By Mike Small
There’s been a lot of mumbling recently (mostly from Tories) that ‘this Hackgate story is over’ and ‘everyone’s a bit bored now’. News that Andy Coulson will be tried in Scotland for perjury should put paid to such nonsense. I don’t think there’ll be so much winking in the dock this time. But as scribes scrabble to capture the dramatic essence of the Murdoch media crisis. Most go for the Shakespearian, though the Simpson’s and the Muppets have also been called into play. But following this blog’s recent love-affair with all things sci-fi we feel that the Star Trek element has been overlooked.
The feckless Culture, Media, and Sports Committee was essentially the Holodeck, the virtual reality environment beloved of Next Generation scriptwriter’s in a tight spot. It’s essential that we all believe a fiction about what’s going on. As John Pilger writes:
“Long before it was possible to hack phones, Murdoch was waging a war on journalism, truth, humanity, and succeeded because he knew how to exploit a system that welcomed his devotion to the “free market”. He may be more extreme in his methods, but he is no different in kind from many of those now lining up to condemn him who have been his beneficiaries, mimics, collaborators, apologists.
As Gordon Brown turns on his former master, accusing him of running a “criminal-media nexus”, watch the palpable discomfort in the new parliamentary-media consensus. “We must not be backward-looking,” said a Labour MP. Those parliamentarians caught two years ago with both hands in the Westminster till, who did nothing to stop the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq, and stood and cheered the war criminal responsible, are now “united” behind the “calm” figure of Ed Miliband. There is an acrid smell of business as usual.”
This is only possible with the Holodeck of parliamentary accountability. Here are the fictions we all need to subscribe to:
- 38 Things Wot We Never Knew: Jimmy & Rupert’s Unfathomable Ignorance (beautifully listed here)
- There’s some sort of ‘root and branch’ reform of the top cops going on (this week saw the 5th anniversary of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station – one police officer held him down while two others fired seven hollow tip bullets into his head and one into his neck. Three other bullets missed.) Cressida Dick was deputy assistant commissioner at the Met and commanding officer on the day. Cressida Dick was promoted. Andy Hayman was awarded a CBE. Ian Blair became a Sir in 2008 and is now in the House of Lords. She replaced John Yates as head of counter terrorissm this week.
- In the Holodeck we can pretend that there’s to be a big ‘shake-up’ of the media with a proper ‘inquiry’. Just like we all pretended that there’d be a stop to bankss bonus culture. In reality, last year they were paid £14 billion – two billion higher than in 2008/9.
- John Whittingdale can pretend to be an independent Chairman. In reality he’s best buddies with les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks. If you thought he was a hit crap on Tuesday, know you know why.
- In the Holodeck the police pretend to be investigating the whole matter closely. In reality the the original phone-hacking investigation in 2009, led by Assistant Commissioner John Yates – who has since resigned - was “very poor”. The review, which took just eight hours, concluded that there was ‘nothing new to investigate’.
- We can pretend in the Holodeck that Andrew Neil is now one of the fine journalists leading the charge against his former employer. In reality as Pilger points out: “In Andrew Neil’s 470-page book Full Disclosure, the former editor of Murdoch’s Sunday Times devotes fewer than 30 words to the scurrilous and destructive smear campaign that he and his Wapping colleagues conducted against the broadcasters who made the 1988 Thames Television programme Death on the Rock. “
- Johnnie Marbles pretends to be an anarchist.
- This myth of a ‘rotten apple’ is especially good for the Holodeck which can twist reality. What about The Sun? Pilger again: “How many of the political and media chorus now calling for Murdoch’s head remained silent over the years as his papers repeatedly attacked the most vulnerable in society? Impoverished single mothers have been a favourite target of tax-avoiding News International. Who in the so-called media village demanded the sacking of Kelvin MacKenzie as Sun editor following his attacks on the dead and dying in the Hillsborough stadium tragedy of 1989?”