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Mark Borkowski

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Leveson, Lies and the Twitter Liberation Front

Posted: 03/12/2012 23:00

Last week's Question Time gave Patrick McLoughlin and Chris Bryant the perfect opportunity to engage in a bit of a political ping-pong. Whilst the terrible twosome squabbled over who-did-what-first in the light of the Leveson Inquiry, my eyes were fixed firmly on a more unlikely character: Charlotte Church.

With big names like Neil Wallis and Simon Jenkins on the programme, you'd be forgiven for thinking that she was invited as fodder, a bit like Nigel Farage; a counter-perspective with comedy value. But you'd be wrong.

Charlotte Church, perhaps more than any other celebrity involved in the Leveson proceedings, has reinvented herself through the media on several occasions. With the help of the press, Church has managed to transform herself from opera princess, to rock'n'roll wild-child-cum-chat-show-host, and now, it seems, to political pundit.

As the all-star cast battled it out over the future of press policy post-Leveson, Church offered up Twitter as the new, ethical, democratic media ideal - likening it to the 19th Century utilitarian notion of Freedom of Press. Although she is of course broadly correct, in that media such as Twitter can allow anyone who wishes to post their own views - I wonder - given her reaction to the way that she was treated by the printed press, how she would feel if she were on top of the bonfire laid out for Lord McAlpine earlier this month.

Whatever our grievances with the misconduct of a select few in the media, we should be far more wary of the power of the crowd. After all, wasn't it the public that gobbled up these gossip column inches in the first place? If people don't buy it, the press won't print it.

The media may be corporate, but it's held up to the scrutiny of the law in the way that social media isn't at the moment. There'll always be institutions and individuals who break the law. Our own police break the law. When Bryant cited Hillsborough as an example of press demonization, he conveniently forgot that it was the local police force that created this narrative in the first place - and it was the press who ousted this misconduct years later.

Be careful what you wish for: in a world in which we are increasingly guilty-until-proven-innocent, it doesn't seem wise to give the baying crowd the power of both judge and jury.

 
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