The UK’s Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has for the first time ruled against the publication in a journalistic pseudo-blog of unsubstantiated claims.
“There is plenty of room for robust opinions, views and commentary, but statements of fact must still be substantiated,” says PCC director Stephen Abell.
In December of last year, Spectator columnist and one-time favourite for the editorship of the Independent Rod Liddle claimed in his blog that…
“The overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community. Of course, in return, we have rap music, goat curry and a far more vibrant and diverse understanding of cultures which were once alien to us. For which, many thanks.”
How generous of the man who once quipped that he couldn’t smoke at Auschwitz to show such appreciation for the colourful culture of his darker-skinned brothers. A more considered reaction to Liddle might be: “What a cunt!”.
No evidence was provided to back up the sweeping assertion quoted above, and following a formal complaint from reader Oli Bird the Spectator has only been able to show that some violent crime is down to young men of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity. Bears, woods, pope, catholic, etc.,…
In its defence the Spectator claimed that allowing critical comments on blog posts is enough to keep within the terms of the PCC code. And Liddle feels that “…a blog is different because it has to be a conversation, otherwise there’s no point in having a blog.”. Wrong on both counts.
A conversation is a spoken dialogue between individuals, who are ideally located in the same space, and can thus react to body language and beat the crap out each other if they so desire. That rules out even the rumbustious House of Commons, where members of opposing parties are forbidden from stepping within a sword’s length of each other across the chamber. People tend to be more respectful in conversational settings than in online and parliamentary debates.
In any case, we are not talking here about proper blogs, but rather online journalism which is fully edited and ‘legalled’ by professional journalists and corporate lawyers.
Lord preserve us from self-styled ‘iconoclasts’.