Culture

Meet the Famous British Liberals Who Support Government Control of the Media

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I braced myself as I scrolled down to the list of names.

Who would break my already fractured old heart?

Who would I have to add to my already lengthy “You’re Dead To Me” list?

You see, over 200 British authors, actors, musicians and other bigwigs have signed the “Hacked Off” petition, “urging UK press owners to embrace the cross-party Royal Charter on press regulation.”

The English press is legendarily ruthless:

Most reporters ensconced in Florida’s “Tabloid Valley,” where the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabs were headquartered, were British ex-pats.

(See also Evelyn Waugh’s barely fictional satire Scoop.)

But in 2011, critics said, British journalism hit a new low, when reporters at Rupert Murdoch’s loathed (and now defunct) News of the World were charged with hacking into the cell phones of 9/11 victims’ families — and, not incidentally, those of some celebrities, too.

Now — led by hacking “victim” and (admittedly adorable) whoremonger Hugh Grant — some celebrities and other leftist power brokers are pushing back, with great success:

While celebrities and victims of hacking fronted the campaign for tighter regulation of the press, it has been the liberal and left-wing intelligentsia and media that have driven the crusade to curb the popular press. It was they who formed Hacked Off, used the hacking scandal to demand and get the Leveson Inquiry into the entire ‘culture, practice and ethics’ of the UK media, and wrote the report’s demands for statutory-backed regulation.

Now more than 200 prominent members of what are sometimes called the chattering classes have publicly signed up to the demand for the press to bend the knee to the Royal Charter. It would be difficult to overestimate the abandonment of liberty that represents. The Royal Charter deal, stitched up by all the main political parties in an infamous late-night meeting with Hacked Off, seeks to impose a regulator using the ancient anti-democratic instruments of the Crown, the royal prerogative and the Her Majesty’s Privy Council. (…)

It evokes grim shadows of the old system of Crown licensing of the press, started by Henry VIII in 1529 and expanded under successive monarchs, under which nothing could be published without official permission.’

Those who defied the Crown licensers could expect to be sent to the Tower or the gallows.

Never mind the 1500s:

Within living memory, plays could only be performed in London if they’d been approved by the Lord Chamberlain.

Naturally, that regime was pulled down in the late 1960s; it may surprise some to note how many of the names on the Hacked Off petition are “Swinging London” era artists who led, and benefited hugely from, the battle to abolish that and other restrictions on free speech.

That very surprise is what surprises me.

By now, doesn’t everyone know that many of the leftist Baby Boomers who led the 1960s and 1970s “revolution” were always totalitarian hypocrites?

Speaking of surprise, I was relieved to make it down the list of names without seeing one that left me disenchanted.

(I’m not enough of a fan to share Catherine Bennett’s distress that the list includes “no fewer than three Doctor Whos.”)

I’ve already given up on my former heroes like the Monty Python and Beyond the Fringe boys; sure enough, the surviving members of both troupes have declared their approval of government censorship of the press.

Salman Rushdie is one of the signatories, too.

(“How much tax-payer dosh was spent protecting HIS ‘freedom of speech’?” asked one commenter.)

So are JK Rowling, Maggie Smith, Richard Dawkins, Russell Brand, Tom Stoppard, Bob Geldof, Stephen Fry and Steve Coogan (above.)

When I got to the bottom of the list without seeing the name of anyone I still give a damn about, I literally let out a sigh of relief and slumped in my chair.

The rest of you may have to spend part of your weekend weeding your collection of books, records and DVDs, however.

Mike Hume sums it up perfectly:

Some 80 years ago, George Dangerfield wrote his famous history, The Strange Death of Liberal England. Today, it seems we are witnessing the strange suicide of liberal Britain, as those who like to think of themselves as free-thinking radicals and champions of human rights publicly declare their ‘weakening of the desire for liberty’. They have effectively signed a death warrant for liberal Britain by tossing away the most fundamental liberty of all, freedom of expression and of the press.

Remember their names, and the next time any of these illiberal liberals tries to claim that they are radicals, rebels or freedom fighters, let us remind the world that they are fully signed-up supporters of an unfree press by order of the Crown.

Related: “From the Nation That Brought You Liberal Fascism,” Ed Driscoll’s take on the British “Hacked Off” campaign.