Sorry about the hiatus in posts over the last week but the realities of life will intrude upon the fantasy life of cyberspace. Over the intervening period we in the UK have been inundated with incessant recounting of the iniquities of News International, its owner, executives and minions. There are two aspects to this affair, both elicit the same reaction, disgust.
The great British public were unmoved by revelations that John Prescott’s ‘phone was hacked. The general reaction was that he is a greedy, blustering, adulterous bully, it serves him right. Various ‘celebrities’ had their ‘phones hacked? Live by the sword die by the sword.
However, when it came to the reality of Millie Dowler’s ‘phone being hacked and messages deleted whilst the search for her was still going on and false hope was given by activity on her mobile then disgust and anger were appropriate responses. When the possibility of the bereaved relatives of soldiers killed on active service being victims we felt nauseated and wondered how low could these people get.
But the nausea was not confined to the activities of the News of the World. The parade of the great and the good clambering over each other to reach the moral high ground has been nauseating.
Ed Milliband rightly criticised David Cameron’s appointment of Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World, to a post in 10 Downing Street. Unfortunately he also forgot the way in which the government of which he was a member fawned on Rupert Murdoch. Tony Blair listened oh so carefully to Rupert Murdoch’s views on Europe. Whilst Prime Minister, Blair even flew all the way to Australia to give a speech for NI. Where was the indignant Milliband then?
Alistair Campbell criticising the ethics of those who work in the media? This is beyond parody.
Our MPs are so bemired by their own corruption that they are eager to leap and point the finger at someone else. Noting the close connections between News International and the police, and the failed investigation into the initial complaints the Home Affairs Committee of the Commons has written to Assistant Commissioner John Yates asking him to give evidence to the Committee. The Chairman of the Committee? None other than Keith Vaz, a politician so slippery that his colleagues in Parliament have nicknamed him Vaseline.
Sanctimonious celebrities who have been exposed by the media in the past have not been slow to react. Sexually incontinent drugs abuser Steve Coogan accuses News of the World executives of being ‘morally bankrupt, and ‘peddling tittle tattle.’ Kerb crawling Hugh Grant assumes the moral high ground. Max Mosley, he of the soda-masochist orgies, quietly funds cases against the News of the World. Do we not hear the sound of scores being settled?
The BBC have given us wall to wall coverage of the difficulties of one of their major competitors. The Guardian and Independent have deplored the activities of their ideological opponents, whilst forgetting that they lauded the courage of Julian Assange whose activities endangered lives.
Most dangerous of all is David Cameron using this as an opening to impose controls on the press, or being pressured into such action. A tame press brought to heel is too attractive a proposition to be resisted by many amongst those who have been exposed in the past or could be exposed in the future. If pressure is brought to bear for press restrictions David Cameron, with his poor decisions regarding News International will have difficulty resisting it.
In any healthy democracy it is vital that the press be free to expose the failings and even the foibles of those who rule or influence the nation. This affair has given the rich and powerful an opportunity to impose press regulations which will keep the public in the dark. If politicians are allowed to muzzle the press we will all be the poorer. Far greater corruption will go unchecked if parliament is allowed to restrict the press.
The best defence against the type of criminal activity encouraged by News International is a free press which can expose the powerful be they politicians, celebrities or the press itself.