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Wings Over Scotland

There’s no need to be afraid

Posted on March 17, 2013 by

We haven’t studied the McCluskey report in detail, and we’re awfully tempted – after 16 months of scrutinising the many abysmal failings of Scotland’s media – to cynically assume that if it’s got them so uniformly up in arms it must be a good thing. But we’ll try to resist the kneejerk reaction.

For now we’ll merely pass comment on a very odd piece against the proposals by Iain Macwhirter in the Herald, ostensibly listing reasons “Why Scotland should be afraid”.

“George Galloway called Tony Blair a murderer – but he won’t be able to say that in print or online. Some of the descriptions of Brian Souter, during the ‘Keep the Clause’ campaign against the promotion of homosexuality in schools, would be actionable, as would many of the remarks made by his supporters. Feminists who say silly things like ‘all men are rapists’ could be in the dock , as would loud-mouths like Ray Winstone who said he was ‘raped by taxes’.”

Um, and these are supposed to be BAD things, are they? If those are really the potential consequences of the report’s implementation, if such counter-productive and divisive and idiotic debasement of intelligent discourse would suddenly become a punishable act, then sign us up right now. Because given that we currently live in a country where this can happen, we’re not sure we’ve got anything to lose.

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18 to “There’s no need to be afraid”

  1. Mark says:

    As far as I’m aware, any statute designed by the Scottish parliament must conform to Article 10 of the ECHR anyway, so there’s only so far it can go. In MacWhirter’s defence, I agree it’s important to begin discussing the purpose of any proposed legislation. That intended purpose will have a huge bearing on statutory interpretation by the courts later on. In particular, I think we will have to nail down this definition of “significant news publishers”. The worst case scenario in my opinion would be small blogs and Twitter users being prosecuted, while the mainstream media continue as usual thanks to a “too big to fail” attitude towards them.

  2. Peter A Bell says:

    I am, I suspect, one of many people who find themselves in a bit of a dilemma over the issue of press regulation. I am instinctively opposed to censorship and the thin ends of wedges whose thick ends are shaped suspiciously like state control of the media. But I am also appalled and disgusted by arrogant, self-aggrandising journalists who seek to pervert the right of freedom of expression and make of it a licence to conduct themselves in various deplorable ways with total impunity.

    Nor can I be particularly impressed by the clarion cry of protecting the freedom press when this is a freedom limited to and increasingly constrained by a relatively tiny corporate clique.

    When a nominally free press ceases to be the servant of democracy and instead becomes slave to an economic imperative and loyal retainer of established ruling elites, dutifully peddling their propaganda and self-serving dogma, then I have to wonder what is worth protecting.

  3. FreddieThreepwood says:

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, Rev. No-one should be prosecuted for yelling at the PM – but neither should anyone for saying the most objectionable, provocative crap in print. That’s the price you pay for a free press – ‘free’ that is, of course, only in so far as comment and opinion is concerned. You cannot be partially free just as you cannot be a little bit pregnant.
    I am with MacWhirter on this – the worst excesses of the press can already be tackled through existing law – and, by all means, lets beef that up and, more importantly, apply it fairly across the board. But the Levenson Inquiry was a political response to a public outcry – not a necessary measure to right a long-standing judicial wrong.
    What is particularly important for us is political bias and mendacity in the coverage of the independence issue – and I very much fear that wandering off down the side street called ‘McCluskey Lane’ is exactly what the most egregious elements of the press would like us to do. Down there they can play the martyr instead of the villain.
    Take coverage of McCluskey’s report itself – it’s all ‘SNP plans’, ‘Salmond gags the press’ … then ‘SNP backtracks’, ‘Salmond prepares for press u-turn’. Were Levenson’s findings described at Cameron’s plans, the coalition’s settled will? No, of course not. 
    This is the real and continuing scandal of the press in this country. Let’s not get dragged into squabbling over what a few eejits want to say in print. It only distracts from the real battle.

  4. Willie Taylor says:

    O/T I’ve just read about Tavish Scott’s push for “home rule” for Shetland. Does he realise he will have to urge Shetlanders to vote YES to advance that proposition?

  5. If the newspaper circulation figures up here keep going the way they’re going it soon won’t be an issue anyway.  🙂

  6. Amanayeman says:

    So let me get this right.  A committee of the great and the good are asked to draw up a report about control of abuses in the MSM.
    After due deliberation and one imagines much head scratching the committee arrives at it’s conclusions basically saying, as far as I can gather that if you, the MSM, cannot control your own excesses then you will have to be controlled by what would appear to be a fairly benign legislation.
    Cue moral outrage on the part of the usual suspects.
    Amongst them Ian MacWhirter who on his return to Scotland wrote an article in the Herald complaining that Scotland was “appallingly white” then to compound this slur during a radio interview said that it had been commented that Scotland was appallingly white. Aye, it had, by him!
     I wrote to the Herald complaining about his racial slur as it would never have been acceptable for him to write that Israel was appallingly jewish or that Africa was appallingly black.
    So when I hear journalists moaning about some imagined loss of their ” freedom ” to write what they will I just think that what the really mean is loss of licence to print any garbage they wish

  7. Vronsky says:

    Not sure what has suddenly awakened concern in McWhirter – looks like just an opportunity to knock Salmond.  We already have a press owned by a few very wealthy men who use it to propagate a fog of lies and misrepresentations to suit their own agenda.  Iain’s up to his oxters in shit and he wants to complain about controls on what sort of shit it is?  Gie’s peace. 
    I have a bad feeling that this legislation will be applied punitively (and selectively) to the internet and nowhere else.
    PS: Rev, I don’t think calling Blair a murderer is “divisive and idiotic debasement of intelligent discourse” – unless you’re nit-picking, as he’s really only guilty of crimes against humanity.

  8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “PS: Rev, I don’t think calling Blair a murderer is “divisive and idiotic debasement of intelligent discourse” – unless you’re nit-picking, as he’s really only guilty of crimes against humanity.”

    Blair isn’t a murderer, unless you have new information about the David Kelly case. He has the blood of hundreds of thousands of people on his hands, to be sure, but he didn’t actually kill any of them himself. The word “murder” has a clearly-defined meaning, and misusing it does language, and thereby debate, a great disservice.

  9. Vronsky says:

    Unless he offed Kelly with his own hand, he’s still not a murderer.  My point was that Galloway’s accusation massively understates Blair’s actual crimes and shouldn’t to be bracketed with the silly hyperboles McWhirter mentions.  If from now on Galloway is constrained in the interests of legality and technical accuracy to describe Blair as a war criminal then I’m OK with that. 

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “This is the real and continuing scandal of the press in this country. Let’s not get dragged into squabbling over what a few eejits want to say in print. It only distracts from the real battle.”

    Well, I specifically said I wasn’t commenting on the proposals in general. Merely pointing out that if the quoted examples were Macwhirter’s most compelling case for non-regulation, he might want to buy some bulletproof shoes.

  11. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “If from now on Galloway is constrained in the interests of legality and technical accuracy to describe Blair as a war criminal then I’m OK with that.”

    Me too. Which was my point.

  12. tartanfever says:

    I reckon anyone that believes they are sticking up for a ‘moral’ principle of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ that the press should not be regulated further is probably deluding themselves that the press are somehow the last bastion of ‘truth’.
    Time to make an appointment with the shrink.
    As for McWhirter and his like – man up and get on with it ya greetin’ lassie. It’s only a report, not law.

  13. Vincent McDee says:

    I’ll be happy enough if the SC manage to get them to admit their “mistakes” by having to publish corrections  in the same page and with the same size of the original article.

  14. ianbrotherhood says:

    Doesn’t prefacing any comment, written or verbal, with ‘In my opinion…’ or ‘My own feeling is that…’ make this all a bit academic?
    ‘My honest feeling is that Blair is a murderer.’ That’s not the same as saying ‘Blair is a murderer.’
    Semantic, aye, but then, that’s really what this is all about, isn’t it? Here’s hoping we don’t end up having to use metaphor, allegory, or speaking in tongues to communicate relatively simple statements.

  15. mogabee says:

    People in Scotland, in the main, have already decided what direction that press regulation should go… not buying the papers, they are telling the press what they think!

  16. Marian says:

    I very much hope that the FM is not going to give any concessions to the usual shrill voices in the MSM and the unionist politicians who are only concerned because Lord McCluskey’s panel has recommended measures that would severely limit the endemic lying and misrepresentation that occurs daily in what are laughingly called “newspapers” in Scotland.This is not about what matters to a few transient unionist politicians, but IS very much about the way in which the MSM routinely abuses their privileged “freedom of the press” position to spy upon, lie about, and abuse and misrepresent in every way imaginable, for no good reason other than cheap headlines or political opportunism. The newspaper industry has had more than enough opportunity to stop these practices but has singularly failed to do it, so it is now time for it to move over and make way for the McCluskey recommendations to be enshrined in Scots Law.

  17. Neil Mackenzie says:

    “using threatening words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress” is what the Church does for a living.
    Why not charge the Church with this offence if it’s available and consign the threat of eternal damnation (for merely being alive and/or doubting the bible’s veracity) to history?

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