Friday, 8 July 2011

The Hacker...

There is a scene in the movie The Lives of Others where a writer, a loyal support of the East German state, indignantly asks the former head of the state security police why the Stasi had not considered him dangerous enough to place under surveillance.

"Oh but you were, constantly," the slug-like secret policeman tells him, nodding ironically at the writer's revealed conceit.

As one of life's refusniks, who refuses to subject himself to a mobile phone's ring-tone and the idiot prattling that usually follows, I am unlikely to be one of the gallant 4,000 hacked into by former News of the World journos.

Unlike Hugh Grant who, I thought, probably accurately described the Metropolitan Police, News International, 10 Downing Street cartel as a "protection racket". The higher-ups move in the same social circles thinking they are immune to the Law of Unforeseen Consequences - what goes around eventually comes around. The Prime Minister is discovering that.

Anyone who has glanced at books such as Phillip Knightley's The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Propagandist From Crimea to Kosovo and John Simpson's Unrealiable Sources, will be aware that 'rat fucking', a phrase coined by President Richard Nixon's henchmen, has a long history. He was brought down by his association with people arrested, charged and indicted for organising the Watergate building burglary, including his special counsel Charles Colson.

For Colson read Coulson?

About the only new thing in the latest revelations about how some members of the press operate (more than 300 of them according to Newsnight) is the technology.

This bear of staggeringly inadequate brain power is neither shocked nor appalled. Those epithets of moral outrage, so righteously voiced by most of yesterday's old Question Timers remind me of the protestations of those public notables who, not so long ago, used their economic power to take out Super Injunctions to prevent hacks from revealing the truth about their extra-curricular activities.

In The Lives of Others the writer does his best work in spite of the sanctions of the state, stung into risking his liberty because of the suicide of a despairing black-listed friend.

To do it, however, he has to resort to subterfuge; in effect he has to break the law of the German Democratic Republic. His adherence to truth rather than party loyalty is tested. But any feeling of moral superiority he feels is crushed by the death of his lover, a woman blackmailed by the Stasi into betraying him.

I'd like to be able to say with conviction that as long as the rich and powerful are free to use the law to protect their dirty little secrets and maintain their public image, the media will be obliged to use whatever means deemed necessary by unscrupulous news executives to get at the truth.

But it's not that simple. Just as the poor usually prey on the poor rather than the rich, the press gangs up on insignificant celebrities and the victims of crime and war to keep us boobies, to use George Bernard Shaw's expression of contempt, distracted from what's really going on.

With all eyes on Downing Street and News International's Wapping HQ, British Gas slyly chose to announce it was jacking up energy prices next month. After Sunday The News of the World won't be able to screw you; but there are plenty of other organs that will.

As for Rupert Murdoch, I wouldn't be surprised if he is awarded the BSkyB contract - after he has got rid of red-top Rebekah Brooks, kicked son James up the arse and issued a public mea culpa. He has too many friends in high places, probably has an oil-field of dirt on all of them including past and present incumbents of Number 10.

In spite of his promised inquiries, David Cameron's position is far more precarious than the Dirty Digger's. DC may be BC before the year is out.

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