April 20, 2017
Why voting with your conscience > tactical voting.
TACTICAL VOTING? NO. SINCERE VOTING? YES!
I decided to do a bit of research on tactical voting and discovered that there is a huge amount of research. One article tipped up at 51 pages and much of that was taken up with complex arithmetical formula.
I also discovered that there is a term called “sincere voting” and lots of research (complete with mathematical formulae) on that too.
What did I conclude? There are masses of people who seem to be deluded enough to cast a sincere vote for Lib Dem’s on the basis that they will stop Brexit. They won’t.
There are others who feel compelled to vote Lib Dem, on the basis that it will stop the Tories. It won’t and if there is a choice it will be the Tories with whom they will enter into coalition. I would advise you check their record and think again.
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by Martin Odoni
Yesterday was a shock, eh?
Perhaps it should have been otherwise. The polls for the Labour Party have been dire since last year’s ‘Chicken Coup‘, while Theresa May is still very much in her ‘Honeymoon period’ as Prime Minister, when everything that goes wrong is blamed on the previous incumbent at Number 10. The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron remain a pale, error-prone shadow of what they were in the days of the late Charles Kennedy. The Green Party’s support is too thinly distributed to pick up more than a couple of seats at best. The UK Independence Party is tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, and in any event it has exhausted its purpose-of-being, while also suffering the same problem of a thinly scattered support base. The Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Ulster parties are too narrowly focused on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively to pick up anywhere near enough seats at the UK level.
Furthermore, the real pain of leaving the European Union is not yet being felt, but will be before 2020, at which point it could seriously injure the Conservative Party’s re-election hopes.
Perhaps the most significant reason though, one that is not getting much mention in our ever-Tory-friendly media, is the Tory Election Fraud scandal. You know, the one Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC insists was just a few ‘mistakes’; –
May must be keenly aware of the slightness of the Parliamentary majority she inherited from David Cameron. It currently stands at just seventeen seats, and it puts her at the mercy of the lunatic fringe on the hard-right of the Conservative Party. She must also be aware of how serious the legal difficulty her party is in, and how results in all the seats disputed over the fraud could potentially be reversed. It is perhaps an extreme scenario, but if that were to happen in all cases, it could lead to a Hung Parliament, for the second time in less than ten years. The political fall-out would again be very damaging to the Tories in the medium term. This makes it a prime reason to get the next General Election out of the way now, while the going is still less bumpy; any reversed results will be meaningless, as the 2015 result will be superseded before mid-June.
All these reasons are far likelier explanations than May’s barely-defined talk of giving the country strong leadership during the ‘Brexit’ process. Given the election will take two months of precious negotiation time away from that process, her claim is laughable. It also took little time for the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act of 2011 to be undermined.
An increased majority for the Tories is likely. That will be unpleasant of course, but it would still be better than what we have now, as it would free May from the will of the lunatic fringe. It is a ludicrous reflection on the current shape of the British political landscape that a party that has already been slapped with the biggest fine for fraud in electoral history, and is under continuing investigation for further corruption, is in such unbeatable shape. Part of the reason for that is the media turning a blind eye to the fraud, or playing it down. (Certainly, there has been nothing like the clamour over this as there has been over the – largely-fictitious – antisemitism-in-Labour furore.)
But also, the Labour Party has made a complete pig’s-ear of the last eighteen months, wasting an enormous membership groundswell that arrived with Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, and has repeatedly fallen into infighting when the opportunity to attack the Tories has been available. Corbyn has taken almost all of the blame for that; and to be fair, he does deserve some criticism for not being ruthless enough with those who have undermined him, and for not taking the initiative or being vocal enough within party circles when focused strategising was required. But the reality is that it is the backstabbers in the Parliamentary Party who have done most of the damage by far, as much with their (perhaps deliberate) poor timing as with their disloyalty. Labour should have controlled the narrative from the start of July last year, with the Tories leaderless and torn apart by the EU Referendum. It was the perfect opportunity to attack them and make their transition to a new Prime Minister an absolute torment.
Instead, at that exact moment, the PLP turned on their own leader and forced a new leadership election that they were bound to lose, and let the Conservative Party off the hook completely. By the time Corbyn had hammered Owen Smith to kingdom-come, the Tories had regrouped and had a new leader of their own in place. Also, with the February by-elections in Copeland and Stoke-On-Trent, the timing would have been a lot smarter – or less insidious – if Labour had not contrived to hold them just two weeks after the Brexit vote in the House of Commons; it was a vote in which Corbyn was in a no-win situation. Support the Bill to allow May to activate Article-50 and he looks obsequious; oppose it and he looks anti-democratic. That was bound to have knock-on bad effects on by-elections held so soon afterwards.
Now, the PLP across-the-board has failed to make anything of the Tory Election Fraud.
It is almost as if Labour MPs are more terrified of winning with a (relatively) left-wing leader than they are of being supposedly ‘unelectable’ with one. Whatever one might think of Corbyn, and regardless of whether the repeated bad timing is stupidity or cynicism, the Parliamentary Labour Party, quite simply, does not deserve to win a General Election. It is either too stupid collectively, or too dishonest collectively.
It is Labour as a whole, far more than Corbyn, that is unelectable. That is why May calling a snap election now should have been entirely predictable and even obvious.
April 18, 2017
An excellent summary of the many reasons why Bashar al-Assad’s guilt in the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack remains seriously open to question.
Also see https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/assad-may-not-be-the-culprit/ and https://thegreatcritique.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/trump-is-shooting-at-the-wrong-opponent/ for more on this subject.
By Daniel Margrain
With a critical public increasingly turning to social media to scrutinize the claims of the mainstream as well as the credibility of the assertions made by the various NGOs and government-funded human rights organisations, it’s arguably becoming more difficult for the corporate press to pass their propaganda off as legitimate news.
This is particularly the case during periods when the establishment pushes for military conflicts. One salutary lesson from the Iraq debacle, is that the public appear not to be so readily fooled. Or are they?
It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria on April 7, 2017. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated that the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase was “in retaliation to a sarin…
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by Martin Odoni
What is more painful; the stupidity or the pointless offensiveness?
Given this weekend is the anniversary of the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster, you would think that Kelvin MacKenzie and the Sun ‘newspaper’ would tread carefully at this one time of the year over the subject of Merseyside. They were, after all, responsible for the nadir of British journalism just a few days later, when they published an article titled ‘The Truth‘, which propagated only lies.
The city of Liverpool has never forgiven or forgotten, and the Sun, which through the late-1980’s had sold over fifty-five thousand copies per day on Merseyside, nowadays struggles to sell more than twelve thousand per day there. The Sun has repeatedly offered half-hearted, unconvincing apologies of the “We’re-sorry-we-were-fooled” variety, instead of the “We’re-sorry-we-were-malicious” variety. Hardly surprisingly, they have all been rejected. If the Sun truly holds out hope of recovering sales on Merseyside, it has to behave differently from its average conduct in future. It also has to be very careful indeed in the way it treats Liverpool. This should be so suffocatingly obvious by now, it should not need pointing out.
So Kelvin MacKenzie’s column in the Sun yesterday was as stupid as it was offensive, and I am still trying to decide whether my sense of aesthetics or my intelligence is more hurt by it. MacKenzie was Chief Editor at the time of the notorious hatchet job on Liverpool supporters, and he was the one personally responsible for the headline ‘The Truth‘.
Yesterday’s article was about an Everton footballer, local boy Ross Barkley, and the column demonstrated how MacKenzie is as dominated by crude prejudices as ever he was. Now, to be honest, I am no fan of Barkley, whose behaviour on a football pitch is frequently thuggish and foolish. But MacKenzie’s article was not a critique of that, it was just published abuse.
MacKenzie described Barkley as,
“One of our dimmest footballers… thick“.
Of seeing Barkley’s eyes, MacKenzie argued that he is,
“Certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home.“
He then added a particularly unfortunate insult when writing,
“I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo“. (Emphasis mine.)
This particular slur has caused considerable anger, as of course ape-references are popular among racists when making derogatory remarks about black people. Barkley himself is not black, but he is mixed race due to a black Nigerian grandfather. To make matters worse, the article was even titled, ‘Here’s why they go ape at Ross‘.
In his own defence, MacKenzie insisted the reference was not racial, and that he had been unaware of Barkley’s background. Just for the record, I do believe him on that. Barkley’s grandparentage is not that widely known, and in the context of the article, MacKenzie just seems to be referring to thuggish behaviour in an individual, instead of trying to imply his bad behaviour is due to his ‘racial extraction’.
But I do not see that as much of a defence really. For while MacKenzie did not use race as grounds for insults, elsewhere in the article he wrote that Barkley is,
“an attractive catch in the Liverpool area where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers, and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty“.
This is what is so cheap and offensive, and it demonstrates that MacKenzie’s past attempts to apologise for what he did in 1989 were insincere. He is still propagating horrible stereotypes in his crude writing, and having spent the previous few lines describing Barkley in Neanderthal terms, he then insults much of the city of Liverpool by arguing that if a male is rich there, he must be a drug dealer.
This is not exactly a racist stereotype, but it is a geographical stereotype. It still condemns people for the condition of their birth, a fact over which they have no control and which will not decisively govern their character either. There may be a technical difference, but frankly, I struggle to see how geographical slurs are morally any better than racial slurs. On a moral and effectual level, it might just as well be racism. And MacKenzie actually wrote all this on the Hillsborough Anniversary weekend! Never mind Barkley’s intelligence, how stupid is MacKenzie?
The Sun has suspended MacKenzie and removed the article from its website. But the mask has already slipped. As I pointed out recently, responding to a very unconvincing article in the Spectator defending the Sun, the behaviour of the Red-Top has not changed. Once again, we have ignorant, careless editorial oversight at the Sun. Once again we have a lazy, prejudicial, hate-spreading smear article aimed at Merseyside, complete with inflaming title. Once again, MacKenzie shows wildly generalised and barely-informed contempt for the entire city of Liverpool. Once again, he has been burned for it.
The scale is different, but MacKenzie does not learn. If he does not learn, he does not change. The Sun continues its careless love of letting smears be printed on its pages. No matter who staffs it, it does not learn either. So it does not change either.
MacKenzie got away with outright sectarian prejudice last year when attacking Channel 4 News for appointing Muslim reporter Fatima Manji to cover the Nice Attack. He was following the childish logic that a Muslim was to blame for the attack, therefore all Muslims are to blame. Here, he argues that if a Scouser can become rich by becoming a drug dealer, most of them will do it the same way. (Everton FC have responded by at last joining Liverpool FC in banning the Sun from its grounds.)
Kelvin MacKenzie remains the prejudiced blot on British morality he has always been. The Sun remains the ritual abuse-of-journalism it has always been. Journalism is there to hold power to account on behalf of ordinary people. The Sun and MacKenzie are there to hold down ordinary people on behalf of power.
April 7, 2017
by Martin Odoni
Following on from what I wrote last night, and today’s alarming knee-jerk reaction of the US President Donald Trump to Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun; I am increasingly convinced that Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has been wrongly accused once more. I feel no personal sympathy for him, given some of the dreadful crimes his regime has committed over the years, but the practical reality is that the Tomahawk missile strikes on Syria are benefiting the likelier culprits.
Now I must stress that I am not being definitive here. Until a full investigation of the chemical attack has been completed, no one can say for sure who was the perpetrator. But the more I look at the details, the less convinced I am that Assad could have been behind it. Here is why; –
Both history and present circumstances suggest that a chemical attack by Assad makes little sense. As I mentioned yesterday, he was wrongly blamed for the chemical attack on Damascus in 2013, even though his forces had more or less retaken control of Eastern Ghouta by the time it happened. In reality, the attack was almost certainly the handiwork of the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of so-called ‘al-Qaeda’. But it is telling that, in getting the blame, Assad saw the strength of international opposition to military use of chemical agents. He must surely have realised then that he could not risk such a move in future.
Over the next couple of years, he went as far as scrapping his stockpile of chemical weapons, under political pressure from Russia and the USA – a task that was completed last year – and while it is possible he obtained new weapons since then, it does raise a substantial doubt as to whether the regime even has the capability for this sort of attack anymore.
By contrast, it is quite apparent that al-Nusra has a supply-line for chemical agents, most likely tapping the late Colonel Ghaddafi’s old stockpile in Libya. Just as telling, look at the timing of the Khan Sheikhoun attack; it happened just five days after the Trump administration publicly ruled out deposing the Assad regime.
Whether the whole incident was a theatrical set-up by the rebels, or a genuine case of an air-strike releasing chemicals by accident, I am as yet unsure. A British journalist in Syria called Tom Duggan seems fairly certain it is the latter (although the fact he appears to work for the paranoid 21st Century Wire says nothing for his credentials), but either way, when I add two and two, I find the number four to be distinctly al-Nusra-shaped. The weapons were probably theirs, not Assad’s.
As for the Tomahawk strikes on al-Shayrat Airbase, Trump has disproven once and for all the claims of his apologists that he would be ‘less warlike’ than Hillary Clinton. The destabilising effects of his reckless command have been two-fold; one, it has boosted the position of Daesh as it attempts to take Homs. Two, it has seriously endangered relations with Russia.
Meanwhile, Britain has yet again shown itself to be the spineless sycophant of US expansionism, expressing its usual unstinting support for heavy explosive American violence. Thankfully, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the man the media are always telling us is ‘insane’, has once again dared to be a rare insight on the world as it really is, pointing out how the missile strikes are liable only to make matters worse. With the Syrian media claiming that four children were killed by the missile strikes, it could well be argued that they have already done precisely that.
April 6, 2017
by Martin Odoni
McCarthyism remains alive and well, it would seem.
After the horrific chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, this week, the finger of blame has been pointed squarely at the regime of Bashar al-Assad. There was a similar attack in Damascus in August 2013 of course, and there was a very similar leap-to-conclusions in the public discourse in the weeks that followed.
Accusations against Assad then were reckless, irresponsible, and opportunistic. Accusations against Assad this week are similarly premature. I must stress that it is entirely possible that Assad is behind Tuesday’s attack, and I am certainly not trying to say he is not a brutal or oppressive leader. But there are reasons to be cautious before we assume this atrocity must be his handiwork.
Firstly, the chemical attack in 2013 did not establish a precedent for this behaviour from the Assad regime against its own population, as it does not appear to have been Assad’s doing. Lengthy investigations by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded by early-2016 that the Damascus attack was likely committed by one of the Radical Islamist factions opposing the regime in the Syrian Civil War* – probably al-Nusra.
Secondly, as the same investigation points out, it is quite evident that rebel factions in Syria have some kind of supply line, probably from Libya, for chemical agents, whereas, as best we can tell, Assad actually disposed of his stockpile of chemical weapons under pressure from the US and Russian Governments during 2015. It is not beyond the realm of possibility of course that Assad faked the disposal in some way, or obtained a new supply of chemical agents, but even so, there is a significant enough doubt over his guilt that we should at least wait until an investigation is carried out before we draw any conclusions.
Some public remarks the likes of US President Donald Trump and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have hurled around the world since the attack are not only short on evidence, they are mired in hypocrisy. While Trump sheds crocodile tears over the deaths of “innocent children, innocent babies, little babies,” he quietly suppresses the fact that he has repeatedly tried to block these babies from escaping from the war to, say, the United States of America with his prejudicial travel-bans. Apparently, these same babies he currently mourns for are people he also imagines constitute a serious terrorism threat. Trump also keeps skating over the matter of the US Air Force and its allies, at his instruction, killing over a thousand innocents in Syria and Iraq through the month of March, while other beloved ‘friends’ such as Saudi Arabia use weapons and aircraft provided by Britain and the USA to butcher the people of Yemen.
Somehow, all these atrocities count as ‘less severe’ than what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, and indeed, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, sees them as a good reason to socialise with the House of al-Saud. But hey, she refused to wear a head-scarf! That taught them a lesson, right?
As for ‘BoJob’ Johnson and his obnoxious claims that “all evidence suggests” Assad is behind the attack, I would be very interested to know precisely what evidence he has seen that others have not, as what is in the public domain at the moment is ambiguous. Jets that were apparently part of the Syrian Air Force carried out the attack that released the chemical agents, but as Russian diplomats have pointed out, it is just possible that there were chemical weapons in the buildings that were struck, and they may have been released by proximity to the explosions. (As Sarin is easily destroyed by combustion, there are reasons to question that, but the chemicals might still have been released without being caught in the eye of the explosions.)
Yes, Assad is a very obvious suspect, and it is too early to say he must be innocent. But it is also too early to say with snarling confidence that the attack was his doing. Given how confident we can be of who is committing some of the other crimes in the Middle East at the moment, the self-righteousness of the accusation makes it sound like a diversion more than a moral stand.
At the risk of saying, “I told you so!” I argued in the weeks after the Damascus attack that there were aspects of the story blaming Assad that did not add up; –
A) A ballistic rocket launch from a Government silo was detected on the morning of the attack, but it was about an hour-and-a-half later that the warheads struck. How could rockets require an hour-and-a-half just to reach Damascus from about seventy miles away? Even a car travels faster than that, and moving at that speed the missiles would not have been able to get off the ground.
B) Why did Assad wait until Eastern Ghouta, the area of Damascus that was targeted, had pretty much been brought back under Government control before dropping chemical weapons on it? Surely if he was prepared to use them, he would have deployed them earlier in the battle, while the rebels were well dug in there? Is it not likelier that rebel factions, realising that they were losing the territory, would use chemical weapons at the stage it happened as an act of desperation, instead of Assad risking wiping out his own troops with them?
C) The chemical used was a low-grade nerve agent known derisively as ‘Kitchen Sarin’. Why would Assad bother using ‘Kitchen Sarin’ when he had a confirmed supply of warheads armed with the more effective ‘Industrial Sarin’?
April 4, 2017
by Martin Odoni
There are a few periodicals out there that, you would have thought, should know better by now than to make noise about the Hillsborough Disaster. The most obvious candidate is of course The Sun (so-called) ‘newspaper’, whose crude and wilful smear in its notorious ‘The Truth‘ article four days after the tragedy remains possibly the all-time nadir of British journalism. But The Sun is not alone in treating Hillsborough with crass, ignorant and insensitive cruelty.
The Spectator, one of the great outlets for jeering, British-upper-class snobbery dressed up as pseudo-intellectualism, plumbed similar depths as late as 2004. In the aftermath of the brutal murder of Ken Bigley, Simon Heffer – with apparent extra remarks added in by the ineffable then-editor, Boris ‘BoJob’ Johnson – wrote a characteristically down-the-nose, prejudiced and unresearched article attacking Liverpool supporters for supposedly causing the Disaster.
Heffer and/or Johnson stated, with a startling degree of crass ignorance and posh-tonal impatience,
The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon… The police became a convenient scapegoat, and The Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident
The ignorance driving the assertions is most strongly flagged by, but by no means limited to, the description of “the deaths of more than 50.” While it is technically accurate to say that more than fifty people died in the Disaster, it downplays the proportion of the tragedy by half. One can be certain that if Heffer or Johnson were remotely as well-informed about Hillsborough as they were bluffing, they would instead have said either, “more than 90,” or, “almost 100”. As it stands, the reference to “more than 50” makes it sound like they are confusing hazy memories of the Valley Parade Fire of 1985.
In fairness to Johnson, he has publicly apologised several times for the article, although Heffer has remained noticeably tight-lipped. Even the publication of the Report Of The Hillsborough Independent Panel, which proved irrevocably that the version of events put forward in the article was completely false, has not drawn any noticeable words of contrition out of Heffer. The suspicion is that, because of his right wing prejudices, he feels that his words were still true ‘in the eyes of God’, so to speak, and that the bare physical facts have therefore got it wrong.
With that skeleton in the magazine’s insalubrious cupboard, it is unsurprising that, when The Spectator chooses to poke its upturned nose into Hillsborough-related matters, it is about as welcome as a tray of bacon sandwiches at a Bar Mitzvah. Therefore, it is one of the biggest wonders of the last week – and we are talking about a week in which Michael Fallon and Lord Howard threatened war against Spain, so the competition is fierce – that Roger Alton chose to write in The Spectator in defence of The Sun.
To be clear, Alton was certainly not defending The Sun’s coverage of the Disaster back in 1989. Instead he was criticising the decision of Liverpool Football Club back in February to ban the tabloid, and its reporters, from attending Anfield or the team’s training ground at Melwood, in much-delayed response to the journal’s Hillsborough coverage. Alton’s objection is a familiar-sounding one that many a journalist retreats into when he or his fellows get into trouble for writing irresponsibly.
Thanks to the timorousness of one of the world’s major football clubs, and the pusillanimity of the Premier League, a bitter little drama is being played out that could have savage implications for freedom of the press.
Ah, so we are back in ‘freedom-of-speech-means-freedom-to-lie-and-to-hatchet-someone’s-reputation-unduly-without-any-repercussions’ territory once again, are we? While acknowledging that The Sun’s coverage back in 1989 was outrageous, Alton argues that the ban is wrong, not least because it was,
coverage for which the paper and its editors have repeatedly apologised.
Now, this may come as a shock to Alton, but people all over the United Kingdom are well aware of the red-top’s apologies. The problem is not a lack of apologies, the problem is the lack of sincerity in them. As I argued a few years back, The Sun’s apologies can only be accepted under two conditions; –
Firstly, the apology has to take a form where the paper accepts full responsibility for what was published, rather than repeatedly apologising for supposedly ‘being misled’ by the police. That is not a real apology, it is a recital of the word sorry followed by a cynical blame-shift. Yes, the South Yorkshire Police Force undeniably lied and heavily distorted events in order to offload guilt onto the victims of its incompetence. But The Sun was happy to go along with the lies, because they suited the Thatcherite, right wing, anti-northern agenda of its owner and its then-editor. The Sun’s coverage was more malicious than gullible, and to date there has never been any acknowledgement of that from anyone connected with the paper.
Secondly, the apology has to be accompanied by a recognisable change of behaviour. In other words, if The Sun were ever to stop being a controversy-addicted, sexist, racist, voyeuristic, hard-right, stereotype-fuelling smear rag, well, maybe then people could accept that the baser instincts that led it to publish the notorious article were no longer being followed. But all the evidence points to the contrary. The Sun continues to smear and deride decent, honest people – just ask Jeremy Corbyn – it continues to vilify the most vulnerable people in the country, and it continues to be a yobbish, bombastic, jingoistic receptacle of xenophobia and racism, including against refugees. Nothing has changed in the way The Sun conducts itself, therefore the apologies will not be accepted.
Alton drifts onto some dangerously hyperbolic turf as he writes. He mentions,
[Liverpool’s] owner, John Henry, founder of the Boston-based Fenway Sports Group, was not involved. He is said to be ‘embarrassed’, as well he might be since Fenway also owns the Boston Globe, which makes hay whenever President Trump tries a similar stunt.
Irrespective of John Henry’s opinions, which are unlikely to be the best-informed in any event, this comparison is as intellectually-redundant as it is offensive and crass. To try and compare what Liverpool Football Club has decided to do to the behaviour of the current US President is to compare the common cold to malaria. Donald Trump‘s entirely fictitious cries of “FAKE NEWS!” whenever he gets criticised, no matter how fairly, and subsequent attempts to ban journalists who write unfavourably about him from his press conferences, are in a completely different realm from what Liverpool is doing. Liverpool has banned one newspaper for a measurably untrue, crude, vicious, and malignant hatchet job on its supporters, it is not blanket-banning any and all commentators on hearing the first whisper of criticism. Indeed, many would argue that Liverpool FC has been far, far too restrained in its treatment of The Sun. This ban, after all, took the better part of three whole decades after the crime to be imposed, and it applies to only one periodical. This is utterly different from Trump’s egomaniacal, knee-jerk refusal to speak to newpapers and TV channels by the news-stand-load whenever they say something he finds inconvenient.
Alton then drifts into off-colour remarks about the pressure group Total Eclipse Of The S*n, who are behind the advancing boycott, without ever getting to the nub of what he finds objectionable about it. He then makes a number of irrelevant points about the amount of money Liverpool FC receives from the ‘Murdoch media’, as though that gives the club a moral obligation to let The Sun onto its premises. (How like the right wing media to think that morality is measured in money, incidentally.) Alton also bemoans the failure of the FA Premier League to force Liverpool to back down, in the way that the National Football League in the USA forces its franchises to allow full access to the media. He does not pause to consider that, for one thing, the Premier League might agree with Liverpool’s decision, for another, the NFL does not enforce media access on principle but for financial advantage, or above all, that, as the clubs in the US are franchises in a more tightly-knit collective league structure, the NFL has more control over them than the FA or the Premier League can ever wield over their teams.
Alton then finishes on another moment of crass hyperbole by gently implying that Liverpool’s decision is comparable to Nazism, through a paraphrase of the famous Martin Niemoller quotation, when he writes,
[The smear campaign and cover-up seem] an ominous reason, now, 28 years later, to prevent one football reporter from doing his job. Who knows what could come next? First they come for the Sun…
Oh I see. So because The Sun has been banned from one football ground in the entire country, that means that a state police force now stands poised to crash through the front doors of all journalists connected with the tabloid, and march them off to concentration camps, before getting to work on all the other papers?
Is it even necessary to point out how ridiculous and over-the-top Alton’s analogies are? Given how quick the press can be to dish out stick, often for corrupt reasons, it can be astonishing how deep a journalist’s persecution complex can be, or how thin their skin can be. So The Sun has to steer clear of Anfield, therefore The Sun is now a victim? Oh, diddums! Say that to the survivors of Hillsborough. Liverpool FC’s decision does not mean that The Sun will no longer be allowed to keep publishing – not that I would waste any breath complaining about it if it did.
There is nothing illegal or immoral about a boycott of a newspaper, especially not one that has such a terrible history of hate-mongering as The Sun. For Alton to take the “What about the freedom of the press?” line here is contemptible. This is because one cannot defend The Sun while defending the freedom of the press. They are mutually exclusive positions. The Sun routinely abuses that freedom, and to an extent that would have been hard to imagine before the 1980’s; it constantly hurts the credibility of free press by making its definition inseparable from malicious lies. It degrades and devalues journalism, using it to spread hatred rather than the truth, and to advance the interests of the powerful, instead of to inform the powerless. One cannot defend any entity by defending those that mistreat and manipulate it. To defend the freedom of the press, one must condemn those who corrupt it; to do otherwise is as perverse and amoral as to try and defend the victims of child abuse by speaking up for its perpetrators. The Sun damages the freedom of the press, and it undermines the real purpose of having the press.
As for The Spectator, if it is any better than The Sun, it is only by (slight) virtue of its use of more sophisticated language. For Alton, Johnson, or Heffer, freedom-of-speech appears to mean no more than the right to reinforce their own prejudices, and the secondary right to draw others into the same lazy illusions. This is underlined by the aforementioned presumption and lack-of-research in 2004, and the whiny protests offered this week.
If ending such prejudices will require one day boycotting either The Sun or The Spectator to the point of bankruptcy, I would consider that a worthy price to pay.