THE MEDIA this week have been full of Gordon Brown’s badly written letter of condolence to a bereaved mother after her soldier son was killed in Afghanistan and Brown’s inept and clumsy attempts to apologise. Poor handwriting and bad spelling do not make the letter necessarily insincere but they do suggest a lack of attention to detail where it is most needed and the woman’s sense of insult has justification.
But the driving force behind this story has been the Murdoch media empire; in Britain the story was first front-paged by the Sun on Monday and was the lead story on Sky News. This is a part of Murdoch’s war on Gordon Brown, which was declared during the Labour Party conference in September.
Rupert Murdoch was in very close cahoots with George Bush and Tony Blair as a driving force behind the illegal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. As such he shares responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of British troops, thousands of American troops and uncounted hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi civilians.
It’s a bit rich for him to point the finger at Gordon Brown. But he has no scruples and that’s the sort of thing he’s going to do all the time in the run-up to the coming election.
Murdoch’s real gripe with Brown at the moment is the signing and adoption of the European Union Lisbon Treaty. This is not because he can see the EU is undemocratic and anti-working class but because a European super-state could be a rival, politically and economically to his adopted homeland, the United States.
In the divisions and rivalries in the global ruling class nothing is sincere except insatiable greed and selfishness.
If either Murdoch or Brown really gave a damn about the lives of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan they would do whatever they could to bring them back home as quickly as possible.
On libel laws
TWO PRESSURE groups, English PEN and Index on Censorship are calling for a thorough reform of Britain’s libel laws, which they say restrict free speech and allow wealthy individuals and companies “to bully people who try to hold them to account”.
Only last month the giant Trafigura company tried to prevent the reporting of a debate in the House of Commons about a super-injunction it had imposed on the press to prevent disclosure of its dumping toxic waste off the coast of West Africa.
The public were only informed of this because trying to gag Parliament was a step too far and the whole story came out. But there are other super-injunctions in place prevented the revelations of other outrages and the nature of super-injunctions means that not even the existence of the injunction can be revealed.
The campaigners, following a year-long inquiry entitled Free speech is not for sale, say the libel laws need updating in relation to the internet, because internet service providers cannot be held responsible for the blogs they host.
The inquiry report said libel law “imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on free speech, sending a chilling effect through the publishing and journalism sectors in the UK.
“This effect now reaches around the world, because of so-called ‘libel tourism’, where foreign cases are heard in London, widely known as a ‘town named sue’.
“The law was designed to serve the rich and powerful, and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.”
It would be better to do away with libel laws altogether. Under capitalism they serve only the wealthy and powerful; cases are extremely expensive to either prosecute or defend and no legal aid is available to either party.
This is why just threatening a libel case against a writer or journal of limited means — regardless of the rights and wrongs of the case — is to threaten them with immediate bankruptcy. And this is why the imposition of an injunction is such an effective gag for the rich and powerful to silence criticism.
Libel laws give no protection to working class people, activists and campaigners, against lies and smears, vilification and demonisation because they cannot afford to use these laws.
Western “democracies” boast of freedom of the press and freedom of speech — but sometimes trying to exercise these “freedoms” is very expensive indeed.