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Damian Green, the First Secretary of State and one of Theresa May’s closest Cabinet allies, has launched a vile attack on alternative media outlets by trying to link them with the tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Considered Theresa May’s nodding dog by many, Green was giving a speech to an audience of journalists at a lunch organised by the Parliamentary Press Gallery. He went on the attack against sites like The Canary and Skwawkbox, and insinuated that up and coming websites who challenge the dominant ideology could incite violence against MPs, and embolden the “hatred which at the most horrible of extremes led to the killing of Jo Cox.” He claimed that:

“The point is that our political discourse needs to be better than it currently is, an argument that will not be lost on many people in this room whose livelihoods are under threat from unscrupulous blogs and websites that have no regard for any attempt to check the truth like the Canary, Breitbart, Skwawkbox.

 

If mainstream politicians and journalists start to behave like Twitter trolls and then democracy is in danger.

 

I know there is a long history of insulting our leaders from Gillray cartoons onwards and I have no expectation or desire to go back to the era when journalists politely asked prime ministers if they wish to add anything else at the end of an interview.

 

But I do think that we need to respect each other motives, and treat each other’s views with courtesy, whether we are on either side to the Commons chamber or even on either side of the much bigger chasm of politicians and journalists.

 

If we don’t, then we risk feeding an atmosphere of increasing hatred which at the most horrible of extremes led to the killing of Jo Cox.”

When asked for a comment by The Telegraph, Editor in Chief of The Canary, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, said:

“The Secretary of State does a disservice to himself and his office with these appalling comments.

 

Jo Cox lost her life due to bigotry and intolerance – she was killed by a racist man with Nazi sympathies. For decades, such hateful ideas have been actively promoted by mainstream outlets like The Sun and The Daily Mail. 

 

Every day, these outlets are attacking ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBT+ communities and people who rely on the welfare state. 

Instead of speaking out against these billionaire-backed peddlers of bigotry, Mr Green is attacking one of the few independently-owned, progressive outlets in the UK. An outlet led by a gay woman of colour as Editor-in-Chief. 

 

The truth is that we set up The Canary precisely because of the one-sided reporting already happening in the mainstream media – we are presenting the other side of that story. And we do that as probably the most diverse media outlet in the whole country.

 

Our mission is to disrupt the hateful messages of the right-wing UK press, reminding people that we have more in common than the superficial differences. By disrupting those messages, we have helped to change the public conversation. This will always be threatening to those who benefit from an unjust status quo.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Skwawkbox told The Telegraph:

“The Skwawkbox takes every care to ensure correctness and if we get something wrong we publish a correction of equal prominence to the original, which is a lot more than the so-called MSM offer. We are also regulated by IMPRESS, the UK’s only independent, Leveson-compliant press regulator.

 

The Skwawkbox absolutely does not condone violence or abuse. However, Mr Green like many politicians and commentators, needs to learn to distinguish between legitimate, robust criticism and abuse – or to be less sloppy in the way he categorises.

 

To suggest that criticism of political dishonesty will lead to violence against MPs is beneath contempt – and a blatant attempt to discredit criticism of the dire political behaviour all too common in Mr Green’s party. He was presumably aware that a speech to journalists is not covered by parliamentary privilege when he made such scurrilous accusations.”

The double standards here are staggering. Green accuses websites such as The Canary and Skwawkbox of having “no regard for any attempt to check the truth”, when in reality the acceptable standards of political reportage were set long ago by the traditional press outlets who often lend their support to his party. Predictably, Green fails to mention the huge inaccuracies previously seen in right-wing newspapers such as The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express. Green ought to look in the mirror and stop singling out new, alternative outlets that are a threat to the status quo. The transparent nature of this attack only proves that new media outlets who are taking the Tories to task have got them on the ropes.

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