By William Hallowell | Editor
Yes, Morgan may be unlikeable – and yes, his comments may be offensive; but perceived offence taken should not impede or supersede free speech.
This morning, on 1 September, Ofcom – the UK’s broadcasting regulator – announced its verdict on the controversy surrounding Piers Morgan’s comments on Meghan Markle, following her “incendiary” claims to Oprah Winfrey, to use his words.
In the totally explosive, self-obsessed “interview” of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, moaning Markle made accusations of racism against a conveniently unnamed royal, suggesting there were in-house worries over baby Archie’s skin colour. She also proclaimed that her mental health – here we go! – suffered greatly after being married into the Royal Family, even to the extent that, she claims, she contemplated suicide.
For being an open and outspoken sceptic of these dubious claims, Piers Morgan was lambasted by viewers of ITV’s Good Morning Britain – and the wider public – for questioning the legitimacy of these claims, going as far as forthrightly branding her a liar. As a result, fifty-eight thousand complaints were made to Ofcom, prompting an investigation into Morgan’s criticism.
Ofcom’s decision will be undoubtedly unpopular. Critics of Morgan and supporters of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – who, most of which, have merely weaponised the divisive pair as a means to drive an anti-monarchist, republican agenda – will condemn Ofcom’s verdict, which was posted on Twitter.
The opening paragraph read: “This was a finely balanced decision. Mr Morgan’s comments were potentially harmful and offensive to viewers, and we recognise the strong public reaction to them. But we also took full account of freedom of expression.”
Today we’ve concluded our investigation into Piers Morgan’s comments on Good Morning Britain in the wake of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.— Ofcom (@Ofcom) September 1, 2021
Read our decision and the reasons for it here (pdf) ➡️ https://t.co/bzU8cZ4Saz pic.twitter.com/cc8x7ct7av
No other statement could have been fair to Morgan, regardless of how arrogant and, like Harry and Meghan, how self-obsessed he is. This is not a political matter of monarchists against republicans, or a matter of whether offence was or wasn’t caused. This is a matter of free speech. To some, or even to many, it is plain to see how Piers Morgan’s comments can be seen as offensive – especially if you are someone who has suffered from mental health. In fact, many were outraged that Morgan would dare to question anyone, no less than “Princess Pinocchio” – as he dubs her in his reactionary victory tweet – on her proclamation about suicidal thoughts.
I’m delighted OFCOM has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 1, 2021
Do I get my job back? pic.twitter.com/czhzeejYpa
The fundamental issue around political discourse today, is that arguments are launched off the basis of emotions and feelings, rather than pragmatism or objectivity. Yes, Morgan’s comments were highly likely to cause great offence – that was almost certain. But objectively, offence is subjective, and therefore must not impede or supersede the right to free speech – regardless of how morally questionable or offensive an opinion is.
It would be totally arrogant and narcissistic to argue that an opinion is offensive, because offence is subjective. An opinion may be perceived to be offensive, but that would not make that opinion universally and objectively offensive. Therefore, whilst those who complained to Ofcom over Morgan’s comments are well within the rights to do so, what they cannot demand is that he is sacked or reprimanded for exercising what he exercises best: his freedom of speech and expression.
Piers Morgan may be insufferable; he may be arrogant; he may be insensitive or perceivably offensive to some – but none of these subjective opinions should warrant his “cancelling”. And offence taken by his views on Meghan Markle or mental health – or quite frankly, anything – should not be considered any more significant or important than his right to free speech.
Image credit: Digitas Photos