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Press Freedom?

There’s been much talk about it recently. What with the super injunctions, Twitter and all that.

Yesterday Max Mosley failed in his bid to have the press inform people in advance that they were about to publish a story about them in order that the subject of the story could then seek a super injunction.

I tend not to read articles which relate to peoples private lives. Whatever Max Mosley or a footballer, be it Ryan Giggs or whoever wants to do in their private lives and it’s with another consenting adult or adults, then it’s none of my or anyone else’s business.

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the ‘public interest’ line. Just why should the sex lives of well known figures be of any interest at all, except perhaps as in the Profumo case in the 60s, national security is at stake?

On the other hand, why should the rich and famous have a veto on what is published about them?

In that respect the decision against Mosley was correct, and as has been seen, super injunctions can’t stop people publishing tittle tattle on Twitter anyway.

Perhaps the answer to all this lies in the proposal of a prominent 20th century British politician who said:

As for controversy in the press, I would suggest a completely free press subject to one new condition; any individual or institution – including the government – which was attacked in a newspaper, should be given, by law, the right to equal space in that paper for reply. This would in most cases reduce time-wasting and de­structive controversy in the press to a minimum, as few newspaper owners would care very often to open their columns for their victims to say anything they liked in reply. In the case of an able and open-minded proprietor, who felt capable of coping with, and enjoying, such a situation, it might lead to much brighter news­papers; but on the whole it would tend to squeeze the nonsense, unfairness, and untruth out of the press very quickly.

Seems fair enough?

Who do you think said this?

Did the Trains Really Run on Time?

In the dying embers of his wonderful blog, my friend Alastair has a piece about Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism. Mosley was the British equivalent of Hitler and Mussolini and had widespread support. At one stage he held the biggest ever indoor meeting in the world at Earls Court in London. His populist themes went down well in the hungry 30’s, promising as he seemed to, improved conditions for workers and of course, the stock in trade of potential dictators, he said he’d sort out the jews and repatriate any immigrants. He was scornful of democracy and adopted the phrase ‘Europe a Nation’, seeming to envisage a union of nations where citizens were controlled and manipulated by a myriad of rules and regulations. Thank goodness that didn’t happen eh?

Oswald and Max Mosley

Max and Oswald Mosley. ‘Dad I’d like to keep my politics private but do you know someone who might beat a chap up for money?’

Alastair had posted the article (and I had posted the quiz below) because Mosley’s son Max (who is something to do with motor racing……I know or care not what) had successfully sued the News of the World not for defamation but invasion of privacy. The ‘newspaper’ ran a story about Mosley ( 68 ) being involved in orgies with a Nazi theme.

It set me thinking on the whole totalitarian vista. I may not be the most knowledgeable student of politics but I have always maintained an interest. I long ago came to the conclusion that you couldn’t really put a cigarette paper between communism and fascism. Both find breeding grounds in the same sort of economic conditions and claim an all for one one for all creed, both promise a better lot for the working man and both have a raft of populist proposals and plans which appeal to the human psyche. Easy answers for extremely complicated issues. The reality of course is somewhat different. The one thing the working man is assured of under communism or fascism is more work and often a uniform and a gun to go with it. That and the alienation/demonisation/extermination of certain groups.

Perhaps one of the most popular misconceptions about fascism is that under Mussolini ‘the trains ran on time’. The excerpt below is from snopes.com

hitler mussolini

‘That’s the train now I think’

‘The best ways to gain the support of the people you want to lead is to do something of benefit to them. Failing that, the next best thing is to convince them that you have done something of benefit to them, even though you really haven’t. So it was with Benito Mussolini and the Italian railway system.

After the “march on Rome” (which was itself a myth of fascist propaganda) on 28 October 1922 that resulted in King Vittorio Emanuele’s appointment of Benito Mussolini as prime minister and the accession to power of the fascists in Italy, Mussolini needed to convince the people of Italy that fascism was indeed a system that worked to their benefit. Thus was born the myth of fascist efficiency, with the train as its symbol. The word was spread that Mussolini had turned the dilapidated Italian railway system into one that was the envy of all Europe, featuring trains that were both dependable and punctual. In Mussolini’s Italy, all the trains ran on
time.

Well, not quite. The Italian railway system had fallen into a rather sad state during World War I, and it did improve a good deal during the 1920s, but Mussolini was disingenuous in taking credit for the changes: much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the fascists came to power in 1922. More importantly (to the claim at hand), those who actually lived in Italy during the Mussolini era have borne testimony that the Italian railway’s legendary adherence to timetables was far more myth than reality.

The myth of Mussolini’s punctual trains lives on, albeit with a different slant: rather than serving as a fictitious symbol of the benefits of fascism, it is now offered as a sardonic example that something good can result even from the worst of circumstances. As Montagu and Darling wrote:
Mussolini may have done many brutal and tyrannical things; he may have destroyed human freedom in Italy; he may have murdered and tortured citizens whose only crime was to oppose Mussolini; but ‘one had to admit’ one thing about the Dictator: he ‘made the trains run on time.’
No, thanks. I’d rather walk’

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