What's the point?

Slim pickings around these parts recently, for which I apologise.

A few things contributing, but one of the main ones is the demoralising spectacle of the News of the World phone hacking scandal diminishing back into obscurity, looking less and less likely to actually go anywhere as time goes by. The ludicrousness of trusting the police to investigate a case in which they themselves have been accused of previously pursuing without due vigour has been exposed with witnesses threatened with being treated like suspects, thus successfully discouraging anyone from coming forward. Job done. 

Despite the best efforts of the Guardian and either well meaning or cynically politically motivated politicians, it's hard not to conclude that, again, nothing will happen or at most someone will be scapegoated. Perhaps that will be Andy Coulson, which will no doubt delight some people but won't actually be enough. As some witnesses have attested, phone hacking was something endemic across the newspaper industry. The New York Times reported that the police themselves were implicated, with it looking as though the Metropolitan Police limited the scope of their investigation to protect their special relationship with News International, whatever such a relationship may have entailed.

The whole thing is so much bigger than whether some bloke who works for Number 10 knew people at his paper were breaking the law, epecially if those criticising the opposition politicians making a fuss about the affair are right, and Labour were reluctant to make anything of it when they were in power and only feel safe enough now they're not. It's put what I do here into some perspective. Focusing on how the papers misrepresent statistics, or pretend the UK has more foreign murderers than anywhere else or Christmas is being banned right under our noses seems a bit lame. Like following around Denis Nilsen and complaining about him littering.

It's not just the phone hacking scandal that reveals how much worse newspaper behaviour can be than exaggerating statistics and pretending Muslims have done something nasty, and how far people in positions of power can be involved in press misbehaviour, although perhaps unwittingly.

The January before last, the Sun ran a ridiculous front page headline about Alan Sugar being the target of terrorists. The whole thing was based on comments on an internet discussion board calling for a polite letter campaign directed toward celebrities who support Israel, which ended up having more strongly worded criticisms added. Turns out the worst of these messages was inserted by the 'terror expert' who sold the story to the paper.

In an excellent piece of work, Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads (along with Richard Bartholomew of Bartholomew's Notes on Religion) uncovered this and the paper ended up removing the story - but this led to a considerable amount of misery for Tim, with his home address published along wih completely false accusations of him being a paedophile published in various places on the net. The people who were in a position to help Tim appear not to have. These include Patrick Mercer MP, who seems to have relied on Jenvey and his organisation for information as much as the tabloids.

Tim explains more at his blog, including how he's been forced into the position of considering legal action. Head over there while you look, and while you're there, help a brother out.

These things make uncovering how a paper has manipulated statistics or lied in a headline seem like tiny, tiny beer. It also makes doing what I do here seem a bit dangerous - if I actually did anything to properly piss off the tabloids, I'd be toast. The Mail's recent childish reaction to criticism from Stephen Fry, or to Julie Spence for not properly toeing the line are testament to that. They're people with relatively high profiles who can ride out such nonsense, but I'm just some bloke who nobody knows anything about.

That's not to say I'm going to stop blogging. I'll be back doing the same stuff sooner rather than later - I'm just finding it difficult to muster the enthusiasm right now. Plus, bad novels don't write themselves you know.

I'll be seeing you soon. Especially if papers are going to carry on banging out rubbish about Winterval this year.


1 comment:

Ben S said...

Don't be gone for long - every little fight-back against the lies is hugely useful (I can't be the only person who prints you out then leaves you on top of the Express at my Grandad's house, can I? ; ) )