which now enables Plod to arrest people for saying mean things about Britain’s protected classes on Twitter and Facebook. I am told Corbyn’s supporters and the Momentum movement is made up mostly of Millenials, folk in their late teens or early twenties. Well, what lessons do you think they learned being raised by hand-wringing middle class lefties who voted for Blair and left The Guardian lying around? Even if their household was centre right, what free speech principles would they have learned? You’re not going to pick them up from The Times, Telegraph, or The Economist, especially if they’re talking about immigration, and their parents are as likely to sneer down their noses at George Bush or Donald Trump and gush over Barack Obama than explain to their kids that causing offence ought not to be a crime.
So as I’ve pointed out before, all Corbyn’s mob are doing is continuing in the same direction of travel Britain’s been moving in since at least 1997. They’ve looked around, seen that most people don’t really care about freedom of the press in any meaningful sense and are happy to vote for politicians who introduce draconian restrictions on what people can say and write, and acted accordingly. We can all blame Corbyn for this, and rightly call him an unprincipled scumbag who shouldn’t be anywhere near the levers of power, but the problem didn’t start with him, did it?