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Well, it kinda looks like a gang…

The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh neatly articulates the Murdoch world view – the press must always be free for rich and powerful people to use as they see fit and oversight is wrong

I’ve always found the right-wing media’s approach to law and order to be uneven. To say the least. That used to mean that the Daily Mail could hammer home day after day that the law is the law and there must be no exceptions from rigorous prosecution. Except for people who use disproportionate violence (especially if protecting property).  Those laws don’t count.  Or corporate law-breaking which is a different matter. Or almost any motoring offence (illegal parking, getting caught by speed cameras) in which the real criminal is the enforcing body.  Apparently.

But it just got more uneven yet. Trevor Kavanagh is not perhaps a figure most on the left find themselves engaging with, but in fact they very much do. That is because the Sun’s Associate Editor is granted mythical status around Westminster.  Often he doesn’t even need to pronounce on a subject to influence it; politicians will preempt decisions based on what the long-time political editor could be expected to think. So no doubt about the power. And as we’ve come to know intimately, News International has almost military-like efficiency both in pursuing its commercial interests and influencing the public debate.  So very much organised.

But are they criminals? The reason for asking is that Kavanagh is today up in arms at the arrests of Sun journalists over possible illegal payments to the Police. And as I write ‘possible’ I find myself somewhat obliged to add ‘and as confirmed by the newspaper’s then-Editor Rebekah Wade on camera in Parliament more than six years ago’. (She sort of retracted, the police did nothing.)

Kavanagh suggests that the police operation is completely out of proportion. Ah, but is Trevor not Trevor of ‘the innocent have nothing to fear from the police’ Trevor? Trevor ‘if environmental campaigners are going to arouse suspicions they can hardly complain if…’ Trevor? Apparently not. His pals are being treated “like members of an organised crime gang”. That’s why the criminal question is important, because they are certainly like a gang in the lengths they have gone to to prevent any form of transparent investigation of their business, they are highly organised in pursuit of enormous profit and power and there is no question that there is some public interest issue at stake. If they’re found to have broken significant laws in this regard, what’s Kavanagh’s beef?

What seems to bother him most is the idea that the media might be part of democracy rather than its above-the-law commercial interpreter. Corrupting public life should not be questioned because of the ‘freedom of the press’. Not even looked at or considered: The Sun is the only body capable of being its judge and jury. Because it’s not just proportionality that seems to cause concern but whether there should be any form of oversight.  And because The Sun deserves to exist above any other consideration, apparently. He says:

“I think there’s no justification on the basis of what you and I know so far for any such precipitate and disastrous decision [i.e to close the Sun]. I think it would be a catastrophe for British media and newspapers worldwide and even possibly for the BBC if action which at this stage suggests no actual guilt should be regarded as grounds for closing newspapers.”

Is this because The Sun is too big to fail? Why should we morn The Sun? Other papers have closed down; what is it about The Sun that makes it in the national interest that it survives? And are we to take seriously the accumulated sense in this – which seems to be ‘you don’t have any reason to accuse us of anything so how dare you investigate and in any case it would be so bad for you if you do investigate just in case you catch us doing something which might force us to close down’. Is that really his position?

The Sun seemed unbothered at the treatment of Tommy Sheridan when he received similar treatment from the police. And the idea that if the BBC was under threat Kavanagh would be fighting its corner seems far fetched.

We do not have a free press in Britain. It is owned, not free. It is owned in the form of ideological cartels and distorts every aspect of UK life with very little balance (broadcast is different of course). The idea that a newspaper might be too big to fail is grotesque – they serve society, not the other way round. And the handwringing over proper scrutiny seems preposterous. Yes, journalists have always pushed the boundaries to break important stories, but I don’t remember many concluding that there are no boundaries or that there is no right for anyone but them to make any judgement on the breaking of boundaries.

The real problem is that the primary role of many in the media in relation to scrutiny of the media has been to ensure there is no proper scrutiny of the media. Because media must be ‘free’. And yet who is it that is really doing most to jeopardise the freedom of journalists – the police or the actions of media empires themselves? But then, since no-one is to be allowed to take any action against the empires, I guess we know Trevor’s answer.

Robin McAlpine