A Sacrificial Lamb #notw

The News of the World is closing down (hooray?)

It looks to me like an attempt to provide a sop to the masses, to remove a tainted brand. But there are several reasons why this should not be the end of the story.

Firstly, there are people who were involved and knew (or should have known if they were anywhere near competent) who are still working in News International and at other places.

Secondly it’s more than just listening to voicemails now. It seems to involve the systematic corruption of police officers, first to obtain information to assist in hacking, and secondly to help cover up the extent of the problem. It involves a company trying to bury the truth and pretending that they know nothing, while threatening and bullying real investigative journalists and politicians or anyone else who questions them. It involves a regulator, a police force and parliamentary committees and senior politicians content to accept ‘assurances’ even as evidence mounts up and becomes more and more clear.

Thirdly, News of the World and News International are far from the only ones to have been suspected of illegal story-gathering. The private investigators that the NotW use and the Sun use are often the same ones that other newspapers use. Journalists move around from paper to paper on the backs of their reputations – which are based on their ‘scoops’ as much as anything. I can’t believe that there won’t be other tabloids dragged in. The Sun is a definite candidate, as are the Mail, the Mirror, the Express and the Star.

Fourthly, this leads to major questions about the suitability of those connected to News International to run any media outlet, let alone one as influential and market-dominating as BSkyB

Fifthly, while Cameron can’t be blamed any more than any other politician for sucking up to the press and the Murdoch press in particular, and while he may be able to claim he didn’t know what was going on when he first hired Coulson in 2007, after 2009 there were many more things coming out and there are claims that after the 2010 General Election specific issues were raised with Cameron concerning Coulson and illegal acts and the PM still appointed him to a position at No10 – paid for by the tax-payer.

I never bought the News of the World, and so cannot do more than I usually do to boycott it this weekend. I hope as many people as possible leave it alone. Rather than buy it so some money goes to ‘good causes’ we should leave it to rot and give a bit to a charity this weekend.

And then seriously consider whether we want to encourage the other tabloids ever again by buying them when they continue to lead with splashes about the private lives of minor celebrities, or the minutiae of horrific crimes.

Yes, it is worse

Since I wrote my last post, it’s been alleged that families of the 7th July bombing victims and families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan were targeted by News of the World.

And that despite having known about payments to ‘a small number’ of police officers at the Met, the Met are still in charge of the overall investigation. The original investigation (which resulted in convictions but only concerned hacking of phones linked to royalty) did have access to a huge amount of information from Glenn Mulcaire, which it has since transpired could easily have identified many other potential victims. There are real questions as to whether there are police officers who didn’t just turn a blind eye in order to maintain an easy relationship with the media, but have been corrupted into helping cover up crimes.

Quite a few of the private investigators used by the media are themselves ex-police, and so would have friends in the force. But it’s those very PIs who were having to commit the actual acts of hacking and bribery etc to obtain information, paid for by reporters. I don’t believe that the News of the World is the only paper that has been involved in this – the Daily Mail has recorded a lot of payments to PIs over the period that these actions took place, including to some of the same individuals.

Former coppers who are commiting crimes? Active coppers who are taking money? Senior officers who deny that evidence exists when it’s been sitting around at Scotland Yard for five years?

Dixon of Dock Green had it right: “There’s nothing worse than a bent copper”.

Can the Sun/News of the World get any worse?

Now, I’ve never been a particular lover of the Sun or the News of the World. My dad was on the periphery of the Wapping dispute. I watched the Hillsborough disaster unfold live on TV and then a few days later was delivering the Sun as it published utter lies about the event. I think that Rupert Murdoch’s influence on the media is malignant and corrupting the world over.

But even today the torrent of stories about phone hacking and other nasty behaviour have been shocking. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Politics. Tags: , . 6 Comments »

The power of the interwebs part 2

After outflanking overzealous lawyers for unscrupulous oil firms, the ‘blogosphere-twitterati’ axis had another shot at idiocy this week.

I don’t read the Daily Mail voluntarily, with it’s constant stream of drivel designed to invoke fear in the middle classes, the coded stories that play into BNP and racist tropes, utter tripe dressed up an science etc., but I did look at the comment piece by Jan Moir yesterday (here is a screen shot showing the original version, before it was ‘tidied up’ and retitled by the DM).

Despite her subsequent protestations of innocence and accusations of a ‘orchestrated campaign’, it looks very much to me like here homophobic article sparked spontaneous reaction. As for Trafigura, it was sparked by people reading the online version of a newspaper, and passing on their reactions to others. Rather than being orchestrated, what really seemed to happen was that people joined on to a bandwagon, adding their own suggestions (“complain to the Press Complaints Commission”, “oh, they will reject complaints if it’s not from those mentioned in the article, what about an advertiser boycott?”). Reading some of the articles and the comments beneath them, it certainly looks to me as if it was ad hoc, not planned out.

The most disgusting aspect of the whole affair is that Gately’s family are holding the funeral for him today. There really is a ghoulish element in the press – even though Moir said in her article that it wasn’t “being ghoulish to anticipate, or to be mentally braced for, [the] bad end: a long night, a mysterious stranger, an odd set of circumstances that herald a sudden death” having listed a group of still living people that she does this for, apparently. Sorry, but that pretty much is ghoulish – as is raking through the dirt on a guy barely dead a week and extrapolating all sorts of nonsense from it.

Anyone with any decency would at least hold off for the sake of his family and friends. Not the Daily fucking Heil though.

Sun ‘goes’ Tory

Today, the Sun announced (having trailed their front page by sending out emails to loads of leading bloggers – but where was mine, eh?) that they will be backing the Conservatives in the next General Election.

This is not a huge surprise. They have been in a ‘neutral’ position for some time, and even when they did back Labour it was always from the basis that the Tories were rubbish and that New Labour were adopting policies they could get behind. There’s a hint that they only back the party likely to win anyway, so as to curry favour for Mr Murdoch when it comes to media regulation. There’s a fair amount of following readers rather than leading them as well.

I’m not going to go over the reactions, as they are not very much use – either dismissive, as if a paper read by millions can be ignored, or too angry, as if Labour has been betrayed by an old friend. What interesting is the timing…

During the Labour Conference, on the day after the PM’s speech, is clearly a time to give some kind of verdict on the Government. Fair enough. However, the Tories haven’t had their conference yet. What if they manage (wishful thinking perhaps) mess it up? What if they drop a right clanger? Surely it would have been better to have a two-stage strategy: visibly abandon Labour today but put the Tories on notice that they are being watched, and then next week, after ‘careful consideration’ of the performance of the Conservatives, give them a resounding endorsement.

Not only would that allow the Sun a way to avoid a hasty decision, so that they could instead simply call for ‘ABL’ (anyone but Labour), but it would give them two opportunities to make a big splash – after all, they are in the business of selling papers.