Rupert Murdoch and his son were summoned before parliament, and gave an eerie performance as an ageing father who had vaguely heard his son had done something regrettable in the family woodshed. Meanwhile the British prime minister, David Cameron, was forced to return from a foreign trip, like a tottering dictator called home by the politburo. The country’s top policeman and top counter-terrorism copwere forced into resignation. Two government judicial inquiries have been set up. Two commons committees are in continuous session. The police are everywhere. Journalists and MPs are lying on the floor, kicking their legs in the air with glee.
Has anyone been murdered? Has anyone been ruined? Is the nation gripped by financial crash or pandemic, earthquake or famine? Are thousands homeless or millions impoverished? A squalid surveillance of the sort long conducted by the tabloid press went beyond what in this business is laughably called good taste and constituted a crime.
Errr the News of the World hacked into a dead girl’s mobile and deleted messages to make way for more anguished voicemail messages, which they could then presumably publish and profit from. They interfered in a police investigation, their hacking was seriously illegal, whether practised against her or against Hugh Grant – how on earth does Jenkins feel so comfortable with dismissing this behaviour? The editor of the paper at the time of the Dowler hacking has denied any knowledge of what went on, yet has admitted she paid police for information. News International is still paying the legal expenses of the private investigators already convicted of illegal surveillance. Should we dismiss their motivations and accept their apologies? No – noone’s been murdered, there’s no famine, but civil society’s been thoroughly subverted, corruption is endemic at the highest levels of the media, the police and maybe government; this criminality really matters.
Jenkins worked at the Times, a News International paper, so maybe his attitude towards yesterday’s grilling of the Murdochs and Brooks isn’t altogether surprising, but it still stinks. Check his next rant:
It is unsurprising that Murdoch’s fiercest critics should also be his fiercest competitors, notably the Guardian and the BBC. The Murdoch-owned Sky is the one rival to get under the skin of the BBC’s dominance of the radio, television and online market. The BBC led on the story every day for two weeks, despite the state of Europe’s finances, famine spreading across Africa and Cameron’s challenge to the welfare state. The BBC had its share of hard knocks from the Murdoch press and clearly could not resist hitting back.
Somehow he attributes the Guardian’s and BBC’s investigation of News International to a bizarre form of jealousy. Later in the article he writes everything the Murdochs’ firm has done as an ‘error’, out of ‘eccentricity’. Is the corruption at the top of the Metropolitan Police really just an ‘error’, and News International’s blocking of the investigation ‘eccentric’, where both should get away with just saying ‘sorry’? Neil Kinnock was being typically barmy when he suggested legislating balance of the press – I don’t hear the Guardian or BBC lining up behind him; what I hear is them doing their jobs. Maybe Simon Jenkins could learn from his non-NI employer and get the severity of what’s happening into perspective.
Absolutely priceless. This had me laughing at work (which is a difficult thing to do)!
Just watch the News of the World’s former Deputy Features Editor Paul McMullen defend phone hacking. Then watch former BBC Director General Greg Dyke and actor Steve Coogan rip him to shreds:
Dyke is right. This isn’t about a question of freedom of the press. Television journalism is regulated, and papers like the Guardian abide by the NUJ’s code of conduct – both manage to fulfil the functions civil society needs them to without any difficulties whatsoever. McMullen skirts over the fact which Dyke brings him back to: the press should not be free to engage in corruption with the police, criminality with private investigators and to damage (and often destroy) people’s lives. Why should the press be free to hack into a dead girl’s mobile phones and delete messages to make room for more anguished messages which they can then exploit? Should the press be free to engage in immoral practices which also interfere in police investigations? I think his behaviour is outrageous. Should they be able to pay police officers huge sums for information?
Let’s remember as well that we don’t have a free press anyway. Our media is owned by increasingly few people, and our papers by even fewer – the playing field has been skewed horribly by the Tories and Labour alike, in the name of currying favour with tabloids, who they felt could win them elections. Regulating the tabloids which behave in an immoral and criminal way isn’t at all interfering with the freedom of the press – the responsible elements of said press are already abiding by regulation which helps the press. I hope attention moves on before terribly long to the HateMail and others (read page 9).
I couldn’t agree with Hugh Grant more. I think it’s remarkable that he’s playing an even better PM in real life than he did in ‘Love Actually’. How is that possible?
For the record, the story that he broke for the New Statesman is here. Andy Coulson has now been arrested, and it remains to be seen who the alleged second arrestee will be. Interestingly Rebekah Brooks was going to face a no confidence motion against her from the News of the World staff, except of course she then fired every last one of them before they had the chance. Expect the Sunday Sun or Sun on Sunday, and for Murdoch to use every weapon he has available in his arsenal to win full control of BSkyB. It’s a step beyond machiavellian – it’s a megalomaniacal act I’d say, to fire an entire newspaper’s worth of people – some of whom won’t be the scum of the earth – purely to win the biggest possible prize.
News International’s friend David Cameron, the man who had no problem with Andy Coulson as his Communications Director, really should think long and hard about allowing the takeover. Murdoch may have played a little trick yesterday, to ensure questions aren’t asked about plurality, but he also needs to assure his other friend Jeremy Hunt that he and his cronies are ‘fit and proper’ to run the Sky show alone. I think we’ve had it conclusively proven that that couldn’t be further from the case. How many MPs will have the guts to stand against the NI empire?
For that matter who buys James Murdoch’s argument that Brooks’ ethics are ‘very good’? Stephen Glover at the Independent argues:
My belief is that Rebekah Brooks will have to go, and that James and even Rupert Murdoch may not be safe. Temporarily closing a newspaper – for that is what this announcement amounts to – should not divert our attention from the main culprits. This is a desperate ploy by a dysfunctional company.