Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's Gone All Gordon

Hugo Rifkind wrote an excellent article in The Times (£) about Gordon Brown's evidence at the Leveson Enquiry this week. He compares Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's views on the press, views that expose the two men's very different outlook.
Tony Blair thought back then — and doubtless still thinks — that the British press was awful. “Of course the accuracy of a story counts,” he said. “But it is secondary to impact. It is this necessary devotion to impact that is unravelling standards, driving them down, making the diversity of the media not the strength it should be, but an impulsion towards sensation above all else.”

It’s a fairly devastating critique, this, painting the press as irresponsible and amoral; a nihilistic force of mob-handed destruction. In the wake of phone hacking and everything else, this does not seem inaccurate. But this is not what Gordon Brown thinks at all. He sees a press that is not amoral, but immoral. Or, to put it another way, Tony Blair would say that the press tore apart Gordon Brown because he was rubbish, because it was fun, because it was just so damn easy, because a mindless sort of group-think took hold and ordinary humanity flew out the window. Whereas Gordon Brown thinks it happened because two or three powerful men, for ideological or commercial reasons, entered into a conspiracy to get rid of him.
I would argue that this isn't just how Gordon Brown thinks but how many on the left think. The left sees News International as a political opponent (at least since its papers swapped sides) not as a news outfit whose failings are the same as other media operators. They genuinely believe that News International is in league with the Tories and out to get them.

It is this paranoid political outlook, allied with the commercial opportunism on the part of Murdoch's competitors, that has led to the unjustifiable amount of media coverage that Leveson and any Murdoch related story gets. Rifkind concludes...

“Attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgment,” said Tony Blair in 2007. “It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal. Conspiratorial.”

Quite. The Leveson Inquiry was born out of a sudden public awareness that print media had terrible problems. I’m not going to play those problems down. But they were Tony Blair problems, not Gordon Brown problems; problems about process, not motive. All the way through, I’ve had a sense of lawyers looking for problems with motive and simply not finding them. And thus, what started seven months ago (seven months!) as a righteous autopsy into grotesque wrongs done to ordinary folk has become a whirlwind of innuendo about whether the sidekicks of media bosses and Cabinet ministers are sending each other the right sort of text message.

This is why it’s getting boring. It’s gone weird. It’s gone Gordon.
My favourite comment under this article is from Stephanie Bennett...

"A politician complaining about the press is like a sailor complaining about the sea". - Enoch Powell

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