Thursday, 18 February 2010

Victory For Free Speech

I'm not sure why it's taken four months to make the decision, but the PCC has finally rejected a complaint against Jan Moir's now notorious article regarding the sad death of Stephen Gately.

The article itself was published the day before Stephen's mum had to bury her own son, and was liberally sprinkled with homophobic innuendo; describing events leading up to his death as "sleazy" and "less than respectable" and "whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one".

Given the timing of the article it seemed that Moir's aim was along the lines of; 'here's a grieving mum, let's really lay the boot in for fun'. Not pleasant reading and the article received more than 25,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. Despite the poisonous nature of the column, however, I do agree with the PCC's ruling:
As a general point, the Commission considered that it should be slow to prevent columnists from expressing their views, however controversial they may be. The price of freedom of expression is that commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law)".
Iain Dale thinks the PCC has 'wimped out' I disagree, the PCC have ruled in favour of free speech, and rightly so. If Moir wants to reveal to the world that she's a deeply unpleasant woman then she should be allowed to do so. We don't have to read it or buy the paper.

Aside from the nastiness of Moir, there was another aspect of this whole unsavory incident that seems to be overlooked - the disturbing bullying nature of Stephen Fry's smug and sanctimonious twitter followers. Would the Press Complaints Commission really have received a record number of complaints, if not for this tweet by Stephen Fry:
I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane.
Some of the subsequent tweets by Stephen's followers, attacking Moir, were clearly competing with her for the 'most offensive comment that could be made' award. So much so, you can almost hear the screeching of tyres as Fry seems to make an embarrassed hasty retreat:
I feel sorry for her because I know just what it is like to make a monumental ass of oneself and how hard it is to find the road back. I know all too well what it is like to be inebriated, as Disraeli put it, by the exuberance of my own verbosity.
And it's not been the only time such an incident has occurred, as one twitter user found out when he had the temerity to say that Fry was boring, which led to him being viciously attacked by hundreds of followers, including Alan Davies.

Free speech is only a crime on one side of the political fence it seems. Moir clearly intended to offend, but she has every right to do so. There was no need for the involvement of the PCC - the best punishment has already been imposed; she is now tarnished, forever known as the woman that wrote that article.

Ultimately, the only reputation Moir destroyed was not Gately's but her own.

No comments:

Post a Comment