Those legendary innocents who danced to the tune of the Pied Piper one July long, long ago disappeared from the face of the earth. Does a similar fate threaten the editor dancing to the Pied Pilger this July?
The shock wave set off by the Daily Mirror’s MOURN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY issue continues to reverberate across the Atlantic. The front page blurbed "John Pilger’s damning Independence Day verdict" on the USA. Who else was it going to damn?
The Observer and The Mail on Sunday report that American shareholders, who own a third of Trinity Mirror, are deeply unhappy with the paper comparing their nation with the Nazis, labelling it "the world’s leading rogue state" and charging its President with killing twice as many civilians as the 9/11 terrorists.
In The Guardian, Roy Greenslade reveals that New York fund manager Tom Shrager phoned Trinity Mirror to tell chief executive Philip Graf "in the most forthright terms" that his company was very unhappy with the tone and content of the Pilger onslaught.
Editor Piers Morgan’s riposte in this war on his independence could have come from Big Brother (the George Orwell one). Morgan would continue to run Pilger articles "but these shouldn’t be misconstrued as anti-American".
What should they be misconstrued as? Morgan didn’t say. A pity, that. It might help those who construed as anti-American Pilger denouncing the war as a fraud and Pilger denouncing "America’s bid to control the world".
But it would disappoint readers like Dennis Evans, of Caerphilly, whose £25 Letter of the Day – "Pilger is right to hit at US bullies" – was chosen to lead eight anti-American contributions to Mirror Mailbox.
At the London ambassador’s Fourth of July party, an opinion offered to The Observer was that advertisers such as Disney, Toys" "Us and Wal-Mart would not want to be associated with "a rogue newspaper".
Now that raises an issue of principle that would apply equally were the Mirror to be misconstrued as pro-American. Advertisers may withhold custom (as they did while David Sullivan remained in charge of the Daily Star). Advertisers may not dictate to editors (as Beaverbrook told Hollywood when it pulled its ads to try to kill Milton Shulman’s reviews in the Evening Standard).
Editors have no choice but to stand firm against intimidation. Otherwise, their titles lose all credibility. And they lose all honour.