The Scruton tapes: lack of self-awareness at the Spectator

Douglas Murray, a man who told Nick Ferrari on LBC in 2017 that “less Islam” is the answer to having less terrorism the UK, has composed a cover page Spectator piece defending the ‘character assassination’ of Sir Roger Scruton.


Former government adviser Roger Scruton was sacked from his position within the Conservative Party earlier this month following an interview with the New Statesman where he dismissed Islamophobia as a “propaganda word”, said homosexuality was “not normal” and commented that Hungary was being invaded by “huge tribes of Muslims” from the Middle East.


At a time when Islamophobic hate crime is rising in our society, such speech stokes hatred towards Muslims. The public should be protected from dangerous cruel abuse directed at minority communities.


Instead, the Spectator along with many high-profile voices across twitter, are pulling out the stops to defend Scruton’s rhetoric. Murray’s argument is that Sir Roger’s words had been taken out of context, and that the New Statesman had not followed reasonable journalistic standards.


How hypocritical then that The Spectator has consistently opposed the improved regulatory standards that an independent Leveson-style regulator would provide for? And not only that: the contrarian magazine has repeatedly misrepresented the system of independent regulation which Leveson recommended. In fact, the Spectator misrepresented Hacked Off’s position in one case.


In April 2016, The Spectator published an article which included:


  1. Claims that Hacked Off campaign for “state regulation of the press” (as anyone with a basic understanding of the issues would know, we campaign for Leveson’s recommendations to be implemented which would mean independent regulation of the press without state interference)
  2. Claims that Hacked Off argued that newspapers should have exposed a scandal about a Minister and his private life (not true – we argued that it raised questions that they hadn’t done so, given that the MInister in question had taken action to prevent independent media regulation take effect)
  3. Several further inaccuracies and errors.


Extraordinary, then, that the title should devote a cover story to attacking alleged misrepresentation from another journalist.


Furthermore, the problem is that Roger Scruton’s views aren’t limited to what he said to the New Statesman. He has repeatedly argued that Islamophobia is a propaganda word used to “hide the truth”, and that those mocking the idea that Islam is a religion of peace run the risk of an “Islamist” killing.


Instead of a reasonable analysis of Scruton’s remarks and the New Stateman’s conduct, the ‘character assassination’ is flipped by the Spectator to exenorate Scruton, and attack the New Stateman journalist – without a shred of self-awareness for the Spectator’s own historical opposition to journalistic standards and failure to accurately publish the truth.


In his hero of the moment piece, Murray even compares Scruton’s character assassination to that of Tim Hunt and goes on to describe how “after one member of the audience at a conference in Korea tweeted something he had said about working with women and professed outrage at the comment’s alleged sexism. None of the institutions which dropped Hunt asked if there was any case for the defence. They all just behaved as almost everyone in authority now does: they saw a potential fight and ran” in actual fact, it wasn’t just ‘one person’ in the audience and Hunt actually resigned.


It seems The Spectator want journalistic standards when other publications are investigating public figures who share the title’s world view, but not when it comes to the publication’s own record of inaccuracy – not to mention the multitude of Islamophobic articles published by the magazine.


By failing to protect vulnerable communities and maintain the most basic journalistic principle – accurately representing a story – IPSO is putting free speech at serious risk.

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Ian Sambrookreply
April 25, 2019 at 5:25 pm

Right wing propaganda lies as truth.
This is normality for this government.
: Doubleplus ungood (to borrow a phrase)

James Fairliereply
April 25, 2019 at 6:49 pm

Would someone please inform me why the following comments have been vilified? Dismissing Islamophobia as a “propaganda word”, said homosexuality was “not normal” and commented that Hungary was being invaded by “huge tribes of Muslims” from the Middle East. As far as I am concerned, the comments are true and accurate. .

Terry Stonereply
April 25, 2019 at 7:25 pm

Having now read Scruton’s comments in their original context, he doesn’t seem to be as bad as your article suggests. The journalist who conducted the interview with Scruton has since apologised for his poor journalism on that day, but you have chosen to ignore that.

JRonald Hartleyreply
April 26, 2019 at 11:08 am

Disgraceful that The Spectator opposes Hacked Off; even more disgraceful that it pursues this ill-judged policy with inaccurate statements. Is Inaccuracy what The Spectator believes it is fighting for? Or just its profitability passed on scandal and lies?

Jim Fisherreply
April 26, 2019 at 5:44 pm

While I share your general view of Scruton and of the Spectator, I wish you would not overstate your case – it doesn’t help. It is true that “Islamophobia” is often used as a propaganda word. It means fear of Islam, which is not the same thing as hatred of people just because they are Muslims. Also, it is true that homosexuality is not normal – if it were otherwise, our species would have died out long ago! Homosexuality is the harmless choice of a minority of people, not normal behaviour. That in no way justifies any ill-treatment of people who behave that way, but please keep your fact straight. You have a good case, but such exaggeration harms rather than helps it.

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April 29, 2019 at 7:26 am

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