News International Phone Hacking Scandal: The Runaway Train That Even Rupert Murdoch Can’t Stop

July 11, 2011

Now I don’t know about you, but when I first heard about this phone hacking scandal a few months ago, I didn’t pay that much attention to it. It seemed to be about celebrities and politicians, who are more than capable, and usually have the money and influence, to sort it out. Sienna Miller, being young, blonde and pretty, and therefore worthy of great media attention, was to receive some compensation with others to follow. That’s nice for her, I thought, but nothing to do with me, guv. It’s not my world. But then, last week, the game changed.

It was revealed that a private detective, paid by the News of The World had hacked into the phone of Milly Dowler, a young girl who in 2002 disappeared and was found dead six months later. Her killer has just been put away, but the case could’ve been jeopardised, because not only did this man hack into the phone, he deleted some of the voicemail messages once her inbox was full, giving the poor family false hope that she was still alive. This was no longer about some celebrity: it was about one of us.

Rebakah Brooks, a doppelganger of the actress and comedienne Catherine Tate, was in charge at the time. There were calls for her to quit, but she declared she was as shocked as everyone else to know of the methods used to gain information for her paper and stood her ground. I thought editors were supposed to oversee a publication and would therefore have that kind of information, but anyway, moving on. Backed up by Rupert Murdoch himself, she was going nowhere. More targets were revealed each one more outrageous than the last: the family of the Soham girls, some of the families of the 7/7 victims and the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. What useful information these hacks were hoping to get was beyond the comprehension of the general public, and truly beyond the pale. The outcry had reached such a pitch, with advertisers pulling out and Facebook and Twitter going into meltdown, that James Murdoch, son of Rupert, did what anyone would’ve had to do, faced with an infected limb beyond saving: he performed a swift and brutal amputation. By Thursday afternoon news broke that The News of The World was to publish its final issue that weekend. No one expected it, particularly the journalists. A paper was to fold; journalists were to lose their jobs; Rebekah Brooks was to keep hers.

Rebekah Brooks, Chief Executive, News International


More revelations, including some police in the Met being paid to give up information for the NOTW, was making for a very toxic soup. And that was where it was left when I went for my lovely weekend away from London, where the only thing to trouble me was the sound of BBC radio 4. I reached Waterloo this afternoon to be hit in the face by more revelations of phone and email hacking. Apparently some royal protection officers were paid to gather information about the royal family. I thought we reached the apogee of royal information when it was revealed a few years ago that the queen kept her royal cornflakes in Tupperware containers: what else do we need to know?! By the time I reached home there was a debate about the scandal in the House of Commons on the radio and television. It was looking like the BSkyB takeover was to be delayed, or at least diverted from the politicians to the Competition Commission. Then, just as I was trying to digest all this information, The Guardian website revealed that our former prime minister Gordon Brown had his personal information dug into by another News International paper. This included pretending to be Brown to gain his bank account details and obtaining medical records of one of his children who has Cystic Fibrosis… and the scum continues to rise.

There has been some fun within the mire. There was a report in The Guardian and the Metro about the NOTW crossword compilers. Although she had made an order that the paper be gone through with a fine-tooth comb for any hidden messages, they managed to make some very pointed clues and answers in relation to Rebekah Brooks in the last crossword for the last issue of the NOTW. Well done, guys! Makes me wish I’d bought that last issue now, even though it’s a paper I’d rather wipe my arse with than sully my eyes. Speaking of Mrs Brooks: at the time of writing, she’s still in her job. Why? Is it because she’s the firewall to shield the Murdoch family from the baying public, the faux-disgusted politicians who once thought Murdoch to be a great ally, or the very angry journalists who are now staring down the barrel of that gun called unemployment? Or does she know where bodies are buried and is being kept very close indeed? Or maybe they just like her very, very much.

I couldn’t write anywhere near as fast as the revelations that seem to appear hourly at the moment, so I’ll leave it there. But I will say this: perhaps we need to look at ourselves as a nation: would these things have occurred if we weren’t so ready to lap up the stories? The sales figures showed we had an appetite for it, even taking into account the steady decline in newspaper sales. Can other countries qualify for sainthood in newspaper terms, or do they have as much tat as we do? What say you?



  1. I think that any journalist who gains “interesting/informative/revolutionary” information though brilliant digging and piecing together of material in the public domain does an excellent job,…
    … but one who uses illegal sneaky, underhand and illegal tactics (*especially* in the cases of murdered, missing or seriously ill children or service personal and their families) is truly the scum of the earth.

    No one in their right minds can say (or justify) that information gained on the latter would be in “the public interest”…
    … it’s deeply private and actually none of the publics business.

    If your own countries Secret Services need to tap phones in exceptional circumstances and have the grounds to back up their actions and are accountable then that’s one thing, but for a newspaper? Since when are they *really* in the business of Public safety and the Greater Good? Ha! I DON’T think so!!!

    I think that there HAS to be some way of calling Rupert Murdoch to account, after all the “blood money” that this rag earned from these stories went into his pockets.
    He did damage, he should be accountable for it. Seriously accountable, Jail would be nice.

    Of course he will barricade himself behind a very very deep line of foot-soldier lawyers and fronts-people who will effectively be his flack jacket and take the hits until he has retreated so far back that he is deemed untouchable. Sadly that’s usually the escape route of the mega rich.

    I can only hope that one day there is a “judgment day” for these people, one of the reasons I have faith is that I really truly hope that one day their true “accounts” will be tallied up and presented before them, at a place where there can be no paying off, excuses, cowardly hiding or bluster.
    The list on THAT bill of account must surely have details of activities on it that he can not be proud of as a human being.

    Yes there are probably more like him, here in NL and around the world too, I can only hope that they all hang their heads in shame and are called to account one day.

    • People like these may all be called to account one day, but we could be in for a long wait. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the wriggling Mr Murdoch’s having to do at the moment, various levels of shielding to buffer the pain notwithstanding. I think the way to really hurt the pocket is to shun Sky TV, but I doubt many people would do this.

      • Oh, by the way, welcome back, Kiwi. Nice to see you again.

  2. You know I might (really strong emphasis on might) be able to believe that she didnt know specifically what her people were up to, but she and Murdoch set the tone for the organization that made people feel compelled to go to those lengths.

    I’m not at all convinced that this isn’t pervasive in Murdoch’s organization.

    • I believe it is, and you’re right about setting the tone. People work to the culture of the organisation. If a company has the principles of a snake in the grass and goes for the bottom line at all costs, then the people working there would be under pressure to fulfill that criteria. I feel sorry for you that you have Fox News in your country. Tat and misinformation in a newspaper is bad enough, but the same thing on TV with, oooh, moving pictures and everything, can be dangerous.

  3. Its staggering how deep this runs but why are people so surprised as to how corrupt this country is and the people who run it are (media, politicians, businesses)?

    I have never bought a murdoch paper (knowingly) and refuse to buy sky – but he has his slimy fingers in so many pies – sky news, formally myspace etc etc

    I wonder how this is now going to reflect across the ‘pond’ – there is ‘talk’ that the fruit of his loin could be charged in the states for improper conduct or something like that.
    And as for the ‘gingerbread’… what in the world does she have on the clan… those comments she has made recently about ‘it will all be made clear’ in a years time! WTF is that about!??

    hmm watch this space me says?? And we all thought Wikileaks was a barrel of laughs!

    • We’ve had this conversation, Ant, and you know I won’t subscribe to sky – even if I had the money – on principle. On a personal and purely selfish note, I’m particularly hacked off that he has nicked the best American shows that were playing on the BBC and Channel4. Until recently, I could watch Mad Men, Nurse Jackie and Glee (yeah, I like a show aimed at 13 year old girls. Light and shade, ladies and gentlemen), but no more, thanks to him and Sky Atlantic. Looks like I’ll be waiting for the box sets to come out in six months.

      By the way, I loved the way you called Rebekah Brooks the gingerbread. That made me laugh out loud. I think some of the ex-NOTW journalists will have their own names for her…

  4. It’s appalling and it’s getting worse by the day as more information leaks out.

    • It’s extraordinary, isn’t it?

      I was not kidding when I said I was hit in the face with the even bigger revelations when I arrived back in London yesterday. It was beyond my comprehension and it made my head spin. I think if any of us today tried to make up an outrageous allegation about how far up the greasy pole this went and what levels these people had sunk to, the reality would trump us all.

      Some days I hate this world, but other days I love it. Today I love this world because possibly one of the biggest boils on the backside of humanity (in the western world at least) is starting to be lanced. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Avaaz and others, we, the ordinary people have been given the tools to hold this particular brand of filth to account.

    • Worrying to see that it has spread to the Sunday Times now too

      • So it would appear. Although it’s Murdoch owned and I don’t buy it, I had hoped there would be some standards in that paper (I certainly wouldn’t have expected it from The Sun). I hope The Guardian hasn’t played all their cards just yet. There may be stuff about the other tabloids just waiting to be revealed.

  5. Ooo looky look – 9/11 victims were apparently targeted.
    Again are we surprised?
    Can the whole ’empire’ be brought down now?


    • Well, maybe the empire can be much reduced. Bit by bit. Fox news may yet disappear from our screens. Let’s hope.

      • I know we’re talking newspapers here, but we can jump species. It’s all meeeeja, yes?

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