Thursday, 9 July 2009

Initial response

to the burgeoning News of the World phone-tap scandal is that this, finally, is really a story worth dominating the front pages for a few days. Whether or not it does so, I suspect, depends almost entirely on the tenacity of The Guardian, because I think that -- unlike the bankers'-bonuses scandal or the MPs'-expenses scandals -- the press will have to be ruthless in interrogating their own practises, which they repeatedly demonstrate themselves incapable of doing. (As so brilliantly highlighted over at my friend Sarah Ditum's Paperhouse -- see this, for example.)

The sad point being that with News of the World, the Sun, the Times, The Sunday Times, thelondonpaper, SKY News, the Conservative Party, the Metropolitan police, the Press Complaints Commission, and the entire British legal system all now directly implicated in illegal activities and/or a cover-up of said illegal activities, I wouldn't expect of deluge of media interest in this story. I can just see everyone grabbing some very big brooms in one hand and the edge of some very large carpets in the other. Add to that the current toothless impotence of the BBC, and the Daily Telegraph's wish to not stir up old questions about where and how news outlets get their information, and that leaves us, by my count, with the Daily Mail to join the Guardian in this crusade. But somehow I just don't think the Mail will carpe that diem, despite this having all the hallmarks of a classic Mail headline: the ubiquitous foreigner who has infiltrated noble British institutions and used them to conduct illegal operations against poor, helpless celebrity darlings such as Boris Johnson and Gwyneth Paltrow.

(Brilliant headlines on BBC News 24 this morning, saying that victims included 'John Prescott and Gwyneth Paltrow' and then 'Max Clifford and Elle MacPherson' -- you just know that the news writers are trying to imagine the dream-series of Celebrity Love Island...)

I'll wait to see how this develops and how bloggers more considerate and less reactionary than I respond to this, but you just sense that this will all go away as the mass media try to distract us and divert our attention to hate figures they deem more acceptable vessels into which we can drip our scorn and and disdain. (For precedent, refer again to the MPs scandal being thrown up to let the bankers get on with the real business of robbing the British people.)

But it may not rest there: the British public love a hate-figure, a straw man that they can let fire to and dance around. Fred Goodwin, Peter Viggers... could Rupert Murdoch be next? Just maybe? in an Ashes summer?

Also, I'll be most curious to see where David Cameron's defence of Andy Coulson leads him, particularly his claim that 'I believe in giving people a second chance' -- surely that means Brown deserves another term as PM?

(The basic point is that Coulson is guilty guilty guilty as fuck, unless he's going to try to hold on to the claim that he knew nothing about it, in which case he's guilty guilty guilty as fuck of complete and utter gross incompetence, which I'm not sure makes him look any better.

And could the PCC pull its head out of its ass, realise that self-regulation is a farce and suddenly, emboldened by the public and enabled by proper legislation, 'grow a pair'?

In an election year? Not likely.

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