Piers & Loathing at Ofcom: Chummy papers only reflect Morgan’s judgment on that GMB decision

And the usual suspects write more Meghan anti-fan fiction.

Previously:
The ‘worked shoot’ and the walkout: Piers Morgan is a professional wrestler


Piers Morgan feeds on attention like a tick gorges itself on blood, a parasite buried deep into the arse of British public debate. So it’s always with a heavy heart and a queasy stomach that I come to write about him.

But the media response to the Ofcom ruling on 57,000 complaints1 in response to his dismissal of the Duchess of Sussex speaking about suicidal feelings and an unnamed royal questioning what colour her unborn child demands closer analysis. So too does the reframing of his subsequent toddler-style tantrum that first saw him leave the studio then his job as an example of “cancel culture”.

The headlines crow about Morgan’s “win” and declare him “cleared”, but that’s a deceptive and simplistic reading of Ofcom’s 97-page ruling on the case. Let’s take a look at the statement that the regulator released alongside the document:

This was a finely balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognise the strong public reaction to them. But we also took full account of freedom of expression.

Under our rules, broadcasters can include controversial opinions as part of legitimate debate in the public interest, and the strong challenge to Mr Morgan from other contributors provided important context for viewers.

Nonetheless, we’ve reminded ITV to take greater care around content discussing mental health and suicide in the future.

ITV might consider the use of timely warnings or signposting of support services to ensure viewers are properly protected.

The key point there, which is drowned out by the sound of Morgan’s gloating and much of the British media’s delight in supporting him, is the reference to “strong challenge… from other contributors.” The decision went Morgan’s way because his statements were contradicted by others, notably Alex Beresford in the clash on the following day which led to Morgan stomping off the set.

In my view, the Ofcom ruling is lily-livered and amounts to nothing more than the mildest of mild slaps on the wrist for ITV (“We’ve reminded ITV…) but it is not the glorious and untrammelled victory that Morgan has spun it as nor is it about “cancel culture” or censorship like he wants to make it.

Morgan’s immediate response to the ruling was to tweet:

I’m delighted Ofcom has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios. Do I get my job back?

The tick was practically tumescent with indignation. But his line, which was picked up by most papers, is balanced on one part of the Ofcom ruling…

Restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.

…and his use of the word “endorsed” is a typically deceptive feint. Ofcom did not endorse his comments or suggest that he could have said them on live television if he had not been challenged by other contributors.

Speech on British television isn’t free; it’s regulated speech. There’s a wide range of things that TV presenters can’t say and do on-air and swathes of regulations about when certain language and topics can be discussed.

Morgan, of course, provided his many thoughts on the ruling in a column for MailOnline, which gave him a generous contract to honk out his obnoxious-estate-agent-half-cut-in-a-‘snazzy’-wine-bar opinions on a regular basis.

After repeating the same Winston Churchill quote he posted following his GMB departure (“Everyone is in favour of free speech, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”) he wrote:

[Ofcom] concluded: 'The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.'

Chilling… wow.

Ironically, I would imagine that word will prompt a very chilly reaction from the self-satisfied Sussexes as they slurp kale smoothies in their California mansion over breakfast this morning.

Make no mistake, this is a watershed moment in the battle for free speech.

Morgan has made imagining things about Meghan a habit. He imagined the extent of their ‘friendship’ and spoke glowingly about her before making a heel turn when the tide of media coverage meant slagging her off was more profitable.

In common with most of the media stories about the Ofcom ruling, Morgan frames it as a match between him and the Sussexes because that makes it seem like a big win for him. But it ignores the tens of thousands of others who complained about his comments and implies Meghan pushed her unlimited calls package to the limit.

Morgan — one of the least silenced men in history — moves from talking about the details of the ruling to a grandiloquent rant about free speech, rehashing his book Wake Up for the umpteenth time:

We now live in a woke-ravaged era where it's become a punishable offence to say what you really think about almost anything for fear that someone, somewhere, will be offended.

This insidious 'cancel culture' as it's been termed represents the most serious threat to democracy in my lifetime.

People all over the world are being shamed, vilified, and even fired from their jobs for expressing an opinion that the woke brigade don't like.

Every day, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook explode with self-righteous judgements handed down by the court of woke public opinion, and the consequence is that debate is being destroyed at the altar of political correctness in a way that would have Churchill turning in his grave.

This was a man who fought off the freedom-muzzling Nazis, for God's sake!

He needs imaginary enemies so that he can be an imaginary hero. And while his opinions are robust free speech that must be defended to the hilt, the opinions of people without access to TV studios and a Daily Mail contract can be bundled together as the “self-righteous judgements handed down by the court of woke public opinion.” Of course, there was nothing self-righteous about Morgan’s weird uncle obsessing over Meghan, Naomi Osaka, and Simone Biles. Qwhite hard to work out what links them…

Inevitably, having worn out his Churchill references, Morgan concludes his column with a quote from George Orwell:

And when Meghan and Harry, whose unofficially authorised biography is titled 'Finding Freedom', lick their failed censorship wounds today, I suggest they heed the words of George Orwell: 'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.'2

Curious that columnists like Morgan never reach for Homage to Catalonia when searching for some Orwell to elevate their irate scribblings. This quote, in particular, comes to mind today:

Early in life, I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie… I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as heroes of imaginary victories… I saw history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’…

While Morgan made himself the hero of another imaginary victory, elsewhere in The Daily Mail Jan Moir contributed yet more anti-fan fiction about Meghan and Harry. Moir, whose vile column following the death of Stephen Gately prompted a record number of complaints to the old regulator, the Press Complaints Commission, just as his GMB comments made Morgan an Ofcom record-breaker, is nearly as obsessed with the Sussexes.

Beneath the headline Princess Pinocchio has finally had her nose tweaked as at long last a joyful bucket of cold water is thrown on Harry and Meghan's fevered claims by Ofcom verdict exonerating Piers Morgan, Moir wrote:

Just imagine. Another perfect morning in Montecito, southern California. As the sun rises over the Santa Ynez mountains, an ocean breeze ruffles the leaves on the scrub oaks and ripples across the mosaic of swimming pools that stud this millionaire’s paradise.

Avocado toasts are slipped on to warmed plates. The smell of fresh coffee rises in the land of the elites. And then a terrible, piercing scream rips apart the balmy calm.

What awful calumny has occurred? Has the boutique down by the bay run out of sustainable cashmere? Are there too many pips in that organic Meyer lemon?

No, it is something much, much worse. Princess Pinocchio has finally had her nose tweaked.

For deep inside the Sussexes’ grand mansion, set in an exclusive gated estate on a private street, a blast of good ol’ Blighty reality has crashed in like a meteorite.

One can only imagine how the duchess reacted upon discovering that her complaint against Piers Morgan has been thrown out by Ofcom, but for a woman with such a finely honed sense of victimhood, anything less than volcanic on the stroppy scale would be a surprise.

That’s not journalism, commentary or analysis; it’s one woman’s bitter fantasy.

And, as is so often the case, a columnist who has had a platform in a national newspaper for decades and who is paid handsomely for the privilege howls about “elites” and pretends she doesn’t live in a big house behind big gates, benefitting from the wealth a lifetime of bullying with a byline has brought her.

Moir quotes selectively and deceptively from the Ofcom ruling. A speculative line from the report — “The restriction of such views would, in our view, be an unwarranted and chilling restriction on freedom of expression both of the broadcaster and the audience.” — explaining why the regulator chose not to censure Morgan, Good Morning Britain or ITV is remade by Moir as:

… the duchess has been accused of being part of a ‘chilling restriction on freedom of expression’.

57,000 complaints are boiled down to a single complaint from the Duchess of Sussex and Morgan’s claim that she wrote to ITV Chief Executive Carolyn McCall on the night before he left Good Morning Britain, having refused to apologise for any aspect of his remarks.

Aside from the ugly content, bitter tone, and deceptive use of quotes and facts, Moir’s piece is abysmally written. Imagine writing this…

Oh dear. That is not a good look for a self-styled international humanitarian and do-gooder; a woman who, according to the couple’s Archewell website, wants to ‘unleash the power of compassion to drive systemic cultural change’.

All Meghan seems to have driven is her wheezing old jalopy of self-justification into the brick wall of baloney that has awaited her all this time. For sooner or later, this day of reckoning had to come.

… as a six-figure salaried national newspaper columnist with a stack of industry awards in your trophy cabinet. It’s like someone transcribed a nosy neighbour’s nasty ramblings as they poked their head over the fence, desperate to tell you about the scandal at the butcher’s and that woman at No.37 who thinks she’s better than she ought.

Just like Morgan, Moir indulges in a bit of self-righteous sloganeering about freedom of speech, writing:

One hopes that the Ofcom ruling will at least allow the occasional cheep of doubt to be raised, without the cheepers being cancelled and sent to woke jail by Meghan’s permanently furious supporters.

Again, Moir’s opinions are “cheeps of doubt” — I agree, Moir is paid handsomely to be so cheap — while anyone who disagrees with her is “permanently furious”. Moir columns are full of so much bad faith it’s always like attending a George Michael karaoke night patronised purely by the tone-deaf.

Moir — in keeping with The Mail’s enduring policy — pretends that power dynamics are entirely absent. From the barricades of a Daily Mail byline, she talks of critics who are “determined to crush not just the Royal Family, but anyone of note who disagrees with them along the way.”

When someone gives you this line, ask them for examples of people who have been “cancelled” — as in driven out of public life — rather than “cancelled” — given new job opportunities as well as a profitable line in complaining about being cancelled on every possible TV and radio channel and in every newspaper and magazine that will listen. They will have none.

The column ends as it began with Moir heating up her fevered imagination way past boiling point. She concludes:

Oh to have been a fly on the Montecito wall when the news came through. I like to imagine the crash of teacup on saucer and then that prolonged scream, echoing down to where the surf rolls onto the shoreline like a benediction.

And if Harry were still juggling at the window, like the circus clown he is at heart, then surely he would have dropped his balls in shock.

It doesn’t matter what the real Meghan and Harry say or do because Jan Moir has imaginary versions living rent-free in her malevolent mind and can consult them whenever she needs.

Moir is not alone in letting her imagination run wild. The obsessives at The Sun, turned to royal ‘commentator’ Angela Levin whose quote (“I think she will be absolutely livid and she’ll ask her lawyers to see what they can do about it.”) was turned into the headline…

PIERS-ED OFF! Meghan Markle will be ‘absolutely livid’ as Piers Morgan wins Ofcom ruling over ‘liar’ blast and ‘will speak to lawyers’

The implication to readers is that The Sun actually knows what Meghan and Harry plan to do rather than simply ginning up a writer’s reckon.

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, who was a guest on Good Morning Britain on the day that Morgan made his comments, said on Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine Show:

Piers Morgan brought his own personal angst into everything he did when it came to Meghan Markle. That was problematic for a broadcaster.

He used his own platform on the Good Morning Britain stage to aggravate racism, sexism, misogyny against her.

I was in that debate with Piers Morgan on that day, and the bottom line is this Ofcom ruling totally whitewashed what has happened.

I agree. Ofcom was only able to judge the comments made by Morgan in isolation — as things said on a single episode of a television show — rather than as part of the presenter’s ongoing obsession with the Duchess.

The story as told in the headlines of newspapers and by broadcasters, including the BBC, is one of Piers Morgan resplendent in victory. That’s been shaped, in part, by Morgan’s speed in getting his response out and laziness from reporters who flipped through the ruling rather than engaging with the detail.

Piers Morgan is not a hero of free speech. He’s a bridge troll with a megaphone, a fundamentally miserable and inadequate man for whom no amount of attention or cash will ever be enough. He can talk about Churchill spinning in his grave as much as he likes but when he’s gone few people will remember him, let alone ponder whether he’s revolving or not.

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The Ofcom ruling also notes that it received messages of support for Morgan: “Ofcom also received 802 messages that expressed support for Mr Morgan and objected to his “removal” from Good Morning Britain. As these complaints relate to a contractual issue between a broadcaster and its presenter, they fall outside Ofcom’s regulatory remit.”

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Taken from Orwell’s unused preface to Animal Farm.