The TalkRADIO YouTube ban wasn't censorship, it was Rupert Murdoch's beloved market at work

And remember: Julia Hartley-Brewer isn't told what to say. She chooses to be like that.

The Great talkRADIO YouTube ban lasted for around 12 hours, but its coterie of caterwauling shock-jocks will manage to manufacture many more hours of ‘content’ about this egregious suppression of their free speech. Though the station — the audio equivalent of a broken sewer pipe from which goblins ride waves of liquid shit — was still available to listen to on DAB and stream via Faceook and Twitter, the temporary loss of their YouTube audience stung the station’s ‘stars’ and led to that most unedifying of spectacles — a Newsnight debate featuring Toby Young, this time put up against Remainiacs host and Politics.co.uk Editor, Ian Dunt…

Young was given the opportunity to land the first blow in the battle for the Commentariat Super-Lightweight belt. As you might predict, it was the usual gabbling cant from Humpty Dumpty’s tedious uncle:

“It’s a completely unacceptable assault on the freedom of the press. YouTube has behaved very badly, very censoriously throughout the crisis… they removed a video of me in discussion with Michael Leavitt. They only restored it after I pointed out that Michael Leavitt won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2014. The problem I think with YouTube trying to censor anything which dissents from Covid orthodoxy is that the orthodoxy is constantly changing… people have flip flopped on all sorts of things.”

With the Overton Window currently so narrow you couldn’t use it to illuminate a small bathroom, Ian Dunt’s reply began by accepting Young’s premise that YouTube should not have (temporarily) booted talkRADIO from its platform:

“No. YouTube shouldn’t be getting rid of videos. I agree with Toby on that matter actually. This isn’t the time to be censoring people. We’d be doing much better if we were providing positive, reliable information for them.

The question isn’t should you be able to put out this information, it’s should you write it or publish it in the first place, is it responsible to do it, is it truthful to do it, does it show any kind of moral consideration? Does it show any attempt to chisel away at public trust in the middle of a pandemic? And the answer to that question is no, you shouldn’t be publishing it, you shouldn’t be writing it, you have no basis upon which to do it and I honestly don’t know how I’d sleep at night if I was someone who was publishing it or writing it myself.”

For months, Young — a man never short of a project (some might call them ‘grifts’) — has been publishing daily digests on Lockdown Sceptics, a blog he started to pal around with fellow ‘sceptics’ who he assures us aren’t denying the pandemic despite the fact that he has repeatedly denied the facts.

In the Newsnight segment Young went on to claim that he has never denied Covid. Emily Maitlis then read an article in which he laughed at the prospect of a second wave and those who predicted one. He admitted that he got it wrong that time but obviously he’s right now. Dunt was right to say that Young and his Covid ‘sceptic’ compatriots have called the next development in the pandemic response wrong time and time and time again.

Jorge Luis Borges famously dismissed the Falklands War as “two bald men fighting over a comb”. The Newsnight debate between Young and Dunt — which sounds like a disreputable firm of solicitors — was literally two bald men fighting over airtime. Toby Young got to exercise his free speech and once again proved his commitment to wasting that right on misconceived, poorly-researched horseshit.

Had I been debating Young — and I once had to prepare him for a Newsnight debate (that’s a story for another time) — I would have argued in favour of YouTube’s temporary removal of talkRADIO from its service. In its statement about YouTube’s initial decision, the station howled:

“talkRADIO is an Ofcom licensed and regulated broadcaster and has robust editorial controls in place, taking care to balance debate.”

Anyone who listens to talkRADIO — and sadly, for professional reasons, I am one of them — will tell you that this pearl-clutching is preposterous. On occasions when individuals with views contrary to the station’s line are brought on as guests, they are hectored by one of the in-house bullies whether that’s Julia Hartley-Brewer (Hyacinth Bucket if she spent a lot of time reading Enoch Powell) or ‘Iron’ Mike Graham (Jabba the Hutt after a career change).

What’s also unsurprisingly missing from talkRADIO’s complaint is context; while it could just about claim that it presents alternative views during traditional radio broadcasts and streams when its content is clipped for YouTube the station obviously goes for the most incendiary sections and claims. That means what cursory balance there might have been is cut and only the at-best ‘controversial’ content remains.

As I showed earlier this week (see above), talkRADIO has a loose relationship with the truth. In the case of the confected ‘woke people are trying to ban Grease’ story that’s bad because it’s contributing to a wider culture war conversation, but when it pushes ‘theories’ on Covid-19 that lead to people ignoring measures to slow and stop the spread that’s actively dangerous. Remember, talkRADIO is the station that makes no apology for broadcasting one of its shock-jocks, Mark Dolan, cutting up a mask live on air, an event which was also streamed on YouTube.

Beyond YouTube applying rules designed to protect health — and there’s obviously a debate about who decides those rules and why — there’s the simple fact that its a private company operating across many countries and able to make decisions in the free market which is so beloved by Toby Young and the talkRADIO presenters. I actually believe that Alphabet, YouTube’s parent company and also home to Google, should be broken up just as Ma Bell once was. I’d argue the same for Facebook.

But the Right would never stand for that ‘statist’ intervention in the world of private business. It rants and raves about free markets, capitalism, ‘the rules’ and why ‘facts don’t care about your feelings’ until… that system ends up affecting something it likes. So in the case of talkRADIO, the News UK-owned station, a Rupert Murdoch property, hammers on about businesses and the right to do what they want until… a business makes a choice that it doesn’t like.

Being removed from YouTube, in this case, temporarily, is not censorship. It’s the market in action. talkRADIO remained, as I’ve said, accessible via DAB, Facebook, Twitter and its own app. But you’ll hear a lot about talkRADIO’s free speech today and it will be a wonderful bit of marketing for the roiling bag of weasels that make up its presenting line-up. Remember this whining when talkRADIO next gets angry about something someone left-wing said on Twitter or the content of a BBC show — the truth of their free speech position is that they want free speech for the right and silence from the left. Their principles are not evenly-distributed and never will be.

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