Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday rant : defame me...please

          Britain's Justice Minister Jack Straw, it appears, has given into repeated calls from various groups calling for reform of Britain's libel laws, and specifically so-called tourism libel  Straw says a panel will  "consider whether the law of libel, including the law relating to libel tourism, in England and Wales needs reform, and if so to make recommendations as to solutions".
      Omninously, he says this study will be conducted by " academics, lawyers and newspaper editors". So that's OK then. Or is it ?
         No 'man in the street" or errant vicar discovered to have had a bit on the side with his life splashed on the pages of The Sun on this panel ?.
         What about the casual sex partner of singer George Michael who was pounced upon by the tabloids after he emerged from the bushes on Hampstead Heath, described variously as "sleazy" "fat" "pudgy" "cheaply dressed" etc etc.( a possible description of many a newspaper editor tSS has encountered). His pictures and accompanying sordid descriptions even ended up in Aussie glossies and Spanish celeb mags while Michael went on to explain himself on Michael Parkinson's chat show to raptuous applause.
        Even worse, the schizoid world of the gay publishing printed the following :
"Meanwhile his (George Michael's) new buddy K***** crept from the undergrowth looking sheepish and rushed to his Ford Transit van. As he opened the door a grubby, stained mattress was clearly visible in the back.

We later tracked him to his home 60 miles away—a squalid flat in Brighton, East Sussex.
Looking gross and dishevelled, K***** answered the door naked — pulling on grimy shorts as he invited us in."
   The site GAYTWTOGETHER describes itself as "interesting articles, great pictures and cool stuff for and about gay relationships. Whether you’re "living together" or "dating", "not quite sure yet" or "in a long term relationship", it's all about romance, love and being GAYTWOGETHER".
Well yeh, sure. No casual sex or even solidarity for these prudes.
          Surely this bloke, who for all the idiotic descriptions looks like just about every other person in the street, minus a few gold records and the latest Mercedes, deserves a place on this panel of distinguished experts. The list of mere mortals who could advise this panel could go on forever-the thousands who are routinely defamed and libeled in the media on a daily basis just because they can be and because they have no recourse.
       The gorgeous Carla Bruni-Sarkozy writing in The Guardian in defence of her husband the French President Nicolas Sarkozy  (who hardly needed such defence) makes a valid point in quoting the great French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais:

"Slander, sir? You scarcely know the half of it: I have seen the most honest of men almost brought to their knees by it ... Who the devil will resist it?"

Unfortunately you have to be married to a French president to get yourself a page in the Guardian when your feelings have been hurt.

         Whilst Straw's announcement is receiving plaudits from the very worthy The Libel Reform Campaign which includes such notables as The World's Greatest Magazine, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, writer Monica Ali, former Poet Laurete Sir Andrew Motion (?) and a variety of Guardian and Independent type editors and journalists, why is no ordinary victim of libel ( like Michael's Hampstead Heath friend) included in their campaign ?.

      The Libel Reform website carries worthy tales of major investigations being stalled by threats of libel but what about that other body of people, you know the majority : the common man/woman who are routinely slaughtered in print in daily tabloids and have no recourse except perhaps a letter to the "self regulated"  Press Complaints Commission ?. ( forget the Australian version-it consists of 3 people and a pet budgie)

 The Australian businessman Joseph Gutnick won the very first internet libel case when he sued the Dow Jones and Company (Dow). (it's well documented here ironically by the Murdoch University). Gutnick claimed that the Dow article could be read worldwide via the web and his main complaint was that it included a photograph of him with a tax evader and gave the impression that he (wrongly) aided that man in his schemes. Gutnick won handsomely and set a precedent which we are now seeing used to such great effect in the UK. But Gutnick is mega-rich.
      NSW  has just reformed it's libel laws to bring them in-line with the rest of the country which are still a dog's breakfast-but importantly again, only accessible for the rich. It's capped the top payout at $250,000 but the litigant must first go through one court to prove their case, and then a second with a jury to decide damages, which as the late and very rich stockbroker Rene Rivkin (pictured left) found when he sued a newsaper for alleging he had 'gay liasons' with shady characters. He won, but was awarded $1 in damages.
         What Straw has done-just as former Labor premier of NSW Bob Carr (the best premier the Tories never had) did, is cave into a cabal of newspaper editors who continually claim "freedom of the press ", aided by  the normally sane UK's Press Gazette  (emails to the Press Gazette and The Libel Reform Campaign as to why, in their campaigns, they don't also call for libel laws to be made accessible to the great unwashed masses, go unanswered.)
        Ever since a Manchester newspaper editor discover in the 1890's that 'sex sells', along with sensationalism and bugger the affects upon any hapless soul subject to their treatment, any libel reforms will bring no joy for those like the bunch of schoolkids whose school photo was plastered across a News Ltd tabloid front page when it was discovered their school had rated the lowest in academic scoring in the state, which earned them the headline " OUR DUMBEST KIDS ?.
       Unless Straw's panel include reforms that allow access to legal aid for defamed plebs, they will amount to nought.

# Disclosure : tSS did once sue the wondrous News of The World many years ago over a case of  mistaken identity and was handsomely rewarded with enough filthy lucre to purchase a gleaming new Mini and take a holiday (with friend) in Portugal.
### And mistakes in the Social Shuttle will always be corrected with a grovelling apology but blamed on our sub-editor Mildred Pierce. (well that's what everyone else does !)
                                                         our once treasured gift from Rupert Murdoch

## Fact : Jack Straw's increased police powers and so-called "terrorism prevention"measures earned the praise of Margaret Thatcher and he has vetoed publication of government documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Straw also voted to invade know, the country that had never invaded Britain. (Lancet Iraqi death estimates :500 people per day, or 2.5% of Iraq's population )