A story in three photos –
In the issue of 12-17 April, the New Statesman published an article by George Eaton, joint deputy editor, on the Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton.
On April 10th, George Eaton tweeted what he called “a series of outrageous remarks” by Roger Scruton. The four tweets by George Eaton certainly had an immediate effect on social media – racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia: Roger Scruton was guilty of it all according to Eaton.
Only the supposed quotes from Roger Scruton seemed to be wholly out of context and appeared to have been manipulated. Did anybody try to find out whether Roger Scruton had actually said any of the things he was accused of saying? No. This is not how things work anymore.
There was a twitter storm and it raged for a while.
The Labour Party and several leading Conservative figures immediately demanded that ministers remove Scruton from his unpaid position as chairman of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.
A mere four hours after the article appeared, James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, dismissed Scruton. Without talking to him, without asking for his side of the story. James Brokenshire sacked Roger Scruton based on a series of inflammatory tweets, and nothing else.
Eaton posted on his personal Instagram account a picture of himself drinking champagne, clearly as way of celebration.
If anybody was in any doubt that Roger Scruton had been the victim of a hit-job, this was proof, of sorts.
(George Eaton later deleted and apologised for the Instagram post.)
Luckily there are still people with honour and integrity in the journalism world. Douglas Murray (I adore him), a friend of Roger Scruton took up the fight to clear the philosopher’s name. He repeatedly called for the full transcript of the interview to be published, a call that was not answered. Meanwhile, George Eaton had suddenly gone very quiet on social media.
Eventually, Douglas Murray somehow got his hands on the transcript of the interview which revealed Roger Scruton had been smeared in the most appalling fashion. He had been deliberately misrepresented, his reputation tarnished by…a journalist… who works for a major magazine. Is it any wonder people don’t trust the mainstream media anymore?
I can’t even begin to explain how angry this whole debacle made me. As a person who values truth, integrity – as a qualified journalist myself who was told every single day without fail when I was training that: “accuracy is everything” – I was disgusted by it all. I still am, actually.
I was ecstatic when Douglas Murray published his article clearing Roger Scruton. So much so I indulged in being petty and replicated the ‘George Eaton gloating champagne pic’ for Twitter – twice – with the caption: “The feeling when Douglas Murray exposes the duplicity of George Eaton in an excellent piece that should hopefully deter other ‘journalists’ from distorting, lying and trying to destroy the reputation of anyone, let alone one of our finest minds.”
Petty? Yes, but I couldn’t resist. incidentally, that second pic is the first drunk pic of me to ever make it on the internet (Facebook doesn’t count)
I had booked tickets to go and see Roger Scruton and Douglas Murray talk in London before George Eaton published his ‘article.’ I had been looking forward to it but the event took on a special importance after the scandal. The evening wasn’t just about listening to two highly interesting people anymore, it was about showing support for a man with a very fine mind who had been needlessly demonised.
And it was a delightful evening – I was (without exaggeration) glowing when I left. Roger Scruton came on and was given a standing ovation. The love and respect for the philosopher in the room was almost tangible. He touched on the whole scandalous story of course, without bitterness – he was actually wonderfully magnanimous considering he hasn’t received a proper apology from anyone who was so quick to condemn him based on nothing more substantial than a few tweets.
I have to ask: what kind of a society have we become when journalists deliberately entrap others, when journalists are happy to lie, to smear, to demonise…and to gloat about the result of such despicable actions. When people in governments make decisions to sack someone without knowing the full story, without even bothering to speak to the person they employ, a person who has an outstanding reputation as a philosopher and writer.
I am so angry about the left’s methods which have gathered momentum in the last couple of years. No debate, but lies instead. No discussion but name-calling.
If they can do this to a respected philosopher, what chance do the rest of us have?
After a prolonged absence, George Eaton is back – he has apparently been demoted but the real scandal is the fact he wasn’t actually sacked. He is a disgrace to journalism and clearly an appalling human being. Journalists have always been guilty of bias, they’ve always been known to flirt with misrepresentation and even lies…but we’ve achieved a whole new level of deception that is just unacceptable.
We are living in dark times, anybody who cares about truth and freedom of speech should be very worried – we have a duty to fight back against this tidal wave of sheer hysteria, self-righteousness and authoritarianism that has infected everything.