Imagine this scenario: The White House issues a press release, which a newspaper reprints as a cover story, almost word-for-word, a strategy endorsed by the senior editorial staff. What would be the reaction? Outrage, surely, and a multitude of resignations as the scandal unveiled. Well, something like that has happened in the U.K., but the leading liberal newspaper is refusing to take any action.
When The Independent was launched in the mid-80s by the saintly Andreas Whittam-Strobes, er, -Smith, it’s advertsing slogan was, “It Is. Are You?” It quickly, however, challenged The Guardian for the title of house journal of the bien-pensant upper class left. Today it is probably further to the left on most issues than The Guardian, which is saying something, and is a constant source of information and opinion pieces for the leftist blogosphere in this country. Last Thursday it had a cover story, “Ten Myths About the EU Treaty,” relating to the revived EU Constitution that European political leaders are passing off to their electorate as a new treaty that doesn’t need, for example, the referendum that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown promised the British people. Neil O’Brien of Open Europe spotted that the article’s wording was lifted almost word-for-word from a British Foreign Office briefing paper, and wrote about it for The Spectator’s blog.
Embarrassment all round, no? No. The Independent’s editor, Simon Kelner, claimed that this was attempting to shoot the messenger because “the Eurosceptics*” didn’t like the message. As Guido Fawkes points out, this is itself a laughable attempt at diversion from the core issue – one of journalistic ethics.
Kelner is digging his feet in. Guido and others are not letting go. As Guido says, perhaps The Independent should come with a “government approved” sticker.
*”Eurosceptic” is the British equivalent of “neocon,” a word which actually means something but is far more often uses as an insult against people the left disagrees with.