The journal’s Leader this week is quite staggering in its stupidity:
It is good to see the Guardian suddenly rediscover its interest in the sanctity of a free press […] It did not show any particular alarm when Rupert Murdoch’s journalists were hauled out of bed at 6a.m. and had their computers confiscated while police tried to identify their sources. But when the Guardian is visited by a civil servant to discuss its possession of secret material concerning British and American intelligence and the partner of one of its journalists is questioned and then released at Heathrow airport, it reacts as if it is the victim of a constitutional outrage.
I suggest a plausible possible difference might be that where Sun journalists are accused of illegally tapped phones of private individuals in order to fuel the world of celebrity gossip, Guardian journalists are sifting through leaked documents which they received and which pertain to important political issues. Is The Spectator really incapable of grasping this difference? Or would it prefer to pretend that the notion of ‘public interest’ is non-existent, and this false equivalency can somehow be pulled off?
But they proceed to dig even deeper:
The more we learn about the detention of David Miranda, partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, the more reasonable the government’s actions appear. Miranda was not apprehended simply because of his relationship with Greenwald, as originally suggested. He was part of a professional operation leaking classified information which betrayed British and American national security.
Let’s have this on the record: The Spectator believes that those facilitating the leaking of state secrets through journalistic institutions ought to be detained under terrorist legislation. And it’s little surprise, given their level of trust in government:
Britain is engaged in a fight against terrorism — a fight that we are winning, thanks to the diligence and flair of our security services. They occupy the difficult territory that lies between freedom and liberty: the British government has to strike a balance between the two. It is one of the jobs of ministers to decide which details ought to be in the public domain, and which ought to be kept secret so that we can better intercept terrorists. Over recent years it has been decided by sections of the media that it is in fact their role, not that of elected, accountable officials, to perform this task.
Is this the voice of people in the business of journalism, or has The Spectator’s offices been taken over by the Home Office’s PR department? What happened to scepticism about the state’s yearning for ever more power? When did journalism cease to be about offering a counterweight to such dangerous forces?
And to cap it all off, a belief-defying claim and a deceptive quote:
it is not quite clear that the Guardian is acting in the national interest — and Greenwald certainly speaks as if he is waging a kind of information jihad against the British government. ‘I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents,’ he declared after his partner was detained.
The belief defying-claim is the suggestion that the NSA-related reporting has not been in the national interest. How, exactly, is it not good that as citizens we now know far more about the secretive and extensive operations of the US government, and Britain’s relations to such programmes which are ripe for abuse? If The Spectator had it their way, we’d make democratic choices like patients picking medical treatments whilst wholly ignorant of their conditions. And their entire argument is based on the unproven claim that The Guardian‘s reporting has jeopardised security. As I argued yesterday, there’s good reason to think that even if that was true, it wouldn’t be sufficient to justify restricting reporting. But the fact no evidence is even provided for it only makes their case the more laughable.
The Greenwald quote they cite was taken from a Reuters interview that has been widely established to be misleading. Ezra cleared things up the other day:
Greenwald’s point seems to have been that he was determined not to be scared off by intimidation. Greenwald and the Guardian have already been publishing documents outlining surveillance programs in Britain, and Greenwald has long declared his intention to continue publishing documents. By doing so, Greenwald isn’t taking “vengeance.” He’s just doing his job.