Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Why are liberals so determined to gag a free Press?

Would anyone have credited that the leader of the Liberal Democrats would be jeopardising his party's role in government for the first time in five generations in favour of legislation to shackle freedom of the Press?

And would anyone guess that the leader of the Labour Party would be attempting to outdo them in advocating repressive measures to trammel freedom of speech?

Well, actually, yes. Anyone who knows anything about the tendency of "liberals" to be intolerant, arbitrary and undemocratic won't be surprised at all.

What a pack of hypocrites they are! Liberals and lefties specialise in boring the world, piling platitude upon platitude, savouring their own verbosity. Miliband was compared to Gladstone at his party conference a few months back because he could perform the striking feat of remembering what he had intended to say. Clegg's self-regard is well-observed but his priestly posturings about his personal morals in relation to certain aspects of Sir Brian Leveson's inquiry have been nauseating.

In general, so-called liberals and lefties rush to the defence of free speech when the topic matches their own loathing of mainstream values - various examples of Islamic demagoguery and Julian Assange with his shocking sexual predilections, to name but two.

But here they are now, elbowing each other to install some old-fashioned, Soviet-style censorship of the Press.

All the more disturbing since, on the two specific charges of malpractice that set the fever running in the first place, Leveson recorded resounding verdicts of Not Guilty.

The News of the World did not in fact delete messages on Millie Dowler's voicemail and so could not be blamed for the false hopes raised that the abducted girl might still be alive.

Also, the tardiness of the police in investigating hacking at the NoW had nothing to do with undue dark power wielded over the Metropolitan Police by the Great Satan, Rupert Murdoch.

Not to be deterred, though, the liberals rally to the cause of restriction and suppression. There is some excuse for the Labourites. There is a long, ignoble tradition in the British Left of supporting repressive regimes worldwide, harbouring anti-Semitism, pro-extremist causes and simple-minded bigotry at a safe distance.

But for the Liberals, their leader's stance marks a genuine innovation. It used to be they'd be in the vanguard proclaiming the right of the likes of the BNP to access to the airwaves, defending the right of well-heeled academics to deny the Holocaust, and so on.

Now, carried aloft on a wave of celebrity angst and misplaced hopes for survival at the next election, the Liberals have joined the censors.

Even more hypocritically, there is no doubt at all that, were Miliband in power, he would be adopting exactly the same wise caution on legislating against freedom of the Press as David Cameron. The pro-censorship stance, though wholly reprehensible, is nonetheless as bogus as everything else about Labour. Clegg, however, is actually in power; and his pantomime is both dangerous and nasty.

The open-toed sandals have been swapped for jackboots with steel toe caps.

One of the advantages of the free Press, as epitomised by the distinguished newspaper you are now reading, is that stories which would never draw the attention of internet bloggers or one-off blowhards on TV, make it to our pages thanks to the diligent, tedious, grassroots inquiry of reporters who mostly operate without acclaim or reward, other than occasionally from their peers.

Stories of ordinary people in difficulty or in joy, close scrutiny of wrong-doing on particular issues over decades, holding our "betters" to account very much against all their wills - plugging the holes in the democratic process.

It's those people who have been pilloried and slandered over the last 18 months. And it's you - the readers - who have been the people despised and feared in turns by the powerful who would want the Press silenced (or "managed") and you kept in ignorance or credulousness of what they'd deign to let you know.

Liberals and the Left want that closed off. That's what their posturing means. If you want evidence of just how illiberal those forces are, it, for once, is staring all of us in the face.

In good old black and white.

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