Monday, 13 April 2009

Guest informant

Seeing as the debate over the 'email affair' is going on all over the blogosphere, can we have a mini-debate on one particular aspect of it? To what extent was it justified for the mainstream media to report the content of the 'smears' against prominent Tories in such graphic detail?

It could be argued that without knowing all the details we might have accepted the 'bit of harmless fun' defence, and that it's the detail - in particularly the snide comments about the mental health of someone's wife - that make it all so profoundly unpleasant. And yet, those allegations are now in the public domain, thanks to the newspapers. Yes, they would have no doubt been all over the blogosphere anyway, but that could be used as an excuse to print virtually anything these days.

I assume the newspapers will have consulted their lawyers very carefully, and provided they include phrases such as 'entirely without foundation' or 'totally denied' then they're in the clear. But how many people will think, 'no smoke without fire'? Has the damage now been done? If you were one of the politicians mentioned in the story, would you rather they had, or hadn't, reported it in the way that they did? Couldn't they, for example, have given a basic outline without naming the individuals involved? (As they seem, somewhat mysteriously, to have done for just one of the four stories, which seems to me to be the one genuinely worthy of reporting, if it can at all be substantiated. And that's obviously a big if.)

Going to be absolutely ruthless in editing comments by the way. I'm pretty sure I know what you all think of Messrs Draper and McBride, and there are plenty of other sites where you can continue to express those views to your hearts' content. I'm asking one question: should the press have repeated the 'smears'? Yes or no?


Remember Remember said...

Yes they should have reported them. Hiding stuff is the m.o. of sick governance.

Hughes Views said...

No it shouldn't but it was inevitable that it would. Britain has a gutter press desperate to cling on to its dwindling circulation.

One of my bellwethers for this sort of stuff is "has it made it onto French news sites" (because French is the only other European language I can even pretend to understand and I believe their press to be rather more serious-minded and less personality-obsessed than ours). If yes the story has "legs" and may hang around for a while.

At present I can find stuff there about Bob Quick's "méga-bourde", the G20 protest death and ministers' expense claims but nothing about this story.

Not a foolproof method but it's been fairly reliable in the past...

yellowbelly said...


John said...

should the press have repeated the 'smears'? Yes or no?

Err, they haven't. The NOTW, the Times and the bloggers have made clear that we've only been given a taster of the tamest of the smears in order to show exactly what this is all about and why it's so reprehensible.

There were far more sickening smears in the e-mails that the press nor Paul Staines could even hint at without being sued to oblivion.

That's why the Coffee House have pointed out that the fact that the majority of the smears were so bad as to be unprintable, has actually worked in Damien McBride's favour as almost a damage limitation exercise - because no-one will know just how bad and how sickening a smear campaign he was really planning to run.

Kerry said...

"méga-bourde"? What a great phrase.

Anonymous said...

One might as well ask, 'Should the tide have come in at Brighton yesterday'.
The MSM will print whatever sells their papers and fits their political stance.
I think that on the whole it was good that we got some indication of some of the false allegations that these emails contained.
Too much detail would just have been prurient, too little would just leave people asking questions.
Perhaps in this respect, a lack of detail and hence less shock value, things have gone No 10's way, although the fallout over the next few weeks will be harder to contain.

Bristol Dave said...

Yes, they should have been printed, and as John pointed out, the worst of them haven't. It's important to get a sense of perspective and by printing the tamest ones, and pointing out that they're the tamest, the press are doing the right thing.

If the press were prevented from printing this it'd be like living in Communist Russia/China. I don't think it's too much of a problem for the MPs affected, after all they are being reported as the victims in this case.