Free speech is only for liberals.
How the 'liberal' mob did Rod Liddle in
Rod Liddle would have made a fine editor of the Independent but, thanks to a vicious campaign, he will never get the chance
* Buzz up!
* Digg it
* Tim Luckhurst
o Tim Luckhurst
o guardian.co.uk, Friday 19 February 2010 13.00 GMT
o Article history
Rod Liddle is no longer in the running to be the Independent's editor. Photograph: John Lawrence / Rex Features
Rod Liddle will not be editor of the Independent. The screechingly intolerant campaign of hostility directed against him by metropolitan critics has done its job. They call themselves liberals. If they are right then the word has come to have as little meaning as its common counterpart "progressive". Sincere liberals do not censor opinion, still less should they caricature it in order to intensify hostility. True liberals oppose arguments they despise by demonstrating the greater value of better ones.
Liddle provokes to the brink of apoplexy, but he rarely conceals his views in insidious campaigns of rumour and scurrility. He publishes them under his own byline for the world to read and dispute. He is a defender of what he considers to be "beleaguer'd truth" in the British tradition of John Milton, John Wilkes and John Stuart Mill.
His critics imagine that they know a purer truth. Not for them the Press Complaints Commission's assertion that, in the publication of sincerely held opinion, freedom of expression must take precedence over distaste and even distress. Liddle has been trashed mercilessly for daring to advance arguments his enemies would ban.
A national newspaper edited by an iconoclast determined to challenge the tyranny of the liberal metropolitan elite would have been a real addition to the national conversation, not least because Liddle's challenge would have come from the left.
In a declining market for newsprint it might, perhaps, have grabbed a little new attention. It would certainly have been stimulating. But it will not now exist. No newspaper proprietor will find the courage to hire as editor a man whose reputation has been so reprehensibly trashed.
What next for the Independent? My understanding is that Alexander Lebedev still intends to acquire it and that Independent News & Media remains willing to sell. But the process has descended into farce. The newspaper's excellent incumbent editor, Roger Alton, has worked for months under the threat of dismissal. It would be generous of him to continue working for a new owner who has had his intention to appoint another made so public.
I understand why Lebedev wants the Independent. It is a prestige title. It has a kernel of superb reporters, correspondents and columnists who give it charisma beyond what should be expected for the budget at their disposal. With care, investment and innovation it might just thrive in the new media economy, particularly if a free distribution model covering all of Britain's major cities can be achieved.
Rod Liddle might have given a new Independent impetus. Now, if Lebedev gets his prize, he should make every effort to retain Alton. He might start by expressing regret for permitting his representatives to advertise the prospect of a Liddle editorship before the deal was done. An apology should be offered to Liddle as well. He did not ruin his own chances of editing the Independent. That was done by the people behind a viciously intolerant campaign of liberal bigotry.
Those who know him praise Alexander Lebedev for his commitment to fourth estate principles. The people he has allowed to negotiate, brief and spin on his behalf honour less elevated principles. This is no way to buy a national newspaper.