The company I keep: in league with a pornographer

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By Kenneth Roy

It seems I am working part-time for a pornographer. I have worked for a lot of people – of whom the worst were Scottish businessmen who, so far as I know, went home to their wives in the suburbs and never thought a dirty thought in their lives. I spent some minutes before the attack on the twin towers looking under a boardroom table at the shoes of one of them, marvelling at their polished blackness. The world changed in an instant and shoes became things in which to plant bombs.

When a nice-sounding man from the Scottish Daily Express telephoned here last Thursday morning and asked for permission to republish an editorial praising the present SNP administration as probably the best we have had since devolution, but questioning the judgment of its leader in his relationship with Rupert Murdoch – the latter a not entirely original thought – I said yes.

There was nothing in it for me, financially or otherwise, but it is good to take the Scottish Review on missionary assignments to the far shores known as the mainstream press. A few weeks ago, when the Guardian asked for permission to republish an editorial on the Leveson inquiry, in which I suggested that Mrs Brooks’s chances of a fair trial had been jeopardised, I said yes then too. When the Scotsman wanted to republish something or other, I said yes yet again.

The same policy applies to internet publications. When the admirable, SNP-supporting Newsnet asked me before it launched if it could republish editorials from the Scottish Review, I said yes, and have never regretted it. When Tom Harris from the Labour Hame website asked the same question, I said yes, although I don’t think I have ever disgraced the pages of Labour Hame. Possibly Mr Harris thought better of it.

By now you may discerned a pattern. I like to promote the little Scottish Review, taking it on occasional day outings.

The Express gave us a splendid show on its leader page, complete with a handsome credit to the magazine. A small donation to our fund-raising appeal is on its way. I thought no more about it.

Then this unsigned email arrived. In temper and tone it is fairly typical of the style of the SNP’s online tartan army. That is why I quote it here: as an example:

Shame on you, Kenneth Roy. You have had your this unbalanced piece about Alex Salmond’s meetings, published in the ‘Scottish’ Daily Express, that excrescence of nasty and incoherent right-wing idiocy owned by a pornographer. In the circumstances who are you to pass judgement on the company people keep?

Between the words ‘your’ and ‘this’, a word or phrase seems to be missing. I have no idea what it is. Nothing obliging, I assume. Otherwise the most notable thing about these five lines is the extreme use of language – ‘shame’; ‘excrescence’; ‘idiocy’; ‘pornographer’. The message is clear enough: I should not be appearing in a newspaper owned by Richard Desmond, whose background in the publication of soft-porn apparently makes him a pornographer.

I have a confession to make. It does not bother me in the slightest if the Scottish Daily Express is owned by a pornographer so long as he doesn’t interfere with my copy. If, for example, the paper had omitted the flattering reference to the SNP administration, the higher than average quality of its ministers, its socially progressive policies, I would have been cross. But, in a slightly abbreviated form of the original article, this reference was included in full. Evidently the pornographer believes in my right to say what I like, even it he doesn’t agree with it. Fair enough.

As it happens, no mainstream proprietor or editor – in or out of the pornography business – has attempted to mess about with anything I’ve written or broadcast. The only people ever to have done so are the Scottish businessmen who briefly took control of the Scottish Review and didn’t much like what they read; and, when I was presenting a weekly political programme for the BBC, Labour bullies who objected to my rough line of questioning of their then leader.

Fortunately, however, I have never worked for Rupert Murdoch, who made his fortune by dumbing-down a serious tabloid, introducing page 3 pictures of bare-breasted models, and adopting shrill right-wing politics until he found it expedient to fall in love with the Scottish National Party. I say ‘fortunately’, because Murdoch sees himself as a newspaperman – the very worst form of proprietor – and adores interfering. Is Murdoch a pornographer? Apparently not. He has merely made a fortune out of publishing pictures of half-naked young women – around 13,000 of them since he ruined the paper in 1969. If only he had been a simple pornographer, telephones might have been left unhacked, the misery suffered by victims of crime avoided, copy untouched, Leveson unnecessary, and the reputation of our first minister untainted by association.

I do worry about the ultimate agenda of our governing party’s attack dogs. Is an independent Scotland to be one in which freedom of expression truly flourishes? Or must journalists only work for proprietors approved by the Macpolitburo? In future, I had better choose a pornographer who waves the Saltire.

Courtesy of Kenneth Roy – read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review