The past couple of weeks has seen a concerted defence of the British media by, er... well the British media. Articles such as "Don't Make us North Korean", "We must defend a free press" and so on have been a spectacular case of special pleading. So many people who cross the boundary between politics and journalism, from Boris Johnson to Paul Goodman, have been rushing to tell us why any regulation amounts to the end of the free press as we have known it.
Well frankly Bul***it.
The fact is that the Press has been ignoring its own (self) regulators for years and- it is now blindingly obvious- have been routinely breaking the law of the land with impunity. As more charges are brought against News International, is it not a scandal that the same management, in the shape of Rupert Murdoch and his family, remains in control of the largest private media business in the UK? Is it not outrageous that the Express refuses even the toothless sanctions of the self regulator, the Press Complaints Commission, and continues to publish stories that are completely false, about the EU for example, with no realistic sanction even possible against them?
The self serving special pleading coming from across the media, from right to left, is not a sign that some kind of new regulatory regime is wrong- it is simply a sign that the media as a whole opposes it. Frankly the "feral beast" spends far more time examining the underwear of those in the public eye than it does unearthing the web of corruption that has clearly existed in the political-journalistic combine. Scandal is measured in the playground human interest of who is sleeping with who, and not the real public interest of who-owes-who and how much. The British press has conspired to suppress stories that are in the public interest in order to promote its own interests. This is why such figures as Guido Fawkes briefly acquired some influence- because they did make a few glancing blows against the establishment, which the wider media refused to do, unless it suited their own agenda.
The press are trying to get their retaliation in first to circumvent whatever Leveson is going to say. Given that he has had to circulate various drafts of his report, the media already knows that the Leveson report is going to be pretty blunt about their failings and scathing about their crimes.
The British media in the past few years has grown careless with arrogance. The fact they are circling the wagons in order to try to prevent any trespass upon their perceived freedoms is frankly contemptible. It is the action of a harlot seeking to defend her raddled trade on the grounds that at least she has sold her honour professionally.
Within reason, the Leveson report should be adopted, and those who pretend that any regulation means a North Korean press should be treated with the disgust that they deserve. The Milly Dowler phone hack was only the most appalling of the crimes committed by the thousand by an unaccountable and irresponsible media. These cases should not merely attract criminal charges, they should also attract professional opprobrium too- and no journalist with any integrity should oppose this.
Pity that it turns out that so few journalists are prepared to accept that their profession is guilty of considerable wrong-doing. "They just don't get it", as we said of MPs. Now we should make damn sure that the media does "get it" and ensure that they do not use their power to weasel out of whatever the necessary measures are that come out of the Leveson inquiry.