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David Puttnam moves towards a better democracy

The film maker and Labour nobleman, David Puttnam, has written this article: Press regulation: the royal charter deal is a move towards a better democracy. He says,

I believe there is a need to totally re-evaluate the way we look at the relationship between the media and democracy. Over the past decade or so, a great deal of thinking has developed around the notion of “a duty of care” – as it relates to a number of aspects of civil society. This has principally focused on obvious areas, such as our empathetic response to the elderly and infirm, to children and young people, to our service personnel. It has seldom, if ever, extended to equally important arguments around the fragility of democracy itself: to the notion that honesty, accuracy and impartiality are fundamental to the process of building and embedding informed, participatory societies. I believe our developing concept of a duty of care should be extended to “a care” for our shared but fragile democratic values.

If “duty of care” really were nothing but a “notion”, this would still be mildly sinister. But “duty of care” is not just a notion, it is a legal notion. He wants to make it possible to sue a writer for threatening democratic values. Specifically, he wants to make it a tort.

Do you think that I exaggerate; that this proposed “duty” was no more than Puttnam advocating a moral course of action and perhaps using the legal phrase as a metaphor? Then read the next paragraph. In it, he makes it clear he is indeed thinking of legal penalties for failing to fulfil this “duty”:

After all, the absence of a duty of care within many professions can amount to accusations of negligence, and that being the case, are we really comfortable with the thought that we are being, in effect, negligent in regard to the long-term health of our own democracies, and the values that underpin them?

Baron David Puttnam is very comfortable with the thought that he and those like him will be able to suppress views that promote values he does not like.

UPDATE: A just comment from Laird:

It strikes me that Puttnam should be the first to be sued under his proposed law. After all, the ability to offer and discuss unpopular and controversial ideas is the epitome of “democratic values”. His proposal is clearly negligent, even threatening, toward those values, and is itself grossly negligent toward the long-term health of the democracy he purports to champion. That way lies fascism.

18 comments to David Puttnam moves towards a better democracy

  • Laird

    It strikes me that Puttnam should be the first to be sued under his proposed law. After all, the ability to offer and discuss unpopular and controversial ideas is the epitome of “democratic values”. His proposal is clearly negligent, even threatening, toward those values, and is itself grossly negligent toward the long-term health of the democracy he purports to champion. That way lies fascism.

  • Robert

    Laird – Kurt Godel would have been proud of that argument. Excellent.

  • Sam Duncan

    Bravo, Laird.

  • Puttnam is just a run-of-the-mill collectivist, so I would have been astonished if he did not think that. He is a typical member of the political class who want to use the means of collective coercion to outlaw the very notion of non-political civil society.

    Fuck him and fuck his notions of ‘democracy’… by which he means quite literally outlawing the unpopular.

  • Paul Marks

    Perry has beat me to the punch – as has Laird.

  • RAB

    So to point out, and out loud, that what our Democracy has finally come down to is… One bunch of lying venal troughing bastards, trying to out-lie another bunch of lying venal troughing bastards, so as to gain power over the vast majority of us when they and their views are in a tiny minority, every 5 years is Negligent is it?

    I’d have thought it was bloody negligent not to!

  • RRS

    A bit repetitive but not redundant in its case:

    Democracy is a process not a condition.

    There are no “democratic” values, as such.

    There are values held by individuals, and in some degree of commonality in societies, which foment or support a Democratic process.

    In some circumstances those values determine the outcomes of the process.

    Your mileage may vary.

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  • Laird

    RRS, perhaps we’re just splitting hairs here, but to me the phrase “democratic values” conveys meaning. Obviously “values” are held by individuals, not by processes, but in this context that’s a silly quibble. If a democratic process is to have much utility (ensuring not only that political decisions generally reflect the values and aspirations of at least a majority of the polity, but also that those values and aspirations are as well-informed as is humanly possible), the means by which that process is implemented (its inner workings, as it were) does indeed amount to something which can reasonably be called “democratic values”. Anything which hampers the free expression and exchange of ideas, even unusual or unpopular ones, can propertly be seen as antithetical to those “values”. I stand by my statement.

  • Fred Z

    I’m already drafting formal complaints about the Guardian and their immense number of lies, incitements to commit murder, incitements to steal, and so on.

    Alinsky was a murderous commie but not a dummy. We’ll hold the bastards to their own rules and see what happens.

  • Andrew Duffin

    In what way is the “long-term health of our own democracies” compatible with membership of the EU, of which I have no doubt Puttnam is an enthusiastic supporter?

  • Paul Marks

    Fred Z – the Guardian will ignore your complaint, but do the work anyway (and do all you can to bring attention to your complaints against the Guardian).

  • RRS

    Laird,

    Do I read your odometer correctly to say:

    “Democratic Values” (channeling the conduct of individuals)are the means by which the Democratic Process is implemented?

  • Laird

    I suppose so, RRS, provided that the word “implemented” is broadly defined. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “channeling the conduct of individuals”, though.

  • RRS

    Laird,

    I think we are writing about the same thing (the Democratic Process).

    The process requires, or consists of, human conduct.

    That conduct is (at least to some extent) deliberative (e.g., choices) on the part of individuals.

    Those individuals have values which “channel” (influence and sometimes direct or determine) the deliberative process and ultimate choices.

    “Implemented” is used in the same sense as your:

    . . .means by which that process is implemented

    If all that be so, then indeed our mileages do differ.

  • Laird

    RRS, to the extent the deliberative process within individuals is externally impeded (i.e., through censorship, which is essentially what Puttnam advocates), then the Democratic Process is itself impaired. This is what I mean by “democratic values”.

    Are we really disagreeing here, or am I simply failing to understand your point?

  • RRS

    Apparently I am just not able to be clear about “values.”

    Some other time perhaps.