At time of writing I do not know the name of the lumpen oaf who tried to rub an ersatz custard pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face during his testimony to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee.
At time of writing I do not know the name of the lumpen oaf who tried to rub an ersatz custard pie in Rupert Murdoch’s face during his testimony to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee. It is possible that it was not a person at all, but a phantasm, a creature from the dark side spontaneously brought into being by the national outpouring of hysteria and hyperbole, much as the chupacabras, or goat-sucker, will manifest himself in the peasant villages of South America when the locals are gripped by a grave but irrational fear of something.
Our own version was a typically blubbery piece of self-righteous ectoplasm who will not, I suspect, be banished back to his netherworld until the national mood has abated, until those who loathe News Corp — the London left, the MPs, news organisations who are its commercial rivals and so on — have their vengeance. It may be that even then people will only be happy when they have joined my Facebook group ‘Everyone Should Be Sacked Or Killed’, which I set up in response to some previous (now forgotten) outpouring of hysteria a short while back. These atavistic jolts of mass hatred are becoming an almost monthly occurrence, whipped up by the social networking sites, the politicians turning this way and that in order to fall in step with what they believe to be the national mood.
Anyway, the fat phantasm with the custard pie was scarcely less supernatural and other-worldly than the appearance, the day before, of Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, telling MPs that he had never countenanced hacking or ‘blagging’ on his paper — part of a group which had employed private investigators 1,387 times — rather more than any other news organisation on the planet.
Listening to this, and watching fatboy with his shaving foam pie, one wondered if one’s own reservoir of utter disbelief was deep enough to last throughout the week. Still no apology from the Prime Minister for having knowingly employed a man whom he knew to be implicated in phone hacking and who, it now transpires, was himself offered freelance advice by another ectoplasmic creature, Neil ‘Wolfman’ Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor, who has since been arrested. And then, on the TV screen, the ever-present Dowlers who, via the offices of their ubiquitous lawyer, opined that Rupert Murdoch should not be allowed to complete his takeover of BSkyB and were listened to with indulgence. What an odd few days it has been.
And not a good few days for the filth, either. The Metropolitan Police have lost a bunch of top brass for their supposed misdemeanours or errors of judgment. And as a consequence, a possible replacement at the very top of this troubled organisation is a certain Cressida Dick who, if you remember, made her name by overseeing a police operation to shoot innocent Brazilians on the tube. Given a choice, I think I would prefer a copper who took the occasional gratis stay at a posh health farm over a more pious individual who nonetheless presided over the most inept and damaging police operation of the past 50 years. An operation which, it still seems to me, was not dealt with in an entirely open and transparent manner by the Met.
Nobody got killed as a consequence of Sir Paul Stephenson recovering from his cancer treatment at a health farm, although I suppose we should agree that it is probably a bad idea for a copper of any rank to accept gifts worth £12,000 from anyone, even if they have nothing to do with Rupert Murdoch. Sir Paul emerged from this week with a fair amount of dignity intact, although one might argue that he was grotesquely naive — but then, cancer may have that effect. Stephenson maintains that he had no knowledge of any link between the health farm, Champneys, and the exciting Neil ‘Wolfman’ Wallis, whom the Met had employed to do freelance public relations work. But there was a link, it transpired, and Stephenson immediately resigned.
Now the Met is being questioned over its close relations with News International, and the fact that almost one quarter of its media operation has been drawn from the Murdoch empire is cited as evidence of this. But old Wolfman aside, there is no suggestion that any other communications workers for the Met were involved in any hacking or blagging — and they had to be recruited from somewhere within the national media. We are now at the point where anyone who has had, at any point, anything to do with News International is seen as being a bit suspect. This may well be fair enough, in a general sense, and I speak as one who is a part of that organisation myself, but it is scarcely any more true now than it was, say, three months ago.
Everyone is now apparently agreed that the hacking of mobile phones is a bad thing, especially if the people whose phones were hacked have had a rough time of it, or are dead. However, apparently an exception can be made if the hacking is being done in something called ‘the public interest’. This leaves just about enough wriggle room for me to assume that, much as I suggested last week, not very much will change as a consequence of this bizarre and relentlessly entertaining interlude. Defining what constitutes the ‘public interest’ is not a scientific undertaking.