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Media’s lack of focus on phone-hacking exposes their real agenda – sex and celebs

Posted on 24 May 2011 | 10:05am

Apart from the occasional passing reference, there was next to no mention yesterday of the issue of illegal phone-hacking by newspapers.

This should not surprise anyone. With the exception of The Guardian, newspapers have tended to leave the story of systematic illegal activity by The News of the World well alone, for reasons likely to do with their own use or condoning of such practices. The news channels too have tended to cover the issue only when arrests or resignations have resulted.

The contrast with the zeal with which most of the media have pursued the superinjunctions issue, culminating in yesterday’s full-on frenzy, could not be clearer.

When it suits them, newspapers and politicians are at the front of the queue in expressing support for the rule of law as one of the principles on which our country operates. It did not suit Lib Dem MP John Hemmings yesterday, who saw an opportunity for a Warhol moment that would make him a short-term hero of sections of the press, and the cheap thrill twitterati. Nor did it suit those newspaper groups who have been pushing on all the pressure points that led to him finally doing their work for them in the Commons, and opening the floodgates. Nor did it suit the Prime Minister who, faced with a choice between standing up for the independence of the judiciary, and playing along with the media mood, opted for the latter when he sat on the Daybreak sofa yesterday.

The coverage in most of the papers has been self-serving beyond belief. Their self-portrait as freedom fighters taking on forces of evil might be justified if at the centre of this story was an act of serious wrongdoing by a politician, a Pope or a major corporation. It is about a footballer who had an affair with a woman who then appears to have sought to benefit financially from the experience, with the help of Mr Max Clifford and a national newspaper.

Twitter is being cited as the new kid on the block that made the granting of such an injunction unsustainable. But the argument on that too has been self-serving, all about getting the story out there whatever a judge may deem to be right or wrong. When an injunction is granted, the lawyers know about it. Staff at the newspaper know about it. They gossip amongst themselves and before long more journalists know about it. They tell their families who might tell their friends. That has gone on forever, on the thankfully fairly rare occasions when injunctions have been imposed. All twitter has done is add to the scale and speed of that process.

But until Parliament takes a view on how that should change the law, politicians and newspapers have a duty to obey the law as is. There is a wonderful irony in seeing newspapers falsely claiming judges are writing a new law as they go along – they are seeking to interpret the law as it is – whilst in their words and actions they are seeking to set the law themselves.

What they actually want is a  system where there should be one law for the media, and its day to day assessment of what is in the public interest, and another for everyone else. Phone-hacking, theft of bank data or medical records? Well, illegal, sure, but we are newspapers defending the public interest. Breaking injunctions? Well who the hell do the judges think they are anyway?

Mr Cameron has asked a committee of MPs and peers to look into the implications of social media and the internet more widely in this fraught and complex area. I am pleased that the thoughtful Tory MP John Whittingdale is involved in that. He has strong views on phone-hacking and the failure of the Press Complaints Commission. (Cameron was at his lamest in suggesting the PCC might be the solution here … That’d be the body that had Paul Dacre as head of its ethics committee.)

Whittingdale is also someone who knows there is a difference between the public interest and what the media think the public might be interested in. He knows too that if he and his colleagues come up with anything that tampers with the second of those different things, and the media’s belief in its right to build up and trash any so-called celeb it likes, they will have major amounts of ordure poured over their heads. If they truly believe in the public interest, they should be prepared to take it.

The papers are under pressure. Take away from their staple diet stories of kiss and tell and the synthetic anger and envy in which they  specialise and the pressure grows. That is what the last few days have been about. Magna Carta? Cant. Freedom of expression? Hypocrisy, esepcially in light of the near blackout on phone-hacking.

Sex sells, apparently. Celebs sell, apparently. What they are fighting for is the right to write about sex and celebs. That’s it.

  • All I would add are 2 things:

    Hemming on 5 Live with Peter Allen last night, comparing the issue to the state of affairs in Burma……self-important, much?

    Hemming has previous for self-publicity, voting for HIMSELF in a phone-in vote for ‘Love Rat of the Year’. You really *couldn’t* make it up!

  • Paul

    “Their self-portrait as freedom fighters taking on forces of evil might
    be justified if at the centre of this story was an act of serious
    wrongdoing by a politician, a Pope or a major corporation.”  Does Trafigura count as a major corporation?  That sort of case means injunctions should be looked at carefully, even if all most of the press care about is whether one of Sir Alex’s blue-eyed boys is better at controlling balls than he is his penis.  Allegedly.

  • MicheleB

    Great article.  I haven’t been able to stomach the hypocrisy of newscasters pretending they are vaunting feminist complaints with all that dribbling about the ‘poor female’ that can’t afford her own injunction.

    This has all been about nothing more than money: on her part, on the Press’ part.

    Oh no, I forgot it has also come to be about the pain and humiliation for the duped wife.

  • Olli Issakainen

    Jude Law was targeted by a “very senior News of the World executive” in the phone-hacking scandal. Why are the papers not writing headlines about this?
    Conventional wisdom is that the media can go to report speech in parliament that would breach court order. This is rarely tested in the courts.
    The common belief is that anything said by MPs or peers can be published or broadcast without fear of legal action.
    The issue arises over the media dispute of the use of superinjunctions.
    Parliamentary privilege – the right of the Commons and Lords to discuss what they wish – is enshrined in article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689. It guarantees that speech and debates in parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court.
    The media´s right to share any information revealed is less clear. Reporting a matter divulged in parliament might be seen as a contempt of court.
    And then there is the official secrets legislation.
    Polly Toynbee wrote in the Guardian that the rightwing media moralise about privacy, but the real agenda is to spread envy and anger.
    According to a Labour email, Tom Baldwin urges restraint over phone-hacking scandal. It and News Corp´s bid for BSkyB are said to be two separate issues.
    They, of course, are not. The question is about corporate governance.
    It might be a clever long-term strategy to separate the phone-hacking and the bid.
    Or is it?
    Has Labour a self-confidence problem as Jackie Ashley has asked… 


    • MicheleB

      On the subject of Polly Toynbee, I don’t think snotty Coren presented himself well on radio this afternoon when he was told of her comments about his twitting activity. 

      ‘Oh, is she still working?’ he smirked.

      I often wish that when he’s doing his eating programmes on TV he would do so with his mouth closed and with less noise (we all know his speedy accession through the media has been largely down to contacts via his own brilliant ‘old man’ …. RIP).

  • Paul

    Too right Alastair, Sanctimonious cant about freedom of speech from editors, MPs and fence sitting from Cameron. In the end though footballers and other celebs might be better advised to be open and go for post event damages rather than non-disclosure injunctions

  • Keane Sinead

    You’re attitude to phone-hacking is quiet rich.You will not comment over the dodgy dossier which was the basis for sending working class men and women to either death or life long physical injury.Does the overwhelming majority of people care if celebs phones were hacked.This issue would not so up most in the minds of the Labour party if News Group did not switch to the Tories.I think Campbell is in need a long mirror to look at himself in.When Campbell talks about this issue the three words that come to mind are,pot,kettle,black.

  • MicheleB

    Can someone advise whether this means I’m still on newbie probation …..

    “Your comment must be approved by a moderator before appearing here.”

    or is it permanent for us all?  Thanks in advance 🙂

  • Jacquie R

    I gather Paul Dacre is chairman of the Editors Code of Practice Committee, which is closely affiliated to the PCC. The Editors’ Code includes a worthy section on the importance of protecting the privacy of the individual. Of course there’s the rider that says this can be ignored if in the public interest. Fair enough, until you come across their definition of public interest including “freedom of expression itself”.

    In other words, the editors have apparently given themselves an ethical licence to invade anyone’s privacy. Seems an entirely fitting role for Paul Dacre.

  • MicheleB

    It’s all unbearably tacky isn’t it?
    Reminds me of the days when Di was being snooped on at the gym and when recordings of ‘that’ phone call between PC/Camilla was being passed around in the slower way things happened at that time. 

    I couldn’t believe that so many people wanted to hear it, the gaggles of them were more off-putting than what I knew of what they were hearing.

    The miserable snappers that hang around catching popular/unpopular people at tired, frazzled, ugly or messy moments are as guilty of invasion of privacy as those that seem more active simply because they have to go to more effort.

    It’s all leech-like and envious.

    There endeth the sermon ….


  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    self serving verbiage, media froth and vacuous brouhaha is the sum total of journalist endeavour, it woud seem. They focus where they wish for no end bar their own.
    They have omitted reflection concerning disgraceful and vile “thoughts” from another Tory fool concerning rape.
    They ignore the vacuous arrogance of this administration.
    This government is dividing our nation.
    Media tittle-tattle allows the Condems to escape responsibility.

  • Anonymous

    It’s all entirely horrible.  Cameron bases himself so much on Blair and Blair was in thrall to the popular press – but Cameron even more so.  I think even Cameron’s willingness to help the McCann family is down to their popularity in the tabloid press too.

  • DennisGasgarth

    On a completely different subject, but one that is close to your heart, I thought you might be interested in N.I.C.E’s preliminary decision to refuse recommending the use of 3 Leukaemia drugs that have been in use for around ten years.

    Glivec [imatinib] was one of the first new, genetically targetted cancer drugs to be developed. The majority of people on this drug have had fantastic responses and are living normal lives. Unfortunately not everyone can take this drug and not everyone responds to it. Two drugs have been developed since then for these people. These drugs are not merely giving patients an extra few months, but are expected to give normal life spans to patients that would otherwise die. Some people like me have already been living nine years on one of those drugs.

    NICE recommend that people already on these drugs can stay on them, but new patients can’t have them. So, any newly diagnosed Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia patient, who doesn’t respond to Glivec will in future be denied the other options. They will have to find a bone marrow donor, or die.

    So as not to clutter this topic Alastaire, you can read about the situation here:

  • A.Roberts

    Difference is that Blair was competent.

  • Keane Sinead

    How do you know it is all about money on the woman’s part.The judge said it was his belief that there was no blackmail and she has denied blackmail.The reality the majority have been taken out by rich men,its a fact.Also it takes two to tango(allegedly)

  • simon

    Yes – God forbid anyone saying anything mildly mocking of the sainted Polly Toynbee.

  • MicheleB

    It’s not just ‘working class men’ that choose to join the forces.
    What makes you ignore their ambitions (ALL of their ambitions, working class or bloddy aristocratic?).

    What makes you ignore the indisputable fact that all those volunteers know full well what the forces are for?

    What is your avatar a picture of?

  • MicheleB

    Oh good grief are you on a mission?
    BTW I just clicked ‘Like’ (spit) by accident when wanting ‘Reply’.

    Tell me, posey, did the prostitute (cough ….. hostess) we are discussing decide to apprise Mrs Giggs for Mrs Giggs’ (and the children’s) benefit in private and free of charge? 

    We might be able to afford her some respect if she had (and had reasons other than spite and revenge for so doing).

    So, tell us whether her story was offered to Mrs Giggs or ANYone in private and for free?

  • Robert

    The censor’s blue pencil hangs over all of our posts, thankfully.

    When I was learning a little bit of law we were told that the public interest meant in the (best) interests of the public.

    Not “to satisfy public curiosity”.

  • Janete


    This is the norm for all of us. There are some contributors I’d prefer the moderator blocked, but you’re not one of them. Keep posting! 

  • Janete

    Well I assume the woman in question knew she was involved with a wealthy, married father. If she had no intention of making any money she could choose to give her kiss and tell story payout to charity!

  • Mark Wright

    Trouble is, most us (I included) would rather read about DSK than the ERM.

  • Olli Issakainen

    As far as I know it is permanent for us all. 

  • SG

    ‘Difference is that Blair was competent.’
    More than competent, if your talking about looking after No. 1. Shame he wasn’t so good when it came to everyone else !

  • MicheleB

    Ageist = ‘mildly mocking’ to you?

    Good for you.


  • MicheleB

    Thank you for the info Olli; it makes sense in a way as it keeps things cool and civilised.

  • MicheleB

    Thank you too Janete.

    I must say Robert, that although this system does reduce the sparkiness of ‘live’ cyber convos (eebygum I’ve wasted hours in some) it appears to also keep things polite. 

    Whether that’s because of stuff that’s edited out, or because some of us  know how different we might be feeling by the time it appears, I suppose we’ll never really know … all quite pertinent to this particular thread topic anyway.

  • Keane Sinead

    The women is not a prostitute,I think you are mixing up injunctions.My point is did he forget he was married and did he forget that he has children and the affect it would have on them.She has also said that she was not going to sell her story.The injunction was sought when a paper was to break the story.You can not always blame the women

  • Olli Issakainen

    Happy Birthday to AC from Finland! I will be 50 tomorrow.

  • Keane Sinead

    You are wishing my point.The majority who join up come from economically depressed area’s they make a very logical step in order for betterment and to earn a living they join up.Let’s be honest it’s not Guardian readers son and daughters at war is it?The avatar is Jean Shrimpton by David Bailey

  • Keane Sinead

    Did he not know that he was married with young children?Allegedly it was not just a mere fling but an affair.I just think that it is very unfair to blame the women all the time.Also she did not sell her story

  • MicheleB

    As far as I’m aware we all gained from TB/GB/97+13yrs competence.

    We used to have an NHS where (certainly up till 2000) GPs would not even tell Govt how many patients they had on their lists or saw in a session, pleading the Hippocratic Oath (’tis true).  We had to wait days for GP appts and months/years for hospital treatment. Targets (and of course financial incentives) sorted them out.
    We used to have schools that were falling round the children’s ears and classes of over 50 (another example I know first hand to be true) – at a time when there were not even Classroom Assts.

    Easy flippancy shows you up.

  • Keane Sinead

    I am allowed to an opinion that defers,am I not?.I am not on a so called’mission’ you are attributing blame to one party.She is not a prostitute.Why did the alleged man not think of the pain that this would cause to his family.She has said that she was not going to sell her story.You can not always blame the women,two people have an affair not just one.It is unfair that the women can be named and the man can not

  • This just sounds like Tocqueville’s warning about the tyranny of the majority…there is a lot of media, they sway people and by maintaining a large presence the PM even overlooked the independence of the judiciary for the sake of appeasing a glossy manicured mob. 

  • Simon

    MicheleB …surely, not so much an ‘ageist’ comment as Coren pretending not know what she’d written ?  Then again, I didn’t hear how he said it, so you may be right.

  • Quinney

    Happy Birthday Alastair

  • Gilliebc

    Just a little word of advice if I may Michele.  Please don’t get KS started!
    He/She has no self-moderating button and simply doesn’t know when to stop!  Most people have the good sense to know when enough is enough. Sadly this doesn’t apply to KS.  He/She will more than likely go into “no punctuation” mode soon, i.e. one long rant.  Although this can be mildly amusing it is also rather worrying.  I have to be careful what I say here though, because when I tried a few weeks ago to offer words of advice and sympathy to this person, all I got for my genuine concern was another rant on the subject of being patronising!  I feel sure you must be getting by now Michele the gist of this comment.
    Incidentally, I believe all comments go into moderation, not just “newbies”
    I wonder if AC himself does the moderating on his own web-site? 

  • MicheleB

    I think the quote re ‘still working’ conveyed the impression of ageism S, along with his audible sneer. 

    Must admit he was on the back foot, he was being questioned about having been outed himself (by the so-called LibDem) so he might have been simply lashing out at whomever.

    I don’t hold any particular brief for Ms Toynbee, she’s a commentator and I’d imagine she could still be doing that long past the age I’ll be able to do my work!

  • MicheleB

    I don’t actually know what ‘wishing my point’ means, however I do take issue with the original post I was responding to.  You’re in no position to comment about what an.other wishes not to comment publicly about, not when the topic is one of international and historical importance.  You were using the blog for a cheap jibe.

    However, I’m glad to hear your avatar isn’t yourself (must get new lenses). 

  • MicheleB

    Very interesting edition of ‘Moral Maze’ tonight, chaired by an unusually mellow Aaronovitch.  The last guest speaker, Rachel Cooke, was a very subtle and civilised match for rottweiler Phillips :


    Would we have all this hype about people previously portrayed as paragons of virtue by the media if it were not for the media having done so in the first place – it’s all kind of self-serving.  They do their Lifestyle pages then set about daubing all over their portrayals.  Editors?  Or Sales Managers?

    Hey ho

  • MicheleB

    Here hear 😉


  • Jo Willcox

    Isn’t phone hacking about celebrities?

    “Synthetic anger and envy?” Really? I don’t understand, what is there to envy?Yesterdays headlines were horrible, but could have been avoided if Gigg’s had better advisors surely. It must be so distressing for his wife and children and of course, the press are hard-nosed and don’t care about the human fall out.

    But hang on, this isn’t ‘Fatal Attraction”. I think it is rather unfair to suggest that it’s all the ‘mistress’s fault’. I have no idea if she was doing it for financial gain, but this has lead to comments on this blog suggesting ‘prostitution’ and some of the discussions have left me feeling quite uncomfortable.   

  • Keane Sinead

    There is no need to be so utterly rude.People are allowed to have an opinion that differs,its called democracy.Blind devotion to a person is deeply worrying in my book,as well as highly laughable.

  • Keane Sinead

    I was reply on an i-pad,I still having trouble with keyboard.Everyone is allowed to have different opinions.I just find it highly hypocritical how a man can go on about phone-hacking and not address the elephant in the room.By the way it is not an.other its another

  • Keane Sinead

    I think you need do expand you’re horizons.Our minds are sponges for information.I suggest going beyond the bible of A.C..You cannot have an informed opinion with the little you seem willing to take in.Also you obviously when you are being riled,(I’ll let you look it up)

  • Gilliebc

    “Blind devotion to a person”  how exactly did you reach that conclusion?

    You are totally irrational!

    Still at university are you?

  • Keane Sinead

    How do you come to conclusions about me.Did I hit a nerve?Being called irrational by you is a compliant coming from you.Three little words,pot,kettle,black.

  • Keane Sinead

    You really are a very easy person to windup.

  • Keane Sinead

    I have just finished my exams exactly.My Mam is 55, you are probably around the same age ,but when I compare you’re comments with her she has a far greater intelligence than you and is funnier.As we say in Ireland you don’t understand when someone is getting it up for ya.

  • Keane Sinead

    I have just finished my exams actually.How do you reach conclusions about me?Dear,calm down take a deep breath.I gather I have hit a nerve.

  • Gilliebc

    You are obviously not familiar with the expression ” less is more”
    It took you 4 separate posts to answer my one short post.
    You say in one of your posts “you really are a very easy person to windup”
    I assume you meant “wind-up”  So if you are really saying that’s the reason you visit AC’s web site, is to wind people up.  That is truly pathetic! 
     The fact that a semi-literate moron like you was “able” to get into university, is all the proof that most of us need to know that standards really have fallen well below the accepted norm.
    Incidentally, it would take a much more intelligent person than you to have even the slightest chance of winding me up.  I have much more life experience than you and have never been a victim of a so-called wind-up!
    You seriously need to take a long hard  dispassionate look at yourself, because with your hostile confrontational attitude, you are going to find life very difficult indeed.  Not many people are as tolerant as me and the majority of the commenters on this site. You are going to be in for a very rude awakening when you get out into the real world.

  • Gilliebc

    The above/previous post was written in reply to Keane Sinead.

  • Keane Sinead

    Listen old dear there is for one no need to throw insults at a person whom you do not know.To start to throe mindless insults at a person is evidence that you have lost an argument.Sarcasm is no doubt a concept which you are not common with.Also you use ‘wind-up’ at the start of a sentence not in the middle.Old dear,breath deeply before you press reply next time.All I am saying is to have such an attitude to someone whom you do not know makes me feel sorry for you.I look forward to reading you’re next insult strewn reply.As we say in Irish ‘ Póg mo Thóin’ ‘Slán leat ‘,I know you will not understand the beautiful language,her is a hint find an English-Irish dictionary to try to translate.I look forward to you’re reply

  • Keane Sinead

    Mis- type on i-pad ,second sentence should be ‘To start with to throw ….’

  • Keane Sinead

    Listen old dear,its a blog its not Chaucer(I doubt you have heard of him)You have not got a clue what I have been through in my life.Old dear age does not quantify experience,if it did you would not throw around baseless insults.Now old dear it is time for you’re beddy bye byes.’Oiche mhaith agus slan’

  • Keane Sinead

    Is leath fuaranta agus a cailleach.Is fearr Gaeilge briste,na Bearla cliste.

  • Gilliebc

    Actually, some of us who were able to decipher some of your posts/rants
    a few weeks back know only too well the sort of weak feeble minded person you are!  You are a silly immature attention seeker.

    I’m bored with you now and as such I do not intend reading any more of your mad ravings or replying to your childish drivel!  Go away, grow up and learn some half decent communication skills.

    Finally, I don’t care what you have been through in your life.  That is no exuse for your appalling attitude now!

  • Keane Sinead

    Listen old dear part of what I wrote was Irish I doubt you would understand it.I don’t care what age you are,read what you write it does not show any sign of a mature mind.I really feel quiet sorry for,her attitude to a person whom you don’t know is dreadful.You need to look inward at yourself,stop attacking.As I said a person who throws baseless insults around has lost the argument.Old dear,you’re one track mind is boring

  • Keane Sinead

    Over the last few days I have had time to reflect on your baseless insults.I take my hat off to you for making me feel like a worthless piece of dirt.Do you get a perverse pleasure in making a person whom you do not know awful?