Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A Month's Worth Of News In A Day

The headline may be an exaggeration, but it is only a slight one and that is a testament to just how much has happened on this particular Tuesday.

I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on the afternoon’s events so far as the hacking scandal is concerned. Ever since the Guardian broke the story that the News of the World had hacked Milly Dowler’s phone on Monday 4th July, a mere 15 days ago events have unfolded so quickly as to leave the paper issues of every newspaper seeming redundant before they even hit the shop shelves. This afternoon was always going to be a particularly heavy news period, with Sir Paul Stevenson and John Yates attending one hearing and Rupert and James Murdoch along with Rebecca Brooks attending another. My twitter feed, which is always dominated by political and journalistic figures, has been going crazy all day, with up to 30 new posts every 15 minutes or so, and it’s showing no signs of slowing anytime soon.

Even as I type more stories are breaking in relation to Neil Wallis, deputy editor of The News of the World at the time of the hacking, being an informal advisor to Andy Coulson during the period that the latter was working for David Cameron. Normally not all that incriminating for the PM because it is likely to be quite deniable so far as his knowledge of the role goes, but as part of the larger picture, with more and more people around him clearly having been involved in criminal activities, it adds to the pressure on him.

As part of the questioning of Yates this afternoon, he made reference to emails between himself and Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron’s chief of staff, that included what appears to be Llewellyn advising Yates not to raise the issue of phone hacking with himself or anyone attached to 10 Downing Street. It seems to be the subtle political equivalent of sticking his fingers in ears and going “la la la I can’t hear you” so far as phone hacking was involved.

The committee’s sessions with the Murdoch’s didn’t include many major revelations, though I did get the impression that they both must have been on one epic decade long bender, so large are the gaps in their memory and knowledge of what was going on. Rupert can perhaps legitimately claim that The News of the World is such a small part of his media empire that he wasn’t particularly aware of individual practices there, but James has no such excuse, yet tried to use it anyway.

Frustratingly some idiot attacked Rupert Murdoch with a custard pie during the later stages of the hearing, merely succeeding in making him look like an 80 year old victim for the first time in the past fortnight, not an angle that helps anyone hoping that those responsible for the whole sorry scandal are brought to justice. It is also deplorable on the more simple level that it was an attack on an elderly man who, whether or not you agree with his politics or business strategies, does not in any way deserve physical attacks. Even more frustratingly he is a member of UK Uncut, though the group was quick to point out that they were in no way involved in what happened. It does sadly give the right wing press, who already have an axe to grind against the anti-cuts movement, more ammunition. From the footage I’ve seen it looks like Rupert’s wife got a good hit in on the attacker and good for her, the guy deserved both that and any criminal punishment that follows, it was a callous and stupid attack that also trivialised a serious political issue.

A sign of just how busy a day of news it has been can be reflected in two stories which have barely got any coverage.

Last night a group of hackers going by the name LulzSec managed to get past the online security of the Sun newspaper’s website, initially redirecting traffic to a fake version of the page with a lead story about Rupert Murdoch having committed suicide and then later linking straight to LulzSec’s twitter account. Normally a hacker or group of them hijacking one of the nation’s major newspaper’s websites would be big news, dominating front pages and online debate. However in this current climate it barely caught anyone’s attention, and as little seems to have come from the hacking in terms of big revelations discovered in emails or anything of that sort, the public’s attention only turned most fleetingly to that story.

It was the public being distracted that also led the Health Secretary to choose this particular day to announce that more than £1b of NHS services were going to be opened up to competition from private companies and charities. It’s a great example of a government taking an opportunity to bury bad news, aware that everyone will be looking in the opposite direction.

I’m sure by the time a lot of people read this, the post will already be out dated and outpaced but that is kind of the point; this story, with all its separate but interweaving strands is moving so fast as to make systems like the Guardian’s live blog one of the only effective ways of keeping up to date.

I’ve got more to write on the hacking scandal, especially in relation to The Daily Mail and a previous inquiry into hacking and blagging carried out in 2006, but I will save that for another day.

For now I will leave you with a song from an artist that I keep meaning to check out more extensively than I have so far; Robyn. It’s an acoustic version of a song from her ‘Body Talk’ album.

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