Media

As British Journalists Prepare for Censorship Scheme, Some Vow Defiance

It was an American politician, Rahm Emanuel, who said, "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

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John Milton

It was an American politician, Rahm Emanuel, who said, "you never want a serious crisis to go to waste." But that's a world-wide sentiment for wielders of political power who see anything that can be tagged as a crisis as a wonderful opportunity to expand their personal fiefdoms. In Britain, the Leveson Inquiry has been investigating the "culture, practice and ethics of the press" in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that killed the once-widely read News of the World, further spurred by more-recent sex-abuse revelations at the BBC. With the Leveson report due tomorrow, the British media is already girding itself for an expected call for statutory regulation of the press, and a welcome reception for the same from government officials. At least one publication, the conservative Spectator, is preemptively announcing its refusal to cooperate with regulators.

That British politicos are champing at the bit for more power over the journalists who scrutinize their action is apparent. Australia's ABC News quotes the leader of the opposition Labour party, Ed Miliband, as calling the Leveson Inquiry, "a once-in-a-generation opportunity for real change and I hope that this House can make it happen." Representing the three major parties, a group of lawmakers with at least a vestigial affection for free speech and personal knowledge that their position is far from universal co-penned a letter protesting, "[s]tatutory regulation would require the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain in 1695. State licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution."

It's worth pointing out that the end of press-licensing was won only after a hard-fought battle. A half-century earlier, John Milton had written his ground-breaking Areopagitica in which he said, "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties." Milton was dead and in the ground twenty years before his vision came to pass.

Not trusting to Milton, or to those members of Parliament who might still value his words, The Spectator promises:

If the press agrees a new form of self-regulation, perhaps contractually binding this time, we will happily take part. But we would not sign up to anything enforced by government. If such a group is constituted we will not attend its meetings, pay its fines nor heed its menaces. We would still obey the (other) laws of the land. But to join any scheme which subordinates press to parliament would be a betrayal of what this paper has stood for since its inception in 1828.

Honestly, in the Internet age, press licensing is a losing scheme anyway. Established newspapers and magazines with printing presses and street addresses might be vulnerable but, as parliamentarian Dominic Raab warns in the London Daily Telegraph, "The global proliferation of blogs and social media would render such sanctions obsolete. Many sites would relish the chance to flout the rules that silenced Fleet Street."

With our First Amendment, and the respect generally accorded the same even by judges whose copies of the Constitution often seem heavily abridged, Americans are relatively insulated from concerns about overt press censorship. That may be for the best. I'd hate to see American journalists put to the test to see if they have sufficient backbone to tell would-be government overseers to go to hell.

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  1. ‘It was an American politician, Rahm Emanuel, who said, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”‘

    Dude, he was quoting Milton Friedman! Naomi Klein has been whining about the “Chicago School” plot to crush the working class for years! Wake the fuck up!

    1. Here is Rahm’s quote.

      And you spelled your name wrong, Anal.

    2. Jesus Christ you are a dipshit, Anal. Do you think you are clever? Because you always leave some smug comment, that is quickly exposed as incorrect, or just plain stupid. I would truly despise you, but you are so obtuse, I can only pity you.

      No. Wait. I despise you.

  2. I’d hate to see American journalists put to the test to see if they have sufficient backbone to tell would-be government overseers to go to hell.

    Depends whether the ‘Ds’ or the ‘Rs’ are in power. Nothing wrong with ‘commonsense’ ‘reasonable’ restrictions on Faux news, after all.

    1. Yeah, really. The Obamafellators would welcome regulation of journalism, as long as it was used against those they don’t like.

  3. This is really a rearguard action by the BBC which is on the verge of imploding because its cloak of impartiality has worn so thin and threadbare that its undergarments of massive pro-Fabian bias is becoming impossible to ignore.

    The British establishment has long viewed control of the proles as being a high priority. It’s why the BBC was established; It’s why it’s hard to own a firearm in England anymore; It’s why the freedom of Englishmen is now a sad joke than a shorthand used by the Founding Fathers as a stirring cry to liberty.

    By reestablishing regulation, the establishment can continue to guide the proles into wasting their energies and attention on tabloid trash and gaudy spectacles while the serious business of plundering them goes on in Whitehall. The competition to the BBC won’t matter, because they won’t be allowed to really undermine the Beeb any longer with substantive exposes.

    1. I think you’ve got it backwards. I think the people actually want it that way and the power structures are just bending to their will.

      Being free is hard. Being responsible is even harder.

      Forcing the system to be set up so that your only response to any situation is to blame and complain, that’s easy. Having everything you need or want is provided by everyone else is the ultimate goal.

      Look what’s happening here. Look how few of us there are and how viciously our ideas are attacked.

      It’s not being driven down from the top.

      1. Synergy, my friend. Synergy.

        1. True, I guess it could be both. My only resistance to that is it would mean giving the people at the top credit for putting together a successful plan to control things.

          And I don’t think they’re that bright.

          1. They only need to have a few cunning ones that show the others how to rule. Winston “we’ve-slayed-the-wrong-dragon” Churchill comes to mind.

  4. With our First Amendment, and the respect generally accorded the same even by judges whose copies of the Constitution often seem heavily abridged, Americans are relatively insulated from concerns about overt press censorship. That may be for the best. I’d hate to see American journalists put to the test to see if they have sufficient backbone to tell would-be government overseers to go to hell.

    I don’t feel particularly secure, despite the First Amendment. There’s no shortage of journalists – and leftwingers in particular – chomping at the bit for newspaper bailouts and state run news agencies.

    1. State run news agencies would probably be better than what we have now. At least they wouldn’t be so aggressively pro-statism since they’d be much lazier.

      Also, they might actually start covering the police with a bit more gusto, so they could compete for their share of the money pie.

  5. Honestly, in the Internet age, press licensing is a losing scheme anyway

    Meh, then why is the state compliant progressive media working so well here? You don’t even have to license or force them to do anything,they go along willingly.

    The fact is, as has become apparent in Amurika, you don’t have to fool the more enlightened blog reading folks, you only have to keep the free stuff flowing to the sheeples and everything else is a moot point. If the media tells the sheep that Obama is an evolving super freedom crusader, as long as the free shit keeps on comin, they don’t have any reason or desire to seek any possible alternative to that stated ‘fact’.

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