Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Thunderer whimpers

I was wound up about the News of the World phone hacking story long before the latest acts of gross indecency erupted from the stinking sewers of the fourth estate. One reason was the apparent indifference of the media, with a few honourable exceptions, and the police towards blatant illegality until they could bury their heads no longer. Now everyone is suddenly appalled and journalists who laughed the whole thing off as part of the job have come to realise what a loathsome spectacle colleagues have made of their profession.

Earlier today one journalist tweeted a quote from an editorial in her paper which seemed to claim some kind of moral high ground over the whole squalid #hackgate affair. Here’s the tweet:
'Beyond reprehensible.' Leader article in The Times today #notw and Milly Dowler.
I happened to have read the Leader in The Times and ‘beyond reprehensible’ just about sums it up, the Leader that is not the overall scandal. I ought to put on record that I don't buy The Times or pay its tariff to view on line and the same goes for the rest of News International’s nasty empire of sleaze ridden rags. Like many football fans I remember the Hillsborough tragedy, The Sun’s disgraceful trampling over the bodies of the dead and I despised its commercially driven faux apology a couple of years later.

Back to that Leader: What a miserable piece of disingenuous self- serving apologetic it is. Here’s a taste:
Before today, The Times, which, like the News of the World, is owned by News International, has taken the view that it ought not to comment on the issue of phone hacking. We have sought to report the story straight, in good faith, without taking any editorial view…
The only thing that has a scintilla of sincerity about it in this statement is that The Times is a sister paper of the News of the World. The Times, along with the rest of the Murdoch owned press, has kept as far away from this story as possible, with the briefest of coverage deposited well inside the paper. Only when the story began to lead on bulletins across the networks and the globe did News International’s stable of British papers begin to grudgingly give it some prominence, but you still couldn’t find it on their front pages. At every stage these papers, including The Times, have parroted the party line about the odd ‘rogue journalist’ and there being nothing else to know. They assured us that internal investigations had been rigorous and all wrongdoing exposed. Their assurances were about as worthy as the initial statements spouted by the Metropolitan Police, whose woeful investigation has set back their reputation for decades. In short The Times didn’t report the story, wasn’t straight about it and showed as much good faith as a FIFA executive promising to support England’s bid to host the World Cup.

The rest of the leader is a pile of sanctimonious nonsense going on about how the truth must out and the police investigation be rigorous, though everything is tempered with the reminder that ‘these are all only allegations’. Yes, they are only allegations, but when has that ever stopped News International’s scandal sheets trashing someone’s reputation? And those allegations are coming thick and fast with virtually no repudiation from NI HQ, save for the pathetic utterances of a hapless chap called Greenberg who is a walking PR disaster every time he appears in front of the cameras.

The focus of the Leader is entirely on the journalists. Not one word about those in positions of oversight or management including Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. No mention of the culture engendered in the News International organisation that allowed or encouraged the disgraceful behaviour the Leader now fulminates against. Extraordinarily, Brooks has been put in charge of investigating the affair, in other words she has been asked to investigate herself and her colleagues. Can you imagine how The Times would thunder if any other body operated in such away? You don’t need to imagine, read their coverage of the MPs expenses scandal or the FIFA ethics committee.

‘Beyond reprehensible’ doesn’t only sum up the activities of the journalists and investigators who hacked the phones of the abducted and the grieving. The phrase applies to the newspapers who employed them, the editors who oversaw and funded their exploits, those who failed to investigate them, the politicians who turned a blind eye and cocked a deaf ear to evidence of illegality and the owners whose only concern is to sell their product whatever it takes.

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