Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The chilling calls to shut down GB News

(Image: GB News)

Tyranny is a sneaky thing. It often scurries in on the back of controversy. It is often when people are angry about something that authoritarians spy an opportunity to take a potshot at liberty. And, boom, before you know it politicians are on TV calling for entire media channels to be shut down.

This is political censorship masquerading as a cry for social justice

This is where Britain is at right now. The speed with which the social-media fury over Laurence Fox’s dumb comments on GB News morphed into a campaign to shut GB News down has been extraordinary. Forget Fox’s broadcasting career – it is media freedom itself that now hangs in the balance.

Of course Fox’s comments were crass and sexist. To judge a woman by her ‘shaggability’ – as Fox did when speaking about the political journalist Ava Evans on Dan Wootton’s show this week – is odious. You’d expect to hear such blather from a gang of teen boys in the pub, not on a supposedly serious news channel.

And yet there have been other comments this week, likewise expressed on live TV, that have offended me more than Fox’s. For example, Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP, who said on Newsnight last night, ‘I think [GB News] should be taken off air’. A politician openly saying a broadcaster should be expunged from the airwaves? Now that deserves a Twitterstorm – or X-storm.

Nokes’s illiberal pondering followed hours and hours of fury on social media over Fox and Wootton and ‘GBeebies’, as the dazzling wits of the Very Online middle class love to call it. There was a deafening clamour for Ofcom to ‘do something’, to get heavy with this sinful news channel, to put the right-wingers out of their misery. The Fox controversy was brazenly used as a soapbox by the authoritarian left to demand the full erasure of this wicked broadcaster.

The political class’s ears pricked up in response to the mob lust for official sanctions against GB News.

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