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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

The UK Labour party’s conference is underway in Liverpool, and party bigwigs are presenting their proposals for reinvigorating Labour after its crushing defeat in the last election. The stupidest of these proposals to date will be presented today, when Ivan Lewis, the shadow culture secretary, will propose a licensing scheme for journalists through a professional body that will have the power to forbid people who breach its code of conduct from doing journalism in the future.

Given that “journalism” presently encompasses “publishing accounts of things you’ve seen using the Internet” and “taking pictures of stuff and tweeting them” and “blogging” and “commenting on news stories,” this proposal is even more insane than the tradition “journalist licenses” practiced in totalitarian nations.

I’m all for hanging up Murdoch and his phone hackers by their thumbs, but you don’t need to license journalists to get that done: all you need to do is prosecute them under existing criminal statutes. In other words, the only “journalism code of conduct” the UK needs to avert another phone hacking scandal is “don’t break the law.” Of course, it would help if government didn’t court favour with the likes of Murdoch, as was the case under Labour (and is the case with today’s Tories).

For a party eager to shed its reputation as sinister, spying authoritarians, Labour’s really got its head up its arse.

Cory Doctorow

This is so mad it is being noticed everywhere, not just in Britain. Instapundit says they should have a read of Areopagitica. Well, we can hope. Not that they will read Areopagitica, merely that they might not like making themselves look like sinister, spying authoritarians, all over the world.

LATER: Lewis’s Loony Licensing Plan Disowned By Miliband. The derision was not confined to the internet. The Labour Conference was derisive too. Good on them. Someone tell Instapundit.

20 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • PersonFromPorlock

    One of my criticisms of Heller (the US gun-rights case) is that the Supreme Court found no problem with the ‘reasonable’ prior licensing of what it also found to be an individual right before that right can be exercised. From this, I don’t think there’d be any constitutional problem with requiring journalists to be licensed, only a political one.

    Of course, my real point is that the Heller opinion is an embarrassment to America.

  • Mo Juste

    This kind of madness is clealy infectious, as there’s already been a similar proposal from Quebec to license journalists:

    See here, for example: http://ezralevant.com/2011/08/regulating-reportage.html

  • Alex

    If this is put in place, how long before we hear the argument “it makes no sense to do this for the print media and not for bloggers; we should also require bloggers to be licensed before they can publish anything”? I’d give it 6 months or the next following Labour conference, whichever comes first.

  • RAB

    All the News that WE think is fit to print, eh?

    Don’t worry folks, this pig won’t fly. It hasn’t been thought through for a millisecond. Our esteemed Politicians get a nice little top up on their salaries and expenses by writing self interested articles for newspapers. Are they going to have to be licenced too?

    I have an NUJ card, so presumably I’m licensed already, but most British journalists are not members of the NUJ in the first place. I am a freelance and the only criteria that interests an editor is whether my copy is any good, not if I am accredited or licenced or not.

    Who will be doing the Licencing and to what guidelines? Will they want to cover bloggers as well? You betcha! But it would be a nightmare to enforce.

    Nope, Publish and be damned! should be our watchwords.

  • llamas

    “I’m all for hanging up Murdoch and his phone hackers by their thumbs, . . . ”

    . . . because I don’t like what they reported.

    Note that this outrage is seldom expressed when reporters do the self-same things to report what the chattering classes consider to be worthwhile and ‘good’. IOW, you can break the law and ethical limits, as long as it’s for something we approve of.

    Hidden cameras, secret recordings, wiretaps, Wikileaks, doorstepping, brute-force password attacks and the whole rubric of ‘investigative journalism’ (code words for ‘hacking and snooping to further left-wing and/or statist agendas’) – that’s all just fine. But Murdoch’s seedy operators finding out the tawdry details of the lives of trivial celebrities and innocent crime victims – racaille! Hanging’s too good for them!

    Hypocrisy, much?

    And I wish we’d stop allowing the statist bansturbators to frame the debate by continuing to repeat the ‘Murdoch phone hacking’ screamers. ‘Hacking’ suggests teams of technical wizards teasing deep dark secrets out of super-secure systems. What Murdoch’s people did was check voice-mail for default passwords. That’s it. That’s the whole meat of the ‘hacking’ scandal. Anyone with a working phone can do it.

    I don’t hold any brief for the NOTW diggers and some of the nasty little things they uncovered – but the things they found out were left more-or-less in plain sight. Most of what the so-called ‘hackers’ uncovered was trivial, transitory and inconsequential. Let’s try and keep a sense of proportion about this.



  • Paul Marks

    Odd that people who attack the News of the World for phone hacking do not attack the Trinity Mirror group newspapers (and the GUARDIAN) for “hacking” and “blagging”.

    It is almost as if they are not interested in the News of the World at all – that they are really using it as a excuse to attack News International as way of undermining the Wall Street Journal and Fox News (neither of which had anything to do with phone hacking).

    Still as for Mr Ivan Lewis.

    This man is clearly a totalitarian out to, de facto, destroy free speech (people would still be allowed to speak in their own living rooms – but that is about it) by preventing any “unlicensed” person being a reporter (as they would not put the correct “liberal” left spin on events).

    Any decent political party would not have scum like Ivan Lewis as a member (I am certainly NOT saying there should be “license” for being a member of a poltical party – but a party, like any private club, should have a right to kick out totalitarian scum like Ivan Lewis), let alone as “Shadow Culture Secretary” – indeed (in a better country) there would be no such post as “Culture Secretary” as if “culture” was just a toy for the government to play with.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – yes this evil totalitarian movement is international.

    The left has given up the claim that “we are against your so called economic liberties – but we are favour of civil liberties” they are now against civil liberties (such as freedom of speech) also. Of course they always were against it – but the mask of being pro civil liberties has now slipped so far that anyone, bar the willfully blind, can say what the left truly are now.

    In the United States the death-to-dissent movement is led by the (Orwellian named) “Free Press” organization of Dr Joel Rogers of the Univesity of Wisconsin – Madison (a centre of collectivism for over a century).

    It has many activists serving in the Obama Administration – including in the F.C.C.

  • Sigivald

    Contra llamas, I’m fine with the people who broke into voicemail systems (even if it was “because they had the default password” – they still knew they had no right to be there or listen to the contents) being punished.

    I do want to know why Doctorow (and as far as I can tell, everyone on the British Left who ever mentions the subject) keeps trying to bring Mr. Murdoch himself into it as a guilty party.

    It’s not a scandal we’ve given a damn about in the States, but last I heard from the UK news there was no evidence to speak of that Mr. Murdoch himself was in any way implicated in any wrongdoing in the matter.

    Guilt for wrongdoing is not transitive; News Corp. employees doing bad things don’t make Mr. Murdoch a bad ‘un unless we can show that he told them to do it or knew they were doing it and winked-and-nodded at it.

    I haven’t seen any reason to believe that’s so – and I have confidence in this despite not following the subject, because if there was any, the Usual Suspects on the Left would be crowing about it even in the States.

  • llamas

    I never said they shouldn’t be punished – what they did was likely illegal in most cases. I’m merely suggesting that these trivial and tawdry acts mostly do not justify the fevered hysteria with which they have been treated in the UK media.

    While agree that there doesn’t seem to be much justification for blaming Murdoch for the acts themselves, I am fond of the mindset that says that the captain of the ship is responsible for all the acts performed under his command, whether he knew about them or not. Culpability and responsibility are not the same things.

    On the larger point – Ivan Lewis is a fascist thug. But then, the Brits have never really grasped the idea of free speech and a free press. To many, these will seem like perfectly-reasonable suggestions. I can’t wait to see somebody being brought up on a charge of practsing journalism without a license. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.



  • Sam Duncan

    I suppose Guido’s report that it met with “universal derision” among Labour delegates is actually quite encouraging. I can certainly imagine it being nodded through, on the union block-vote if nothing else, 20-odd years ago.

  • guy herbert

    Well certainly not with the vote of the NUJ, which may be notoriously lefty (and gets in a dig at media owners that indicates why the left really hates Murdoch – he broke the grip of the unions on the press) but:


    It’s depressing to hear a Labour Party shadow minister call for the blacklisting of journalists. Ivan Lewis told Labour Party conference today that journalists found guilty of ‘gross malpractice’ should be struck off. He has since back-peddled, claiming not to approve of state meddling in press freedom but that’s precisely what his ridiculous statement amounts to.

  • guy herbert

    It is quite encouraging for those of us who don’t like the Labour Party that they could be quite so grossly incompetent as to float something on the first day of their conference that would guarantee every news outlet in the entire world would hate them. This conference is supposed to be a relaunch. You’d never guess it.

  • Valerie

    To All;
    Are there any countries in continental Europe who “license” their journalists? Thanks in advance.

  • There are people involved at in the NotW scandal who broke laws and who should be punished for it, and that is really not controversial as I see it. (Praise is due for Doctorow for understanding that this is an enforcement issue and that passing political laws in response to people doing that are illegal already almost always leads to bad laws).

    However, I will be more impressed when I see people from other newspaper groups being punished for doing the same thing. And justice will really not be being done until I see some members of the police being punished for taking bribes from newspaper journalists, as clearly happened as part of this scandal. The police are in a position of trust that the newspapers are not, and because of this I think that their crimes were clearly worse.

  • RAB

    I thought I’d be patient for a change. Doesn’t bloody pay though does it? Could you please unsmite my earlier comment before it grows bloody whiskers!

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Here in Aus, we also have leftists calling for an inquiry into the media. Mr Bob Brown (you’d think with matching initials that he’d be a superhero, but he’s the supervillain), our Green party leader and member of Parliament, thinks that the media should be regulated. For good measure, he also wants the UN to be turned into a world government, elected by all!

  • That proposal sounds more like a clumsy attempt at muzzling the press than anything honest, pretty nakedly at that.

    Good that they are so blatant and bare faced tho, most anyone can see what they are up to.

  • Paul Marks

    The “hacking” outrage is fake.

    The establishment are not campaiging for the Trinity Mirror newspapers to be closed down (and they “hack” and “blag” more than the News of the World did).

    The establishment are not campaiging against the “Guardian” newspaper – and the Guardian people have boasted of their “hacking” (for the “public interest” of course).

    And Mr Morgan (who told everybody who would listen of all the private conversations on moble telephones he had listened it to) remains with his own show on CNN (giving friendly interviews to Mr M. Moore and other totalitarians).


    This campaign has nothing to do with genuine anger over the antics at the News of the World some years ago.

    It is an EXCUSE for a power grab.

    For an attempt to eliminate dissent.

  • that would guarantee every news outlet in the entire world would hate them

    I’m not so sure about that, Guy: most doctors, lawyers, psychologists beauticians, electricians (the list goes on) everywhere love their state-protected guilds – why would most journalists feel otherwise?

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Alisa.

    Journalists (especially in the United States) love their collectivist “objective and scientific journalism” reporting only those things that are good for “progress” for people to know.

    And they hate “right wing” dissent.

    To them “true freedom” would mean an end to such “right wing” ness.