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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

In Praise of James Cameron

I'm not of the right generation to have appreciated James Cameron's journalism at the point of production. Most of it was written long before I was even born. John Pilger in the Mirror and on TV was my generation's radical hack of choice. I do remember though seeing a documentary about Cameron's career  which made me think he was a remarkable man and a few years ago I read the very good book he wrote about India. 

Over Christmas I read Cameron's autobiography Point of Departure and now I understand what a truly great man he was. For me at least, his greatness stems not just from his journalism, but from the stance he took against injustice, a stance that at least twice cost him his job. 

On the first occasion he fell out with Lord Beaverbrook over a crass attempt by the Evening Standard to smear Labour's Secretary of State for War John Strachey on the back of the Fuchs atomic secrets scandal. Cameron didn't even work for the Standard but for another paper in the Beaverbrook stable - the Daily Express. He went out of his way to pick a fight when he could have said nothing and did it because he was ashamed to be associated with a press baron for whom the tag 'power without responsibility' was coined by  Stanley Baldwin.

His second fallout was with Edward Hulton the proprietor of the Picture Post. Cameron had been reporting on the Korean War and witnessed the mass round up, mistreatment, imprisonment without trial and in some cases extra judicial execution of South Koreans suspected of having communist sympathies, and all of this under the protection of the United Nations flag. 

Cameron saw at first hand what was going on and had photographic evidence. Understandably he found it difficult to reconcile the official version of  what the United Nations - in practice the United States - was doing in Korea with the reality. The reality was that the United States was propping up the brutal, corrupt and vicious South Korean regime and would tolerate no opposition to its narrative from its allies.

Hulton personally vetoed Cameron's feature despite the fact that the brutality of the South Korean regime had already been a subject of  debate in the UK parliament. Cameron could have kept his mouth shut, but chose not to. His resignation provoked a crisis at the Picture Post which led to the sacking of the editor. The staff revolted and Cameron was reappointed. But by then, as he says himself, there was nothing left of the paper  that was worth writing for.

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