UPDATE [19 Nov]: The Guardian has confirmed it will not be paying Monbiot’s legal fees if he is sued:
“George Monbiot is not a member of the Guardian staff and was tweeting in a personal capacity,” he said.
“George has acknowledged that his tweets were wholly inappropriate and a serious error and has posted a comprehensive apology on his own blog.
“The Guardian cannot and will not take responsibility for comments that were made by a contributor in a personal capacity, however we have taken this opportunity to remind our journalists and freelancers, including George, that they should apply the same ethical and legal standards to what they say on social media as they do to what they write for the Guardian.”
The UK’s BBC, otherwise known as the Biased Broadcasting Corporation, last week made an unfounded accusation of child abuse against a senior Conservative figure in its flagship Newsnight programme. As Boris Johnson writes, this was just too good to be true in the eyes of the lefty Beeb, and the victim, Lord McAlpine, was forced out of retirement to defend himself:
It was not just wrong: it was a slander more cruel, revolting and idiotic than anything perpetrated by the News of the World. The programme makers hadn’t taken account of the real anxieties about the reliability of their witness, as expressed by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, who led the inquiry into Bryn Estyn. They hadn’t shown him a picture of McAlpine. They hadn’t even put the allegations to McAlpine! Unbelievable! And why not? It was, as they say, a story that was too good to check. It wasn’t just that it showed Newsnight taking up the cudgels against paedophiles, after the embarrassment of the axed Savile exposé. It went one better. It pushed all the buttons. It was like a dream come true for any vaguely resentful and Left-of-centre BBC producer. It was a chance to pour unlimited ordure on a man who – in their book – jolly well had it coming. He is rich, he is a toff, he is a Lord, he is a Tory, and – joy of joys – he is an EX-AIDE TO MRS THATCHER.
The journalism was so shoddy, so cretinous, so ready to let the wish be father to the thought that the Beeb really now has to show that Newsnight was not acting with malice. The BBC cannot minimise what the programme has done. There will be people out there who will continue to believe that there is no smoke without fire, that Newsnight would never have broadcast such allegations unless there was something in it. The BBC owes it to McAlpine to grovel and keep grovelling until the public gets the message. Everyone associated with the “paedophile” segment on Newsnight should be sacked instantly.
Unfortunately, it transpires that Lord McAlpine will be suing not only the BBC for defamation, but also certain Twitter users who gleefully published his name, including left-wing warmist George Monbiot:
George Monbiot, the Guardian columnist, and Sally Bercow, the Lefty wife of the Speaker, may soon be getting stern letters from m’learned friends about their online smearing of Lord McAlpine. They were in the thick of the online lynch mob that used Twitter last week to wrongly identify the former Tory treasurer as a paedophile.
As Boris Johnson points out this morning, it’s hard to envisage a more damaging accusation against a man. Yet Monbiot and Bercow were happy to encourage this appalling falsehood, doubtless finding the very idea of a top Tory paedophile simply too irresistible to ignore. There has never been a more graphic illustration of the way Twitter can be used quite casually to destroy someone’s good name. When the truth emerged, Bercow’s apology was hardly steeped in contrition: “Final on McAlpine: am VERY sorry for inadvertently fanning flames. But I tweet as me, forgetting that to some of u I am Mrs bloody Speaker”. It is not easy to fathom what she’s on about, but that sounds like the response of a naughty schoolgirl caught telling a whopper.
In contrast, the achingly self-righteous Monbiot produced the most abject mea culpa in living memory: “I have helped to malign an innocent man. I have done a few stupid things in my life, but nothing as stupid as this. The tweets I sent which hinted – as I assumed to be the case – that Lord McAlpine was the person the child abuse victim Steve Messham was talking about were so idiotic that, looking back on them today, I cannot believe that I wrote them. But I did, and they are unforgivable. I have helped stoke an atmosphere of febrile innuendo around an innocent man, and I am desperately sorry for the harm I have done him.”
If Monbiot has put as much thought into his original tweets as into his apology, he might not now be facing the possibility of costly legal action. More importantly, the McAlpine affair may finally force those who use Twitter to realise they can’t write vile untruths about people and expect to get away with it.
Hope he’s got good lawyers…