Monday, 3 December 2012

The Leveson Report

I started reading the Leveson Report, partly because I thought I should, and partly because I just finished the NaNoWriMo. In my case that amounted to 52000+ words in 28 days. I gave myself an extra day for a quick edit, and had it validated in on the last day.
It leaves a bit of a hole in your life, so why not read Leveson, it's apparently 2000 pages long.
I have to admit that I have not got very far. No doubt Lord Leveson is a clever chap, and I can’t say I’d want the job of listening to all that stuff. In general, what I have read is clear and reasoned and I imagine, for many people, very boring. That seems to me to be a big mistake. Having spent months learning how the press distort things, one might have hoped that he would produce a short punchy version that everyone could grasp. As it is, he has put himself in the hands of the very press he was set up to investigate. It will be their versions of his report that everyone reads. That seems to me to be sad and frankly stupid.
Having got that off my chest, there is one brilliant sentence in paragraph ten which, I think, sums up completely the need for something to be done that the press cannot escape from.
 “There is no organised profession, trade or industry in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked because of the good done by the many.”
That is the powerful case for doing something that cannot be got around or undone. That is the reason why we regulate doctors, nurses, social workers and a host of other people. Meaning well, or being attached to well meaning organisations, or following a good cause, or the public interest, does not justify individuals doing wrong in order to do right.
There is one caveat, I guess, and that is the situation where the laws themselves have been corrupted. In that case, the law may no longer be seen as the arbiter of right and wrong. That is the argument for every revolution, and sometimes it is right. I don’t think that hacking Milly Dowler’s phone, or Charlotte Church, or any of the others, falls into that category. The newspaper people who transgressed did not do it in order to make society great, to correct terrible wrongs, or anything remotely like that. They did it to sell newspapers and advance their careers. To hide behind the noble purpose of a free press just shows what a bunch of unprincipled bastards they were. All the newspaper people who are now trying to make sure that they are not properly regulated in the future would do well to try and think of any example where the sort of behaviour described by Levenson was crucial, and the only way, to investigate and publish a story of great national interest, so important that the very fabric of our democracy would have been threatened if it was not exposed.
The most recent story of that importance that I can think of was written by the man from the Guardian who exposed the whole thing. As far as I am aware he did not have to resort to dirty tricks in order to write the story, and what's more, most of the so called free press did their best to rubbish what he wrote and tried to stop him.

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