The potential for Phonehackgate to mutate into something to give many in and around the Fourth Estate their worst nightmare has come closer with the revisiting of what at the time was called Operation Motorman. Those who have read Nick Davies’ excellent Flat Earth News will need no introduction to this exercise, or its subject, private investigator Steve Whittamore.
When the Information Commissioner’s officers descended on the south coast town of New Milton, and raided 3 Orchard Grove on the morning of March 8 2003, they found records of six or seven years’ evidence of Whittamore’s trade in illegally obtained information. Most of his customers were hacks at national papers: eight dailies and ten Sundays.
The largest single buyer was the Daily Mail: 63 journalists had made a total of 985 requests for information. So one might have drawn the conclusion that those currently going after the instances of questionable goings-on would be on the case of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery. But one leading light of the blogosphere has proved noticeably reticent so to do.
Step forward the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines, who styles himself Guido Fawkes, and his tame gofer Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere. This less than dynamic duo have shown themselves to be most reluctant to lay into the Mail, preferring instead to go after the Mirror, in a crude attempt to “get the lefties” in retaliation for the damage done to their beloved Rupe.
So it was that yesterday the Fawkes blog went into judge-and-jury mode and pronounced that “the Mirror group ... are as guilty as those arrested at the News Of The World”, for which no evidence was offered, as neither Staines nor Cole had bothered to do any research first: this is all about blinkered tribalism. Not for the Fawkes blog and its readership the enjoyment of spectator sport.
A case of so far, so predictable, but why not also go after the Mail? Ah well. Despite the image of “being outside the hated MSM”, the Fawkes blog is anything but. In fact, so mainstream are Staines and Cole that they have developed a nice cosy relationship with the followers of the Vagina Monologue. This first came to light when they worked together with the Daily Mail newsroom over the unsuccessful attempt to go after William ‘Ague.
The cooperation between the Fawkes blog and Dacre’s finest has continued, with the story of the 2003 fixed penalty notice which Chris Huhne is claimed to have got his former wife Vicky Pryce to take on his behalf. It’s a nice little earner, and Staines and Cole know full well that if they cross Dacre, he’ll cut them off at the knees.
Which is why there won’t be any Mail bashing in the Fawkes blog any time soon.