Monday, April 12, 2021
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Press freedom and the contemptible treatment of Sharon Osbourne

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ONE of the more disturbing revelations that has come out of the Sussexes’ interview with Oprah is this: if you challenge Meghan’s version of events, you risk losing your job.

I’ll be honest – when I first saw the Good Morning Britain clip of Piers Morgan letting fly at Harry and Meghan I found it rather amusing. I wondered if even the Queen, let alone those not directly affected by the Oprah interview, would manage to take the whole episode quite as personally as Piers seemed to. Then again, Piers has been at boiling point for most of the past year and so I didn’t think much more about it.

Then the complaints started rolling in (including one from the duchess herself) and it was announced Morgan would leave the show rather than apologise for daring to say he didn’t believe a word coming out of Markle’s mouth.

A less noisy, but by no means less unsettling, resignation came shortly after. Ian Murray, head of the Society of Editors, came in for attack after submitting his opinion that the British Press are not racist bigots. I naively thought that a man in his position was entitled to comment on editorial standards in the British media. I now realise that because he was questioning the claims of a woman who is 25 per cent black on the subject of racism, he therefore had to go. I am still a little confused as to why all the others on the board still have their jobs. They presumably agree that the British press is racist and yet are still quite happy to serve on its Society of Editors

The next bit of collateral damage was Sharon Osbourne. She was one of the first to come out in support of Piers Morgan after he left GMB. She tweeted: ‘I am with you. I stand with you. People forget that you’re paid for your opinion and that you’re just speaking your truth.’ 

Obviously this sort of behaviour wouldn’t do and her fellow presenters on a US chat show called The Talk decided to ‘educate’ her. Morgan is a racist, they explained, and so it’s really problematic that she was defending him. 

Before making an apology-statement to propitiate the bullies and save her job, Sharon Osbourne gave a good kicking back. ‘What has Piers said that is racist?’ she asked.

Co-host Sheryl Underwood’s squirming attempt to answer that straightforward question should tell viewers everything they need to know about the whole racism-hysteria surrounding this story. Underwood said: ‘It’s not the exact words of racism, it’s the implication and the reaction to it.’  

Apparently these people can read minds now. It doesn’t matter what you say – the enlightened ones can look into your soul. It echoes a story Solzhenitsyn tells of a Russian woman who was arrested and sent to the gulag because the MVD alleged that she was praying for Stalin’s death in Church.

Underwood’s answer is telling and it cuts to the heart of the racism furore. The racist coverage of Meghan in the press has become such a throwaway line that many don’t now bother to ask for any evidence to back it up.

If you search for ‘racist coverage of Meghan Markle’ it is nigh on impossible to find anything that actually smacks of racism. There are comprehensive lists of negative coverage of Meghan by the press, and some of it is very unpleasant. But it isn’t racist. And as Harry and Meghan themselves keep pointing out, there is a difference between rude and racist

Harry himself backtracked from claims of overt racism and clarified that the press had racist and colonial overtones. This, I’m sure, would have chimed with Underwood’s penetrating insights about people’s intentions.

If you ask how it is that these enlightened wokeists know that the coverage has hidden racist intentions, their argument reveals a circularity that could be spotted by any logically minded ten-year-old.

The argument goes something like this: The British press is racist. This means that we should interpret any negative coverage as racist. We then use that racist coverage as proof that the British press is racist. And on the wheel rolls, crushing anyone who opposes it.

It’s a vicious game and my main hope for this whole episode is that it has clarified exactly what these unsubstantiated racism allegations are: a rhetorical sledgehammer used to protect the status of the elite and remove anyone – the ‘free’ press included – that challenges it.

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Angus Milne
Angus Milne is an English teacher and writer from the west of England

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