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Read the whole thing – while you can

Nick Cohen is that rare and admirable thing, a genuinely liberal left-winger. Here he is in full flow today in The Observer:

We are in the middle of a liberal berserker, one of those demented moments when “progressives” run riot and smash the liberties they are meant to defend. Inspired by Lord Justice Leveson, they are prepared in Parliament tomorrow to sacrifice freedom of speech, freedom of the press and fair trials. They are prepared to allow every oppressive dictatorship on the planet to say: “We’re only following the British example” when outsiders and their own wretched citizens protest.

A rant worth reading. Do.

Something that Mr Cohen doesn’t cover is that, we too, appear about to be regulated. Parliament is not just abridging the freedom of the press, but of the web too. As Guido Fawkes explains regulation looks likely to cover not just Fleet Street (if that were not bad enough), but:

“relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom: (a) a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or (b) a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)

(My emphasis.) That means ALL the blogging commentariat there, almost all charities and campaigning organisations of every political stripe who publish news comment or press releases or highlight particular stories on their websites, and maybe your personal site, too.

Once you’ve read what Messrs Cohen and Staines have to say, you might feel like commenting on the news yourself. If you live in Britain an email to your MP, especially if he or she is a Labour or LibDem MP, might be worth the effort. You can write to them – including the ones who will only take a fax – easily from the site of the same name: writetothem.com  Do so before they vote on the proposals.

16 comments to Read the whole thing – while you can

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I am writing to my MP, Mark Field, (Westminster).

    We live in dangerous times. And I hope that Hugh Grant and the rest of these “Hacked Off” fuckers meet their just deserts.

  • Guy Herbert (London)

    The greatest horror of this is it has come about through empty party politics. The Libel Bill was relatively uncontentious, had all party support, and would have increased, slightly, freedom of speech in this country. The Labour and Liberal Democrat parties aren’t doing this for any better reason than to suck up to their own activists’ and backers’ hatred of “the right-wing press”, and to put one over on the Tories.

  • Guy Herbert (London)

    I’m sympathetic to Hugh Grant. I think he and others among the celebrity supporters of Hacked-Off have been sold a bill of goods by ‘committed’ far-left lawyers and journalists. What they actually needed was enforcement of the current laws against spying and police corruption, followed up by carefully considered privacy protections. They were instead persuaded that wholesale control of the media by the great and good would give them privacy.

    Of course it wouldn’t. No-one on their side actually cared about them, or their private lives. It was about politics: get Murdoch, the great Satan of media modernisation; and make the press like the BBC, so that the public would only get an ‘unbiased’, i.e. establishment-friendly, viewpoint. Grant, the Dowlers, and others, were just human pretexts who happened to be handy.

  • How dismaying. Good luck holding the square, British friends!

  • I am certainly sympathetic to Hugh Grant over the phone hacking. His privacy was illegally invaded, and his private communications splashed all over the newspapers. He is entirely right to want the people who did this (including the corrupt police who turned a blind eye to it in return for money) to be punished for it (preferably prison), and is entirely justified in taking legal action for significant compensation. Existing laws should be able to do both these things if properly enforced, though.

    The trouble with Hugh Grant, though, is that he has another reason for hating the media: specifically the media circus and mocking coverage that took place when he was arrested procuring a prostitute in Los Angeles more than a decade wrong. In that case the media was certainly cruel, but I don’t think they did anything wrong. They certainly did nothing I think should be illegal. Of course, Grant did nothing that I think should be illegal in that instance either, but the truth was that his arrest was on the public record and was a legitimate news story. Even if what he did had been legal, it would have been a legitimate news story if someone had found out about it by legal means and had then reported on it.

    One therefore does question Hugh Grant’s motives a little. Given his history, it can’t be helped.

  • Peter Hambly

    My email to my MP:

    Dear Andrew Smith,

    I am writing to urge you not to support state regulation of ‘the press’, especially by the ridiculously wide and illiberal definition of that word contained in the Leveson report.

    Newspapers did bad things to some vulnerable people. Nearly all of those things are already illegal. As usual, in the righteous glee to punish some favourite bêtes noires of the chattering classes, we all get caught in the crossfire. Freedom of speech is more important than Hugh Grant’s – or anybody’s – freedom to pick up prostitutes without anybody knowing about it.

    In America, the first amendment – like most of the US constitution – was drafted specifically to protect the people from the government. Please think about that when you are asked to vote.

    Yours sincerely,

    Dr Peter Hambly

  • Mike James

    ” … one of those demented moments when “progressives” run riot and smash the liberties they are meant to defend.”

    Bless his heart, he thinks progressives mean to defend liberties, not dissolve them. That’s cute.

  • bobby b

    “Bless his heart, he thinks progressives mean to defend liberties, not dissolve them. That’s cute.”

    No, no, they DO defend liberties.

    But “liberties” are exercised only by right-thinking people.

    When conservatives do the same, they are “committing excesses.”

    My having the freedom to speak Truth shouldn’t have to depend on allowing others to Lie!


    Given that there appears to be a strong possibility of a global move to the right over the course of elections during the next two years, the timing of these efforts seems . . . dumb.

  • Mr Ecks

    Written to my MP but he is Labour garbage and an ID card supporter so not likely to do much good.

    More hopeful is the news that several papers are saying they won’t co-operate with this bullshit. Those in the blogosphere must do the same.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Mr Ecks, it goes without saying that this blog and others like it will give the whole statutory regime the finger.

  • llamas

    This line from Nick Cohen’s column

    ‘There is nothing wrong with an arbitration service to settle disputes about contentious speech.’

    shows that all is already lost. In the words of the old joke, we’ve established what you are, now we’re just discussing price. He wants press regulation too – just a little less of it. This is the approach of he who plays nice with the crocodile, in the hope that he will be eaten last. When the most-vocal opponent of this misbegotten piece of liberty-theft is merely arguing that all he wants is to steal just a little bit less of that liberty than the other guy – you know that it’s all over bar the (state-regulated) shouting.

    ‘Arbitration service’, my ass. The state simply has no business settling questions of opinion – which is what ‘disputes about contentious speech’ are. No Business What-So-Ever.

    This whole mess has long-since left the issue of phone-hacking behind – which was already illegal in any case – and has now become about equal parts of political revenge, and the dearest wish of all statists of all stripes – the ability to control what people are allowed to see and read. Resist it, in its entirety. No compromise, no negotiation, no arbitration, no surrender. Freedom of speech, and of the press, are digital concepts. You either have them, completely, or you don’t have them at all.

    I like Hugh Grant, I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow – but his discomfiture at having his carefully-polished public image punctured is just-about the worst possible reason I can think of for stealing one of the most fundamental liberties imaginable from 60-million of his fellow citizens. Sorry, Hugh – but nobody stuck a gun to your head and forced you to go to Hollywood. Find some better way to deal with your embarrassment than to encourage the state to steal the liberties of everybody else.

    The basic principle is now 234 years old, but still as correct as the day it was written:

    “That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all . . . . liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

    That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

    And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”



  • Paul Marks

    As has been said many times – but needs to be said many more times…..

    Telephone “Hacking” was already against the law.

    So there was no justification (none) for setting up the Leveson inquiry.

    Once it had been set up the Leveson inquiry would obviously have evil consequences (such establishment inquiries always do).

    So the man who, in the end, has to take responsibilty for this evil is the man who set up the Leveson inquiry.

    Mr David Cameron.

  • jonah stiffhausen

    Goodnight Britain,
    last one out, turn the lights out. You’re all cattled.

  • Stuart

    My letter:

    Dear Phillip Lee,

    If you vote in favour of press regulation I will never vote for you or
    your party again. Further, I will actively campaign against you. I
    trust I make my feelings clear.

    Yours sincerely,