The Press: Articulating our Rage or Skullfucking our Souls?

Another devil’s advocate exercise; this one weighing the pros and cons of a free press. Mark Lewis, speaking at today’s Leveson inquiry had far more intelligent, insightful things to say on the matter.

This kind of writing is good fun but can also be quite confusing; I often need to take a step back to reaffirm my beliefs having just convinced myself, for example, that Squirrels are the real source of all the pain and sadness in the world.

Totally Nuts
Squirrels: Plotting our Demise?

“The press should be free to do what it wants.”

A Government should be answerable to its electorate and the press should be the voice for those that have no voice.

Numerous cases such as the expenses scandal; bribery of public officials; David Kelly and the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction; the sometimes heavy handed tactics used by Police during protests and riots; the developing rift in the coalition – none of these would have come to light if the same institution implicated in wrongdoing controlled the method with which it is held publicly accountable.

We can see that in the way that the ‘Kingmaker’ Rupert Murdoch directs our votes through the wide influence of his media empire.

The means of investigative reporting will always tempt dishonest, pious hacks who see a story as the be all and end all with little empathy for those affected but that doesn’t mean we should all get out of the pool just because a few people pissed in it.

Recent broadcasts of Panorama – dealing with how government policy is fuelling much of the rise in energy prices – and Dispatches – reporting on how PC attitudes to race are making it hard to deal with the young British men who groom underage girls for sex – are both prime examples of how journalists dissect the version of the world the state offers us to present us with a much broader, useful and honest understanding of it.

It’s not every day that figures with the profile of Rebekah Brookes slip up and openly admit to bribing police officers so on the days when the cruel and the clever are keeping their cards close to their chest, we need independent crusaders to chase the stories and hold such swine to account.

 

“The press cannot be trusted, and should be controlled by the government.”

When Milly Dowler went missing her family held on to the belief that she was still alive when phone records showed her voice mail was being listened to and messages deleted. Tragically she was already dead and it was a monster working for the News of the World who was deleting these messages, then waiting for new ones to feed the story.

Police have a list of some 4,000 subjects who may have been targeted, among them the usual public figures such as politicians, celebrities and sports stars but also the victims of crime.

The public may be interested but how much of this is in the public interest?

Parents of murdered children, families of fallen soldiers and 7/7 victims have all had their phones hacked by journalists. The story is still unravelling, now with papers other than NoW being implicated.

In the Parliamentary committee investigation into phone-hacking, Labour MP Tom Watson recently described Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, chairman and CEO of News Corp. as: “the first mafia boss in history who did not know he was running a criminal enterprise.”

Journalists can get things horribly wrong like Judith Miller of the New York Times when she hyped up bad information from bad sources about the presence of WMD in Hussein’s Iraq; they can also fabricate and plagiarise, like the same paper’s own Jayson Blair – the drug abusing hack who for months stole or simply made-up stories for publication.

The Press complaints commission has no powers to punish and as it is controlled by the editors is hardly inclined to do so anyway. The press needs state control to stop these underhand liars and opportunists perpetuating an unelected power base; until that time, none of us are safe.

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