A Time to Lay Down Stones

5 Dec

We cannot be unaware that the online world eagerly awaits our thoughts about the Leveson Report. That we have not yet read it – and have no realistic expectation of doing so – will not deter the public clamour. (Reference: The Eatanswill Gazette – oh, and see an intriguing essay by GK Chesterton here …)

What do we think ?

Our view is that the real-er question is – what do we feel ? All the discussion and comment and point-scoring and debate seems to come down to – what do we feel about substantial state regulation of the content of the Press ? Many writers seem to regard their own position as obvious, and those who disagree as evidently foolish/in bad faith. We intend to avoid that error.

Others put the matter better, so the following links may assist:

On the general principle – Milton’s Areopagiticasummarised conveniently (hopefully accurately) here – is treated as a classic.

Some dissents to the general ‘hang the Journalists’ mood may be found here:
Simon Jenkins in The Guardian – following on from Peter Preston here.

We suggest that the reader makes up their mind/rationalises their prejudices using the following:

(1) Leveson LJ’s own little difficulty with information standards – well pointed out by our colleague Nick Cartwright and gleefully reported in the Press;

(2) Fraser Nelson’s cri-de-coeur in The Spectator. A heroic stand for Free Speech, or special pleading for exemption from the rule of law from the classier end of the sewer ? As Mr Nelson(F) himself points out, the alternative may not be very impressive: he cites Labour MP Jim Dowd as giving them a (dis)honourable mention in debate for this.

Freedom of Conscience or Freedom from the Rule of Law ? Would the latter claim be falsified if Mr Nelson complained to the ECHR about any such conviction a la Goodwin ? Or would that suggest that Journalists obey the laws they choose – as Mr Dowd complains? Is an analogy (not Mr Nelson’s) with the sanctity of the confessional helpful – or does it illustrate precisely the kind of claim that is being made ?

As we love to say, discuss ….

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