Ignore the Mail’s distortions, here’s what Goldsmith actually said

The Daily Mail was in full ‘outraged’ mode today over Zac Goldsmith's comments to the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions yesterday, reports Shamik Das.


The Daily Mail was in full ‘outraged’ mode today over Zac Goldsmith’s comments to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions yesterday, in which he described as a “non-argument” the claim papers should be allowed to do as they please because it’s the only way their “business can stay afloat”, adding “no one said that Auschwitz should have been kept open because it created jobs”.

That’s right, the paper that once published an article headlined “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” kicking up a fuss over a Tory MP’s “slur on the press” for “likening newspapers to Nazi death camps”. As their favourite far right columnist might say, you couldn’t make it up.

But back to Goldsmith’s comments, and, well, watch them in context and make your own mind up:

And in case you didn’t catch it, here is a transcript of the key exchanges:

Lord Black: “Do you think that when a court, when anyone who’s taking a judgement about the public interest, whether it be the court, the Information Commissioner, the Press Complaints Commission, that they needed to take account of the commmercial viability of newspapers?”

Steve Coogan: “Absolutely not.”

Max Mosley: “Not when it involves the breach of somebody’s privacy because what you’re really doing there is taking something that belongs to somebody and selling it effectively for the benefit of a newspaper and that’s what it really comes down to. Somebody’s privacy is their personal property, it is deeply precious to them and to sacrifice that in order to keep a newspaper going cannot be right.”

Zac Goldsmith: “Plurality is obviously really important, I don’t think anyone would doubt that but if the only way a business can stay afloat is by engaging in immoral or unethical behaviour then that business should either change its model or go out of business, no one said that Auschwitz should have been kept open because it created jobs, this is just a non-argument in my view.”

GB: “To be fair I don’t think I was even trying to begin to make an argument on those lines…”

SC: “I think it’s Paul Dacre who put this argument also in one of the seminars at Leveson. It’s specious, the notion that, by that notion he’s trying to associate basic commercial viability with somehow pertaining to the public interest will justify any kind of abuse of the power of the tabloids like bribery or any kind of falsity if it helps make the newspapers more commercial, that would somehow justify…

“The other point to make is that any kind of regulations imposed would be across the board, so, his market share wouldn’t be any different, it would still be a level playing field, those are impositions everyone would be subject to, so he would just have to, someone like Paul Dacre and the Daily Mail would have to come up with a different business model.

“I also take issue with the idea that, were he not to include stories in his newspapers about what people got up to in their bedrooms, people would stop buying the newspaper, I think that’s nonsense, there’s plenty of people in England who are curious about asylum seekers and house prices that would carry on buying the Daily Mail, without the tawdry dirt that he likes to include.”

Not quite how the Daily Mail spun it eh?! Still, you can understand why they’d want the story to be about an out of context, supposed Nazi “slur” on the press, rather than Goldsmith’s (and Coogan’s) point that, if the only way a paper can survive is by invading privacy, ruining lives and breaking the law, it doesn’t deserve to survive at all, that the argument “well, they provide all these jobs init?” is no argument at all.

As Conor Pope wrote at the time of the closure of the News of the World:

“In my mind this is a good thing. Anger has been directed at NewsInt for the fact so many innocent people, be they journos, secretaries or designers, have lost their job due to the demise of the paper. This, of course, makes sense. There is no joy to be found in gloating in someone’s joblessness. Unfortunately, there is a ‘but’ here.

“Because, although it is sad that those people have lost their jobs, when it really comes down to it, it was us who called for the advertising boycott that pushed it over the edge and I am very, very glad that the News of the World will no longer exist. The British media is better for it. It sends a huge message that we won’t put up with what has come to pass as journalism…

“In the end, these people worked for the News of the World. It’s been public knowledge for years that phone-hacking had happened there and I’ll bet a hell of a lot of people who worked there knew already what we only discovered this week. These people decided to work there, no doubt aided by the fact it was a very successful newspaper. But frankly, after what has happened there, it doesn’t deserve to exist anymore.

A friend one told me he that the water around an iceberg would have to be colder than the iceberg itself or it would melt. The culture of illegal activity had to be supported by many more around it who maybe had nothing to do with it. For example, today’s edition carries not a single mention of phonehacking. Seriously.

“The people who work there now, although hard done by, did not feel it newsworthy to have a single mention of not only the reason the paper no longer exists, but the biggest story of the week.”

Doubtless there would be even fewer tears shed at the demise of the Mail.

See also:

A three step guide to writing a Simon Heffer columnAlex Hern, November 8th 2011

Sunday Times Editor: Newspapers take the PCC “very seriously” – Really???Shamik Das, November 1st 2011

Coogan: “If the Daily Mail went to the wall tomorrow I’d be delighted”Shamik Das, October 13th 2011

Look Left – The week the press were finally reined inShamik Das, July 9th 2011

The tabloid press have the same attitude to the law as a bunch of feral muggersMax Mosley, May 16th 2011

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