Picture credit: ADF UK

The media won’t protect your freedom

Why was the case of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce ignored?

Artillery Row

Why has the story of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce received more mainstream coverage in the US than in Britain?  Vaughan-Spruce, a 45-year-old woman, was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion clinic in Birmingham. 

The story broke two weeks ago, and it has been picked up by several prominent conservative American media outlets such as Fox News, National Review and the New York Post

Meanwhile, the response of the UK media has largely been silence, as if pretending it doesn’t exist. Until I wrote a piece for GB News on the story, no UK mainstream media outlet to my knowledge had touched it. I’m proud to work at a company that is not afraid to cover important stories like this one.

The Catholic Herald had covered the story, as had this publication. Birmingham Live, a local paper, wrote a shameful article, leaving out many of the key facts of the case. It did not mention that Vaughan-Spruce was arrested only after saying she “might be” silently praying, and it did not include any comments from her. Its article is basically a write up of police and local council press statements. 

That this arrest might have been legal does not change the facts

With the belated exception of the Daily Mail, none of the legacy broadcasters or national daily papers have touched it. 

Could it be because this is a fringe story, that isn’t really newsworthy? Critics, and now Twitter in the form of an Orwellian “misinformation warning”, have argued that this is a non-story because Vaughan-Spruce was in fact arrested on suspicion of breaching a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) and not for praying. Yes, it is true that she was arrested in relation to the PSPO. What part of it did she breach? The part that prohibits prayer.

Don’t take my word for it — read the unedited text of the order here to see what is not allowed: “Protesting, namely engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.” 

She was arrested and charged for praying. That this arrest might have been legal does not change that fact.

Is there any public interest in the story? The video of her arrest has been viewed over four million times on Twitter, so it seems like it. Is the story in the public interest, though? It is a case of thought being criminalised, which is radically out of step with our legal tradition — so, again, yes.

Could there be legal issues at play, preventing reportage? Nope. Breaching a PSPO is a summary offence, which means no jury trial, which means no risk of prejudice or contempt of court. I even asked West Midlands Police if there were any other reporting restrictions I was missing, and the force did not mention any when it got back to me with its statement. 

If there is public interest in the story, it is in the public interest, and there are no legal reasons to not report on it, why has the UK mainstream media steered clear of it? That does not make any sense if journalism is a noble business, speaking truth to power.

Journalism today is the mouthpiece and enforcer of power

That’s not what journalism is. Journalism today is the mouthpiece and enforcer of power. Journalism also is power — and power in modern society is increasingly hostile to any manifestation of conservative perspectives.

Vaughan-Spruce is a pro-life Roman Catholic — someone who believes in traditional Christian morality. That should be irrelevant in relation to the principle at stake here, which is freedom of thought, but that is overlooked. People in the media dislike people such as her so they don’t run her story.

That’s the way power works. Power is the means of achieving your will. In today’s society, metropolitan liberals are the ones who can do that — the sort of people who go straight into the media, never seriously engaging with perspectives beyond those of their social class.

They don’t “do God”, as Alastair Campbell said. The good life, for them, depends on being as free from constraint as possible — including the constraints of judgement. They honestly think the world would be a better place if everyone thought like them, and they can’t imagine why that wouldn’t be the case. So, they promote their viewpoint however they can — and try to ensure that others are unable to do the same with theirs.

When the ideology of media liberals prevents them from covering stories that are newsworthy, such as Vaughan-Spruce’s, they lose their authority. People stop trusting them. That is basically what has happened over the past few decades with the coverage of issues such as the Iraq War, mass migration, Brexit, Trump and lockdown. The media prioritised ideology over reality on all of these issues and people have lost faith in them as a result.

Media elitists have come up with all manner of conspiracy theories to account for this decline in the public’s trust. It’s the fault of Russia, or far-right extremists, or anti-vaxxers and Covid deniers. The reality is they only have themselves to blame. 

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