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Monday 23 January 2012

Murdoch Is Served (65)

Last Saturday’s Guardian carried an article under the by-line of Dan Sabbagh, on the continuing fall-out from Phonehackgate, and particularly its effect on the culture of News International (NI). The impression was given that NI was looking to make some kind of break with its recent past, but also that, by telling how Mr Justice Vos had ruled recently, there was more to come.

And so it came to pass: more revelations have been made this morning, and they bring terrible news for NI’s efforts to move on. Not only did hacks at the Screws blag murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler’s phone number and pin code from her school mates, but they then tried to bully Surrey Police into going on a wild goose chase because a local employment agency had called Millie by mistake.

So in addition to phone hacking, the Screws gives every appearance of attempting to pervert the course of justice (or, in plain English, being blatantly dishonest). It does not seem to have occurred to Rupe’s downmarket troops that a 13 year old was most unlikely to be on the books of a recruitment agency: that agency seems to have got two phone numbers mixed up.

Labour MP Tom Watson has today described the latest news as “Utterly stomach churning”. And he also claims to have been told by someone at NI that Rupe and Junior are planning to launch a “Sunday Sun” in April. As the latter would be a relaunch of the Screws under a different name, one has to wonder whether even the Murdochs are sufficiently shameless to continue with the project.

Moreover, one also has to wonder just how much more self-righteous attack hackery is going to come out of the Super Soaraway Currant Bun trying to bully the Guardian off the ball. Last December, the paper claimed “Guardian ‘sexed up’ Millie Dowler hacking scandal”, and managing editor Richard Caseby tried to pin the closure of the Screws on Alan Rusbridger and his team.

The following day came “Guardian blasted for ‘sexing up hacking stories’”, with Caseby asserting that Rusbridger “has an agenda against the popular press, a section of the media he clearly holds in contempt”. And following that came “Guardian dodges TV clash with The Sun”, which was a suitably creative retelling of the facts (the Eye saw this one rather differently).

Strangely, today the Sun website carries no sign of that bullish retaliatory copy. There is no word on its Sunday stablemate (not even the comment “We decline to comment on that. We don’t have a comment on that” given to The Journal earlier). Rupe’s downmarket troops appear to have been caused to engage brain before shooting from the hip.

Perhaps it would be best keeping it that way.


@Silveradical said...

There is probably no end to the thick-skinned reptile's shamelessness.

If Rupert Murdoch had any sense of propriety, or the extent of people's disgust with him, he would hardly be broadcasting his bizarre views on Twitter, but eating real humble pie well away from the public eye and preparing for the possibility of jail.

Anonymous said...

From the Guardian story of 23rd January 2012.

"But according to the newly released report, the NoW's "110%" certainty was simply based on illegal interceptions, a misunderstanding of the facts, and an apparent confidence that police would not dare take action against it for phone hacking."


"His Labour colleague Paul Farrelly said: "Apart from the immorality of hacking into Milly Dowler's phone, the letter shows the sheer nerve of the News of the World in feeling able to bully and harangue the police. This was a paper clearly intoxicated with arrogance of its own power.""

This is the crux of the matter. NI did things because its experience was that it could get away with it. It was able to bully the Police and politicians because it was fairly sure that it could get away with it. And the Police and politicians adapted to that situation by using NI to put out their own stories. The press, Police and politicians all became part of the same problem, believing that it was inevitable and normal that NI would behave in this way.

The press could regulate itself much more effectively and that would avoid the problems of state regulation (though what we do if the press fails to improve its self-regulation is another question). The State should concentrate on breaking the hold of NI on the Police and politicians. A few months in jail for some of these people might send the right message.