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Proletarian issue 53 (April 2013)
What did Leveson do for us?
Public inquiry ... or laughing all the way to the tax haven.
‘Public inquiry’ is one of those terms that means the direct opposite of what it says. Its real name should be ‘public cover-up’. From the government’s point of view, the whole point of a public inquiry is:

1. To shut the population up by telling them some particular injustice or outrage is going to be thoroughly investigated and ‘dealt with’.

2. To introduce legislation ostensibly to right the wrongs discovered by the ‘public inquiry’, but in reality to either:

a) let things go on their merry way as per normal; or

b) bring in legislation that suits the government’s agenda and may be the very opposite of what the people clamouring for the public inquiry wanted.

In short, a public inquiry is nothing more or less than the government putting two fingers up at the plebs and laughing (yet again) all the way to the tax haven.

The Leveson Inquiry is a perfect example of this genre. If you remember, it was set up after the furore over a mix of inter-related issues:

1) The royals and some celebrities were upset that their mobiles had been hacked, and everyone else was up in arms that the mobile of the parents of the murdered Millie Dowler had been hacked as well.

2) Everyone felt that the parents of missing Maddie McCann had been given a very rough ride by the tabloid press.

3) The ‘liberal’ intelligentsia, long annoyed at successive British governments being in bed with Rupert Murdoch (or News International as he sometimes calls himself) was seriously annoyed by his BSkyB bid to control even more broadcasting than he does already. The BSkyB bid had all the appearances of Murdoch being given the licence in exchange for all kinds of favours given and anticipated by the current ruling political elite.

The Leveson Inquiry was set up in 2011 and took its name from Lord Chief Justice Leveson presiding. It was deemed that he was impartial and an all-round good bloke, presumably because, when he attended any top-notch gatherings along with the flame-haired beauty editing Murdoch’s News of the World, he hadn’t enjoyed himself.

To help Leveson in his impartial deliberations, he was allotted six little helpers:

1. Establishment groupie Sir David Bell, former editor of the Financial Times, who is only a couple of years from being given a peerage, and, after a lifetime of doing everything he was supposed to, could be depended on not to rock any boats.

2. The appalling top bureaucrat at the ever more ineffectual Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, who no doubt will soon be made a dame or baroness as a reward for making Liberty the exact opposite of what it says on the tin.

3. Lord (David) Currie, a nondescript cross-bencher chosen to head Ofcom by Tessa Jowell, presumably because he had never been spotted saying or doing anything memorable.

4. Elinor Goodman of Channel 4 News, who has the accolade of being the least ghastly member of the panel.

5. George Jones, formerly of the Daily Telegraph, who no-one-can remember (and if they can, they have forgotten).

6. Last, and perhaps least, Sir Paul Joseph Scott-Lee, a chief constable somewhere or other with a passion for fly-fishing.

Anyway, this band of six was put in place to advise Lord Leveson, ostensibly on “the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police; it is to consider the extent to which the current regulatory regime has failed and whether there has been a failure to act upon any previous warnings about media misconduct”.

If you were post-operative or otherwise imprisoned in front of the TV and watched the daily broadcasts of the Leveson Inquiry, it seemed to be almost doing exactly that, though in slow motion and with the inquisitorial QC Robert Jay’s forensics skills suddenly deserting him just as he got to the nitty gritty. Even so, by the spring of 2012, the evidence given by Cameron, Blair, the ballroom-dancing Vince Cable, the ineffable Jeremy Hunt, the memory-lapsing Murdoch et al showed that not only were successive governments in bed with News International but they had been doing things decent people never did in our day, and that:

1. All the hacking and being vicious to the McCanns was illegal already and could and would have been prosecuted by the police if they had not been leant on by the government to ignore it.

2. The government had intended to pretend to consider all bids, but they fully intended to give the license to BSkyB in exchange for News International’s political support for its austerity, plus world warmongering agenda (just as hacking and other abuses had been allowed as quid pro quo payments for good press write-ups).

In short, the evidence at Leveson revealed in full glory that, among other things, News International and the government were in an unholy alliance, while the police had been doing nothing about press criminality because their powerful masters had told them to do nothing. [1]

The politically innocent awaited Leveson’s report with bated breath, but when it was published in November 2012, instead of reporting on what the evidence had so blatantly revealed, he exonerated the government(s) and blithely announced that there was nothing untoward in the relations between the government(s) and nice, old Mr Murdoch with his frail memory and rottweiler wife; and that the handling of the BSkyB bid by the angelic-choir-boy-looking Jeremy Hunt was so nobly carried out that we could all have been back in the mythical days of chivalry.

Instead, Leveson saw a problem with the press being intrusive and the police sometimes helping them in ways that might be detrimental to the ruling elite. He then made some recommendations. Claiming to prevent abuses, they are all actually about stopping the little bit of good the press actually does in occasionally uncovering bits of bourgeois corruption (the MPs’ expenses scandal, for example, which might seem trivial and only to be expected by communists who understand the nature of bourgeois society, but was an eye-opener to a lot of people, and eye-openers are always good).

The new regulatory plans will stop investigative journalism in its tracks. Some people, thinking of Millie Dowler’s parents and feeling sorry for poor handsome Hugh Grant, who had his sexual peculiarities revealed to the world, will think this is all to the good. They would be wrong.

If Hugh Grant does not want his peccadilloes broadcast, perhaps he should rethink his behaviour. As for his being hacked (in addition to being exposed), again, the hacking of Hugh Grant’s phone, like the hacking of Mr and Mrs Dowler’s, or Prince Harry’s, is already illegal under existing legislation. The issue was the government pressure on the police not to investigate and on the institutionally pusillanimous Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute.

Now, communists are not friends of the bourgeois press. We know that it operates as a propaganda machine for capitalism and imperialism, but we don’t want to stop the little bit of good it does do from time to time.

We all knew that Saddam Hussain’s Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and we did not need to be told by the Today programme on Radio 4 that the Blair government had issued a “sexed-up dodgy dossier”, but a good many politically-innocent people out there did; and they were shocked. As a warning to other cheeky journalists, Andrew Gilligan lost his job, and, while he still works as a journalist, there is no doubt his punishment was an effective warning to other wannabe cheeky journalists with mortgages to pay.

No matter, Gilligan got a message out. Under the Leveson proposals he would not be able to, as controversial stories which allege someone has not been as honest as they should have been will be vetted by Leveson’s new regulatory body – which would be made up of the bourgeois great and good with a vested interested in keeping the bourgeois state protected from criticism. Unlike today, when the political muck-racking journal Private Eye can (and does) opt out of the Press Complaints Commission, the new set-up Leveson wants will be compulsory. [2]

Ironically, the public sentiment outraged by the very real harm hacking has done to individuals is being used to bring in legislation that will harm us all. It will come as no surprise to readers of Proletarian that the National Union of Journalists is not opposing Leveson and is over the moon that Leveson allows a ‘conscience’ clause. [3]

So what do we want? Well, a free unregulated press, and the right to offend, insult and outrage. Not because we are mad anarchists who want to be rude for the sake of it, but because in bourgeois society a free press and free speech are another and important arm of the struggle. Of course, we know that the mainstream press is owned by our enemies, but, be warned, Leveson is coming for Proletarian too. Just say ‘No’ to Leveson and all his evil works.



NOTES

1. The suggestion being mooted that the police did not prosecute the hackers because they just “did not want to” is laughable. The police love prosecuting people (the more of us they prosecute, the happier they are).

2. Private Eye is a maverick fortnightly journal exposing corruption in all parties and places. It gets good information on privatisation bids. Its editor, Ian Hislop, is usually thought of as a Tory, but he is much more a romantic traditionalist than an actual conservative. He is, of course, thoroughly anti-socialist and pro-imperialist (hence all the hours of TV exposure he is allowed on the BBC’s supposedly ‘satirical’ Have I Got News For You).

3. A ‘conscience clause’ is a proposal of the NUJ accepted by Leveson to sugar the pill of press censorship. The idea is that individual journalists’ contracts would contain a clause entitling them to refuse any task that breached a specified ethical code so that – in theory at least – they would not be subjected to any kind of disciplinary action if they did so.
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