Kevin Myers: Be afraid of what passes for news in the dark depths of cyberspace
The unofficial media are now a methane-filled swamp, infested by bloodthirsty cannibals
THE Leveson Report on the media in Britain is about as relevant as some 15th Century abbot solemnly warning his monks in the scriptorium not to quill any heretical thoughts on their parchments, while Herr Gutenberg's presses broadcast the news. Yes, the medium really is the message: more people probably learned about Leveson on the internet than they did in newspapers. Indeed, the very term 'media' no longer has any real meaning, when almost everyone is both a participant and a consumer in what was until recently a controlled market place, in which a small group (us) sold and a large group (you) bought news and comment, like any other commodity.
But now the walls of the city are broken, and everyone can trade in an information market place that has absolutely no rules. And as the suicides of cyber-bullied teenagers confirm, almost anything can be said in the vicious and depraved Gomorrah of the internet. In as much as it is possible to describe patterns in this abominable world, two clear groups are both the primary censors and the activists.
They are the powerful, whose mastery of technology can warn them of their interests being threatened, and thus enables them to take pre-emptive action. And there are the incandescent, hate-filled PC liberal-left, whose orchestrated rants largely set the agenda for the web-mob that roams cyberspace.
Wikipedia is one obvious arena where the rich are clearly able to wield their power. For example, important figures in both the New York stock market and the Israeli defence industry have almost no Wiki-entries: their homes, their family members, their personal history remain secret. But up until a couple of years ago, the Wikipedia entry on me, presumably posted by a disgruntled Provo, included a criminal libel – namely that I used to rape little boys in Belfast, where I was operating as a British agent, and with my crimes being covered up by MI5. The entry also included helpful details about where I lived. After I protested, Wikipedia removed the criminal libels, but insisted that it had a right to disclose my address. Try getting the home address of a Wall Street banker – go on, just try.
Serious injustices perpetrated by the Irish media – and there were some – resulted more from stupidity than the criminal abuses that led to the Leveson Inquiry in Britain. Yet we have a twin-level process of press ombudsman and press council to regulate the traditional media, while the unofficial media are now a methane-filled swamp, infested by rabid vampires and bloodthirsty cannibals.
A press ombudsman in such circumstances is rather like having a human rights' commission outside the Gestapo's Berlin HQ on Niederkirchneer Strasse in 1944, in which kindly old vegetarian Quakers investigate parking fines. Moreover, most "transgressions" in the Irish media are largely subjective, and are, therefore, based on perceptions of fairness and balance.
Newspapers in Ireland face limitations that simply do not exist in Britain. Our libel laws kill more stories than you could possibly believe; and far from having a whistle-blowers' charter, we actually have draconian laws against gardai passing information to journalists. The grotesque absurdity of this has been highlighted by the decision of Clare Daly TD to reveal the names of celebrities for whom senior garda officers have removed penalty points, presumably disclosed to her by whistleblowing gardai.
Politicians have thus created an information monopoly for themselves, by making it illegal for journalists to do what they themselves may lawfully do. This, of course, is the very same political class that has done such a splendid job in protecting its pensions, even as it has raided private pension funds to finance the current account from which their own pensions come.
Regulation of the print media is now almost an irrelevance. Few people under the age of 35 read a newspaper, and if this trend continues, soon there might be nothing to regulate or reprove. Further interference can only damage a newspaper industry that has been a cornerstone of freedom. And if that industry perishes, we shall soon know the meaning of totalitarianism, as the evils of anonymous twitterdom triumph.
Furious torch-lit marches on fresh and instantly forgettable issues will each day go stomping down the dark streets of the internet. The fascism of tomorrow will not be sited in Government Buildings, but in the brickless chancelleries of iCloud. Beauty and conformity will be the watchwords of this Brave New Reich of pitiless ephemera, where what is beautiful one day might well be ugliness the next, and what was dogma at sunrise will be heresy by dusk.
On this sunless, newspaperless dawn, it will be not so much a question of Leveson, as of Leveswho?