Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Free Speech for the Dumb!

On the way to work this morning I was listening to Metallica’s cover of Discharge’s ‘Free Speech for the Dumb’ which, given the current hacking allegations made against the News of the World, seems particularly serendipitous. Let’s take a look at the lyrics:

‘Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free fucking speech

Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free speech, free speech for the dumb
Free fucking speech.’

Salient and to the point. Now, it could just be a clever play on words regarding selective mutism, but for the purposes of making a point against shit journalism let’s instead consider that dumb in this context means ‘morons’. Free speech for the dumb could in many ways be the News of the Worlds theme tune, what with three million muppets tuning in every Sunday for its shallow celebrity based gossip, fake sheikh stings and wanky football articles attempting to vindicate themselves as ‘news’. But hey, that’s the rub with free speech. Write about anything or anybody you like, without any basis of fact or knowledge, advocate your right to the freedom of opinion and expression without interference, and let the people that want to read such bobbins buy the paper. Three million people? That’s quite a few morons…

Still, I’m guessing the News of the World also presume such rights and freedoms of the press allow for using any means to get a story, hence the low of paparazzi laying in the gutters to get the best beaver shot or, shock horror, being completely morally repugnant and hacking the phone of Milly Dowler. Sure, former editors and News International are denying all knowledge crying ‘it wasn’t me’ and will likely cough up the obligatory scapegoats, but the real problem lies at the heart of the current practice and mechanisms of the organisation. If fairly reproachable methods to get a story already exist, are frequently used and are encouraged within the system, it’s unlikely anyone would bat an eyelid at the suggestion of using phone-tapping as an acceptable means of acquiring and generating ‘news’. News International and the editors in question may not have sanctioned or even knew about any hacking taking place, but they are indirectly responsible for breeding an environment that generates factoids and encourages free speech for the dumb devoid of journalistic integrity that would allow for such practice to occur in the first place.

So, will News International amend their current methods and act with greater integrity? Fuck no. With the Master of Puppets in control, it’s likely the abuse of free speech will continue to mangle the fabric of reality. Is censorship an alternative option? Alas, it’s not a necessary, necessary evil and encroaches far too much on essential civil liberties that would also be open to abuse. We can’t always just shut-up people we don’t agree with. What is required, perhaps, is a half-way house between the two mutually opposed concepts; tougher regulations on the press articulating the boundaries of acceptability, both in the practices applied to news-gathering and the dissemination of falsehoods, where the necessary hung, drawn and quartering are applied to any twonk that breaks these central tenets. Pipe-dream? Pretty much, especially with David Cameron’s frequent bumming of Rupert Murdoch (so what if it’s not true – let’s Fight Fire with Fire)!

The best we’ll probably get is the BBC doing their best to undermine Murdoch’s media empire and a few good eggs doing their best to scupper Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB until the deal is reviewed by the Competitions commission, like this place:

Until then, the concept of freedom of speech will continue to be bastardised and seen as overrated and harmful by its detractors. Let’s hope at the very least that the current hacking allegations allow for a large proportion of the three million readers of the News of the World to finally wake up and read Viz instead…

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