When the Metropolitan Police made the unusual public announcement that publishers of leaked information could be arrested, front-line politicians leapt into action to defend the right to publish leaked material that is in the public interest. Both likely soon-to-be UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt made their view on this matter explicitly clear.
Bold, fearless, agenda-setting journalism. Perfect response to absurd @metpoliceuk threats to gag the press.
Very proud to work for the Mail on Sunday today, and its editor Ted Verity.
And congrats @IsabelOakeshott on a brilliant scoop. pic.twitter.com/PWO7O9slFk
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) July 14, 2019
Subsequent to the threat from the Police, the popular tabloid Daily Mail published further leaked information and subsequently received public praise. At this time a giant elephant appeared in the corner of the room and its name is Julian Assange.
Assange is currently in prison awaiting extradition to the US (which normally has far freer laws about speech and publishing than modern Britain) for publishing leaked material in the public interest. Publishing leaked material in the public interest is of course the very thing that the Daily Mail is being praised for doing by the leading lights of British politics and media.
Just to recap: Assange publishes leaked material in the public interest and is in prison and threatened with execution as a result. By contrast, the Daily Mail publishes leaked information after an admonition not to do so from the Metropolitan Police and the Mail is praised to the hilt.
What then is the substantive difference? In a legal sense there is no difference, not least because like Wikileaks, the Daily Mail is protecting rather than jeopardising its source. In a practical sense the difference is that whilst the information published by Wikileaks has been a major international game-changer, the published leaks from Britain’s former ambassador in Washington have been rather mundane.
To be more precise, the publications themselves are not mundane but rather, the content of the leaks shows former ambassador Sir Kim Darroch to be a deeply unoriginal thinker. First, Sir Kim told Westminster that he believes Donald Trump to be incompetent. In other words, he said the exact same thing that Rachael Maddow, Jimmy Kimmel and literally scores of others say on American television on a daily basis.
Now, it is known courtesy of Sir Kim’s leaked diplomatic correspondence that Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA (aka the Iran nuclear deal) because Trump dislikes Barack Obama (under whose watch the deal was made). So far from original is this statement that Trump has himself admitted that he loathes the JCPOA because in his view Obama is a poor deal maker who got a rotten deal. Trump has said this whilst President, whilst campaigning and what’s more is that Trump said it on Twitter even before declaring his candidacy.
In summary, Britain’s political and media big wigs robustly defend mainstream publications that put out rather mundane leaked information. However, the same politicians including specifically UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt are happy to see Julian Assange face execution for publishing leaked information that happened to be interesting to the public and embarrassing for the old elite.
Just when one thought that the hypocrisy could not get any more overt and like magic….