Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Turning A Blind Ear(!)

It's been an interesting couple of days.
It started on Sunday when I leisurely wandered downstairs at 11am, made myself some breakfast, sat down on the sofa and opened up Facebook on my iPad (a very expensive birthday/Christmas present from my generous parents).
One of the first posts I noticed was from a Facebook friend who had linked to an article written by Julie Burchill entitled Transsexuals Should Cut It Out. Said Facebook friend warned that it used inflammatory language but I thought, "Come off it! It's The Guardian! How bad can it be?!!".
Well, when I managed to pick my jaw up off the floor, I had my answer - unbelievably bad. In fact, probably the most hate filled thing I have ever had the displeasure to read (and that includes competition from Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips and the BNP website!). Hell! It didn't even pretend to have journalistic standards!
I was staggered at how this could've got past the Editor and be published in a supposed respectable newspaper (which, I should say, turned out to be The Observer rather than The Guardian - they share the same webspace, hence the confusion). Surely, if nothing else, an Editor has a duty to protect his newspaper from a criminal conviction? Whereas, this article laid it wide open to one - for committing a hate crime!
However, up until Sunday, I had only ever felt it necessary to contact the police twice before - once when I found a man in the street who I believed to be dead and the other when my friend was suffering some domestic abuse. So I hardly regard myself as reactionary or "trigger happy".
Having a background in the newspaper trade (once as an Editor for a local news website - but mostly in what they call the "Production" department (aka dogsbodies)), I'm also pretty well acquainted with how newspapers work and how low they'll sink to sell themselves (despite what anyone else will tell you, newspapers aren't about investigative journalism - or any kind of journalism for that matter - but making money for which they need to sell lots of their product that contain lots of paid for advertisements for other people's product in them). So when I see these articles from the aforementioned likes of Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Phillips et al I know what the real motive is - money - and so I take them with a pinch of salt.
However, when someone flat out breaks the law by committing a hate crime with the evidence on display for all to see, as Julie Burchill did with her article, it appears there is not enough salt in all the world that will stop me from reporting said crime to the police.
Thus Julie Burchill's article is now registered as a Hate Incident... and I hope it will follow with a conviction for Julie Burchill for committing said hate crime.
So should you see some of the follow up articles that harp on about "Freedom of speech", I hope you will have a better understanding of the circumstances.
For this much talked about "Freedom of speech" doesn't actually exist because, as has been illustrated, you are not free to speak (or type) as you please.
Also, when journalists reminisce about this much lauded "Freedom of speech" with misty eyed sentimentality, you also ought to be aware that "Freedom of speech" has never ever existed (in anyone's living memory at any rate)! There have always (in living memory) been consequences to speaking unjustly about someone.
So why would the newspapers suggest otherwise? Surely these bastions of morality, such as The Daily Mail, would never seek to mislead their readership?
Well, one theory could be that there has been a report into the goings on in "newspaper land" called The Leveson Enquiry. In this report some journalists were found to be wanting in certain qualities such as honesty and lawfulness. As a result there was a public backlash and a politically supported clampdown on the freedom of the press (as limited as it already was).
So, of course, the press don't like these measures - it makes their job of doing a thoroughly researched article before deadline even nearer to impossible than it already was (as can be evidenced in any daily newspaper you care to read)!
Now these deadlines aren't going to go away and nor is the pressure to make money in this atmosphere of 'new' competition (only 20 years old and going strong) from online media and the reduction in disposable income for disposable newsprint as a result of recession after recession.
So what would any self-interested newspaper publisher do?
Perhaps they seek a way to slither from underneath this oppressive atmosphere by changing the rules??
Perhaps they seek to gain something they've been denied up until now?
Perhaps they seek the freedom to publish what they damn well like with impunity??
A freedom that the newspapers could snappily call, "Freedom of speech".
No need to worry about lawsuits for slander, libel, misrepresentation... or prosecution for committing a hate crime then! Not when you've got "Freedom of speech"!
But a savvy newspaper publisher would know damn well that no one's gonna give that to them! Why on earth would the public give them the freedom to slander, libel, and incite hatred?!!
Well, not unless they're convinced that they actually want this freedom too, that is!
So perhaps the newspapers set about manipulating the public into thinking they do want this freedom and print a whole sheaf of articles beseeching it??
But, think about it, when does the topic of "Freedom of speech" ever come up in our daily lives?
Do we have a row with a neighbour and accuse them of infringing upon our "Freedom of speech" when they tell us to "F off!"?
I think it far more likely we respond in kind rather than harp on about being "bullied into silence"!
Do we think, "You know, I really should be allowed to accuse Mr Singh of being a terrorist if I want to. He is Asian, after all!!"
No, I think it far more likely our conscience sways us towards a more honest course of action.
So why should there be a different set of standards for our newspapers? Especially when it's been shown conclusively in the last year that we want our newspapers to behave honestly and responsibly!
For what a "Freedom of speech" amounts to is a licence to act dishonestly and irresponsibly and I see no reason why we should support that.
So, should they ever ask us to, I think we should turn a blind eye (or ear) and instead demand that our newspapers give us a service that benefits us, rather than one that benefits them.