It’s not just the NOTW that needs to be destroyed


6:41 pm - July 11th 2011

by John B    


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Gordon Brown isn’t the most loved Labour leader ever. But he has a bit of an air of authenticity to him: the kind of man who wouldn’t sell his kid’s illness for political advantage, for example.

So whenever the details of his first kid’s death and second kid’s illness [*] appeared in the Sun, it genuinely made me think less of him. After all, it’s a perfect NewLab, Alastair Campbell media strategy to humanise the dude.

But it turns out that Brown never leaked to the Sun at all, and that this – like, apparently, every other story News International has won – was obtained by thievery.

Either from an insider, or from hacking Gordo’s voicemail; it doesn’t really matter. They stole the details of two upset parents, made them into news, and we’re all so cynical we thought it was leaked by the parents anyway.

But it wasn’t.

Worse, whenever the Sun first published the story, it ran a giant “no bugger can diss us” claim, “in partnership with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust“.

Having spoken to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust today, this is bullshit – the Sun told the CFT that it had the story, and asked them for some quotes on CF. At no point was the CFT aware that the original story was stolen, rather than the Browns seeking public sympathy.

So, the News Of The World is rightly dead. But the Sun has done exactly the same thing as the NOTW, and on at least one well-documented occasion it’s lied that a charity was on its side and happy with its coverage.

Let’s not rest until the weekday paper is set to rest with its naughty sister, eh?


[*] Sorry, I got confused between Gordon Brown’s kids. This has been corrected. I don’t think it makes any difference to the main point.

You can donate money to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust here.

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About the author
John Band is a journalist, editor and market analyst, depending on who's asking and how much they're paying. He's also been a content director at a publishing company and a strategy consultant. He is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy and also blogs at Banditry.
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Reader comments


Let’s get the tweet-o-matic fired up again shall we?

Agreed. The Sun ever bit as pernicious as it’s Sunday sister.

Interesting thinking as you do about the implications of the hacking on public perceptions (and the fortunes of politicians. I wonder also about the impact it had on personal relationships – how many hacking victims began to mistrust friends/relatives when stories came out that apparently no-one else could have known about.

#BoycotttheSun

3. the a&e charge nurse

Having reached the end of the (NoT) world – dare one dream that the Sun will shine no more?

Incidentally – I wonder if scurrilous rumours concerning Brown and MAOIs emanate from a similar source?
http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/depression/monoamineoxidaseinhibitors_000101.htm

4. Fat Bloke on Tour

John B

Pull the story, you have got it wrong.
The CF story relates to the younger son.
Don’t know any details but he seems to be putting up a good fight regarding his health issues.

5. Mr S. Pill

What @4 said.

Doesn’t change the fact that the Sun should not have been illegally obtaining a child’s medical records, of course (if these new allegations are true).

I’m left a bit confused by this. Gordon Brown had a daughter, Jennifer, who died after being born prematurely, and has a son, Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis. So I don’t see what the Sun’s story about Fraser’s illness has to do with ‘the details of kis kid’s death’?

Apparently there is some suggestion that information about Jennifer’s death was obtained by the press through unknown means. But I think you’re still confusing two children and two stories in this article. This quote from the Guardian is from another thread.

“Confidential health records for Brown’s family have reached the media on two different occasions. In October 2006, the then editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks, contacted the Browns to tell them that they had obtained details from the medical file of their four-month-old son, Fraser, which revealed that the boy was suffering from cystic fibrosis. This appears to have been a clear breach of the Data Protection Act, which would allow such a disclosure only if it was in the public interest. Friends of the Browns say the call caused them immense distress, since they were only coming to terms with the diagnosis, which had not been confirmed. The Sun published the story.

Five years earlier, when their first child, Jennifer, was born on 28 December 2001, a small group of specialist doctors and nurses was aware that she had suffered a brain haemorrhage and was dying. By some means which has not been discovered, this highly sensitive information was obtained by news organisations, who published it over the weekend before Jennifer died, on Monday 6 January 2002.”

Interesting that Brooks supposedly told the Browns herself how the Sun had come by this info.

It will simply be replaced by another red-top right-wing paper. The way some on the Left go on you would think that the destruction of the Sun will somehow usher in an era of popular left-wing media. The relative failure of the Mirror and the Guardian just goes to show that this isn’t going to happen. Remember also that the Sun, NOTW etc merely reflect their readers’ prejudices.

@8
You don’t think they might think twice next time? The sleazy bastards must be just waiting for their turns ( and I mean all of them, not just NI). I bet a few wine bars and off licences are coining it.

@8

It’s not a question of whether any putuative replacement for the Screws (or for the Bum for that matter) is ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ – although a greater plurality of ownership and views in the daily press is sorely needed.

It’s a question of whether such paper(s) adhere to anything which might be called ethical conduct, or even legality. That is the central issue in all this.

It is becoming clear that the tories are playing for time. They still want to hand BskB to their master.

I think it might be time for the public to start organising. We need to start a campaign warning Murdoch that there will be a boycott of both Sky and and any corporation that advertises with it if he takes over 100%

We can not rely on the tories to do the decent thing. They have no decency in them.

12. Biffy Dunderdale

Fine. Lets go for the Sun. But, given that the Mirror was listed by the Police as by far the largest phone hacker, I presume you will be lobbying hard for the “destruction” of the Mirror? So as to avoid the obvious accusation that far from being motivated by any compassion or sympathy for the victims of the hacking, you are in fact simply self-indulging in a tribalist orgy of hatred.

I’m sure you’re not doing that but you can see how it might look and the subsequent ‘destruction’ of your credibility if you weren’t to treat the Mirror equally.

13. Charlieman

@4. Fat Bloke on Tour: My bet is that John B is in Australia and that you’ll get a correction when he wakes up.

Rebekah Brooks is again implicated. They must have her down as the one taking the rap. They need to make it look like a bit of local trouble so that Newscorp can claim to be different. As I’ve said before, in the US they take these things very seriously.

Given how badly Rupe’s media behave in Australia, it stretches even the most willingly credulous onlooker to see Brooks as the common link.

This is just so delicious, I really think it can’t be stopped. Too many people hate them all and Murdoch in particular.

Brooks is either going to be the patsy to take all the shit and let The Murdoch family escape. Not sure she knows this yet.

Or, they have to save her otherwise Murdoch Jnr is next in line for the chop.

“Remember also that the Sun, NOTW etc merely reflect their readers’ prejudices.”

Or attract readers with tits and tat before shoving right-wing propaganda down their throats.

17. Charlieman

@12. Biffy Dunderdale: “But, given that the Mirror was listed by the Police as by far the largest phone hacker…”

Citation, please, of the source for this allegation. Citation, also, for stories in Trinity Mirror newspapers that used hacked phone information.

Journalists want to get great stories. To expose a politician for corruption or incompetence is good for us all and liberates the authors from formal legal constrictions. We understand that such circumstances are rare, possibly not rare enough. But that is an entirely different argument from trash publishing.

18. Charlieman

@15. sally “Brooks is either going to be the patsy to take all the shit and let The Murdoch family escape. Not sure she knows this yet.”

I am sure that she knows now 😉

19. blackwillow1

@12: True that none of the tabloids are squeaky clean on this, but we have to consider the details. Did the Daily Mirror, and others, access data that was in the same category as the stuff that NI papers used? Did they use the data they acquired, by actually publishing? If they did then, justice being impartial, they should suffer the same fate. However, considering the pace at which this story is moving, I think we would have heard more than just the basics. Yes, they’ve dipped a toe in the gutter, for that they should apologise at the very least. If they followed the NI scumbags and jumped in upto their necks in shit, they have given away any right to seek atonement, fully deserving punishment, both judicial and in the eyes of the public. WE KILLED THE NEWS OF THE WORLD, cried the headline, we may yet see more publications heading for the incinerator, not just the whole NI stable, any of them could fall. We just do’nt know yet.

if they do away with the sun and mail there won’t be anything worth reading .

21. Cheesy Monkey

Paul Gambaccini has commented on a NY Times blog entry about the time when he was approached by a NOTW hack in 1984:

http://community.nytimes.com/comments/thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/celebrity-targets-of-tabloid-cheer-its-demise/?permid=7#comment7

Just another reminder that this bullshit has been going on for years.

@Charlieman and others, see page 9 What Price Privacy Now and What Price Privacy.

23. Biffy Dunderdale

17 @charlieman – “citation please”

UkLiberty (22) beat me to it

24. blackwillow1

@22/23: The numbers tell one story, as I said earlier, the detail will decide the public reaction to various publications. I also commented in my earlier post, the pace of this story suggests that there is’nt, as yet, enough dynamite to justify lighting the fuse. We’ll just have to be patient.

25. So Much For Subtlety

5. Mr S. Pill

Doesn’t change the fact that the Sun should not have been illegally obtaining a child’s medical records, of course (if these new allegations are true).

The same way the Guardian should not have illegally obtained the Wikileaks stuff or the New York Times the Watergate Papers?

I would be interested to see any definition of legality or ethics that managed to include everything the Left is now condemning while excluding everything they used to praise.

26. So Much For Subtlety

17. Charlieman

Journalists want to get great stories. To expose a politician for corruption or incompetence is good for us all and liberates the authors from formal legal constrictions. We understand that such circumstances are rare, possibly not rare enough. But that is an entirely different argument from trash publishing.

Sorry but how does it liberate anyone from the law? Where is the law that allows people to break the law when you think it is worth it?

The NOTW did a lot of trash publishing. But it also did pretty much the only investigative journalism left in Britain. When it was good, it was very good. It is hard to distinguish the two really.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 SMFS

“The same way the Guardian should not have illegally obtained the Wikileaks stuff or the New York Times the Watergate Papers?

I would be interested to see any definition of legality or ethics that managed to include everything the Left is now condemning while excluding everything they used to praise.”

Public interest.

Sure, that’s not a magic button that validates leftist spying and condemns rightist spying (this exercise shouldn’t need the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, in fact). And it’s risky, as it relies on a judge’s discretion – you couldn’t be 100% sure whether or not your actions would be considered legal till they got to court. But surely that’s the correct rule to apply. Discovering that the US president is involved in corruption and lawbreaking is in the public interest. Hacking Milly Dowler’s voicemail isn’t.

28. blackwillow1

@27: That seems to be the point some people are missing, the ethical, or unethical behaviour that is now being revealed. Was it ethical to expose a corrupt president? Obviously, it was very much in the national interest to reveal the vastly more signifigant illegal actions of Nixon. Hacking into a dead girls mobile, giving her family false hope, hindering a live police investigation, subsequently giving a serial killer more time to kill, literally, that behaviour is in no way comparable to the actions of the watergate journalists.

29. Mr S. Pill

@25

I’m interested how you can think the publishing of Wikileaks (which lest we forget, uncovered many shady goings-on among western forces and diplomats the world over) and Watergate (implicated a serving President of the USA in covering up an attempt to trash the Democrats) comparable with the hacking (or otherwise illegal methods) of a child’s medical records.

When those on the “left” do illegal/stupid/immoral things, yes people do call them out on it – the Mirror’s faked warcrimes photos for one thing, and more recently Hari’s transgressions for another. The point, as CG says, is public interest – which isn’t the same thing as “what the public are interested in” as some people think.

30. So Much For Subtlety

27. Chaise Guevara

Public interest. Sure, that’s not a magic button that validates leftist spying and condemns rightist spying (this exercise shouldn’t need the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, in fact).

It shouldn’t and yet it will. So your solution is to turn this whole area over to unelected and unaccountable political appointees – who happen to be entirely on your side politically? The dangers of this ought to be obvious. Handing over such major powers not to the laws, but to frail men, is a classical trope in the Western tradition and we have tended to claim no sane person would choose the judgement of a man over impartial laws.

Discovering that the US president is involved in corruption and lawbreaking is in the public interest. Hacking Milly Dowler’s voicemail isn’t.

Except it relies on some arbitrary and entirely class-based definition of what is in the public’s interest. Because the public certainly seems to be interested in Milly Downer’s voice mail.

Nor am I convinced that exposing Nixon was in the public interest. Kennedy and Roosevelt did as much if not worse. We did not benefit by exposing them.

28. blackwillow1

Was it ethical to expose a corrupt president? Obviously, it was very much in the national interest to reveal the vastly more signifigant illegal actions of Nixon.

Sorry but could you explain to me how it was in the interests of the nation to expose Nixon’s actions? This shouldn’t be a left-right issue although I expect it is. It is not even as if Nixon’s actions were significant. Certainly the over all impact of their exposure was bad. Again, no one much minded when Kennedy and Roosevelt did as much if not worse. That meant they could be effective Presidents at a time when we needed them.

Hacking into a dead girls mobile, giving her family false hope, hindering a live police investigation, subsequently giving a serial killer more time to kill, literally, that behaviour is in no way comparable to the actions of the watergate journalists.

So it is coming down to people who do something you approve of as compared to those that don’t?

29. Mr S. Pill

I’m interested how you can think the publishing of Wikileaks (which lest we forget, uncovered many shady goings-on among western forces and diplomats the world over) and Watergate (implicated a serving President of the USA in covering up an attempt to trash the Democrats) comparable with the hacking (or otherwise illegal methods) of a child’s medical records.

I am not sure I am. But I am pointing out that all involved illegality. Yet the Left praises the first two and condemns the last. The illegality is similar in each case. Not that Wikileaks proved any such thing. If any it showed how law abiding and up right Western diplomacy is. There was no smoking gun.

When those on the “left” do illegal/stupid/immoral things, yes people do call them out on it – the Mirror’s faked warcrimes photos for one thing, and more recently Hari’s transgressions for another. The point, as CG says, is public interest – which isn’t the same thing as “what the public are interested in” as some people think.

No they don’t. As can be seen by the huge number of people not calling Hari out but defending him. As can be seen by the near total silence from the Left as Obama does everything that Bush did – even worse in some cases. There has not been a single article here on Obama’s open violation of the Geneva Convention by keeping a prisoner on board ship indefinitely for instance. It seems for much of the Left crimes are only crimes when their enemies commit them. The point about the “public interest” is that it is a catch phrase for a small, unelected oligarchy to define what it is the rest of us deserve to know. It is simply untenable politically or intellectually. It does not even need to be taken seriously as an idea.

How sweet it would be to finally see the sun bite the dust. One can only imagine the Murdoch empire’s contribution to the mauled false consciousness of the British Working class. Remove the demonic influence from the national media and what might the Worker’s begin to think for themselves as their mind’s clear in a nationwide deprogramming process. Comrades,the train next departing is headed for the sunlit upland’s…let’s hope,not hate.

32. Mr S. Pill

@30

“Yet the Left praises the first two and condemns the last.”

To be honest most people with two brain cells praise the Watergate investigation. Wikileaks is still up for grabs.

“No they don’t. As can be seen by the huge number of people not calling Hari out but defending him.”

Humtetum. Where did I say that *every* self-described leftie has called out Hari etc etc? I merely pointed out that people do. And depending on where you look Obama does get roundly condemned for his various failings etc. You can’t make a blanket assertion like “the left is [x]” or “the left doesn’t [y]”, basically. You constantly fall for this fallacy & I don’t know why – the “left” is not one homogenous bloc that all acts and thinks in exactly the same way, contrary to what some may say.

This is all beside the point, really: we’re all aware that illegal things are sometimes done for a decent cause. For example in Nazi Germany harbouring a Jew would’ve been illegal, but right. Or more relevently publishing an anti-Nazi newspaper covertly.

To try and argue that all things that are illegal are alike in their moral wrongness is plain daft.

33. Mr S. Pill

One more thing SMFS: you talk a lot but I still don’t know what your actual point is: do you suggest we punish all trangressers of the law equally? So Bernstein and Woodward and on par with Coulson et al?

Charlieman at 13 is correct. Apologies; piece corrected. As I note in the correction, this doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to the underlying story.

SMSF has to be trolling at this point. Pretending to believe “the public interest” and “things that the public are interested” are the same, pretending to believe that the Watergate investigation was a Bad Thing? These are not the actions of a sane person.

35. Paul Newman

Wow that`s interesting that Mirror is even worse .Soon we shall have the Guardian and BBC and I guess you`ll be happy .
I `m a bit suspicious about the Brown thing. He was far more responsible than Blair for the culture of spin in New labour and I recall these sob stories appearing at opportune times I think it is rather important whether an “Insider” prompted them
(I well remember when Cameron’s kid died Brown got his own tragedy into the first sentence of condolence)
Like others I am a bit confused about what exactly is being alleged and look forward to Mr. Bandit`s second stab at it. The health story about Brown was that he took anti depressants. His dietary requirements were the evidence and I found it pretty convincing for what its worth , not that I cared .

[Brown] was far more responsible than Blair for the culture of spin in New labour

Oooh, I like this game.

“Ringo was far more responsible than John or Paul for the greatness of the Beatles”.

“Judas Iscariot was far more responsible than Jesus for Christianity”.

“Cacofonix was far more responsible than Asterix for defending Armorica”.

Any more for any more?

BTW, if SMFS is serious, then presumably he wants the Telegraph hacks who bought the stolen data on MP expenses banged up as well? Whereas as a leftie who thinks the Telegraph has mostly turned from the best-written newspaper in the UK into a bogsheet since the Barclays took over, I’m happy to admit that it was pretty much the scoop of the decade and that anyone who disapproves of it is a fruitloop.

I’m suspicious of the claim that the Mirror was the leading voicemail hacker, and if it was, I strongly suspect its voicemail hackery was more focused on stories about Important Things and less focused on stories about sick/dead kids.

The way in which Morgan was disgraced [*] compared to the way in which Brooks was disgraced speaks volumes: the Mirror ran a scoop on a massively important political issue that it had failed to factcheck, thereby negating its own impact and putting troops at risk; the NOTW gave the parents of a murdered child false hope their kid was still alive in the interests of a story that was titillating but meaningless. Both are terrible outcomes, but one’s a failed attempt to find out the truth about power, while the other is an entirely successful attempt to be a scumbag.

[*] I’m still a firm subscriber to the view that killing Piers Morgan would be an act of countryside, but he nonetheless deserves to be differentiated from Brooks and Coulson.

The Information Commissioner’s statistics make interesting reading and explain the restraint of NI’s competitors. The worst offenders by far were Mirror Group and Associated Hitler with over 3000 incidents between them. NI was a distant third with a mere 250 and GMG (albeit not the grauniad itself) taking fourth place ahead of the Express and Sport groups. Making this about the Digger may not be so much unfair as beside the point.

This is the Internet. We like links. They’re better than anonymous assertions.

40. Paul Newman

Ha ha ..funny I admit but oh so naive blink your big eyes and rinse out your floppy ears Bamby .
Who was responsible for the double and triple counting money that allowed New Labour to look left whilst sticking to Tory spending plans? Have you forgotten the Headline ” The Gord Giveth” and the fake £21 billion for health .Do you remember who was running Labour`s election campaigns at the time they were selling peerages ( without his knowledge …of course of course)
It was the bluff honest Ghillie you have somehow conjured out of a rather unpleasant man Nixon like man consumed with ambition ,if not for money then for power. He was a by word for underhand tactics and vicious briefing within the Party and was the architect of the statistical misinformation that was New Labour`s calling card. It carried on without Blair just fine .
He was the senior to Blair and it was he that taught the dark arts to the young padawan Blair in whom the force was admittedly strong.

Anyway you leave Ringo alone Octopus’s Garden is a much underrated composition ( ahem)

41. Paul Newman

The fact that police clearly had all this information for years and not just about Murdoch publications rather makes you wonder how it pops into life as a selective moral crusade just around the time a certain merger is in the offing .

Interesting …there is more to come on this I suspect

@12: given that the Mirror was listed by the Police as by far the largest phone hacker, I presume you will be lobbying hard for the “destruction” of the Mirror?

I would have no problems if all the papers involved in serial criminality went to the wall. And their editors jailed for a very long time.

trev1959ad @31. I thought you were just trying to be funny or ironic or something …. then I looked at your blog and guessed you might be being completely serious.

I know of one woman who seems to totally disagree with you:

Press culture is none of Cameron’s business
An American free-speech campaigner dissects the ‘delusional elitism’ of those wanting to muzzle the tabloids.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10749/

Another article on the same website had the sub-heading:
”The cultural elite’s crusade against News International is only a more erudite version of the News of the World’s war on perverts.”
There is something in that I think.

Is it just me, or does the repeated referral to these children as kids come across as casual insensitivity and disrespect? The admission about getting confused between “GB’s sick kid and GB’s dead kid” is just shameless. And lazy. This author would not have been out of place at NOTW, he shows just about the same level of humanity and regard for his subjects. And the facts.

45. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Another article on the same website had the sub-heading:
”The cultural elite’s crusade against News International is only a more erudite version of the News of the World’s war on perverts.”
There is something in that I think.

Predictable.

“Sorry, got confused between GB’s sick kid and GB’s dead kid.”

Wow. You stay classy, John B.

Erm, what? Statement of fact.

48. blackwillow1

SMFS: Ido’nt usually bother responding to you directly, as it seems clear that you really want the title of ‘TROLL KING’, you pathetic attention seeking fuck. On this occasion I have to respond. Are you actually stating, without irony, that Nixon should not have been brought down? If so, that says a lot about the world you wish to live in, a world that turns a blind eye to corruption at the top, yet has no problem with seeing disabled people being persecuted. Your Majesty, please tell us all, what is the meaning of life? Is it to lie down and roll over, let those with money do as they please and only believe what we are told, if it comes from the top? You really are a dick, but the most worrying aspect of your posts, for me, is that you are clearly a man of intelligence. Which means you do’nt have the excuse that you’re too stupid to know any better.

This thread needs renaming, “Desperate trolls.”

I see now that Paul Staines’s name has turned up as the recipent of hacked emails. The stain spreads…

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 SMFS

“It shouldn’t and yet it will. So your solution is to turn this whole area over to unelected and unaccountable political appointees – who happen to be entirely on your side politically?”

Say what? Sorry, did I give you the impression that I belong to The Whatever Judges Happen To Believe Party? Put the straw men away.

“The dangers of this ought to be obvious. Handing over such major powers not to the laws, but to frail men, is a classical trope in the Western tradition and we have tended to claim no sane person would choose the judgement of a man over impartial laws.”

Laws have to be intepreted, SMFS. There are loads of instances where it’s unclear whether a law should be applied in a particular instance. You yourself just said that it’s impossible to create a law that perfectly distinguishes between different cases – and now you’re complaining at me simply because I raised a workable solution. If you have a better solution, let’s hear it.

“Except it relies on some arbitrary and entirely class-based definition of what is in the public’s interest. Because the public certainly seems to be interested in Milly Downer’s voice mail.”

Class-based? What are you on? In any case, if you’re seriously gonna sit there and pretend that “in the public interest” = “things the public find interesting” then I’m going to assume you’re deliberately being obtuse to waste my time. Let me know if you want to discuss this a bit more maturely.

“Nor am I convinced that exposing Nixon was in the public interest.”

I’m pretty sure political corruption is something that should be exposed.

“Kennedy and Roosevelt did as much if not worse. We did not benefit by exposing them.”

Whataboutery.

51. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 John B

“Erm, what? Statement of fact.”

I assume the people feigning outrage over your use of “kid” instead of “child” are doing so because they’ve lost all the real arguments and are desperate to get some point-scoring in. Made-up standards of political correctness are the last refuge of a scoundrel.

What struck me about this is the way the public have reacted in general. Okay, I admit that looking through bloggs and listening to phone-ins can be misleading as it is a bit of self-selecting group.

In some ways I am comforted by the some of the Right defending the News Corp hydra. When it comes to having one’s prejudices confirmed, I suppose I am guilty as the next guy in that respect.

No one should be surprised to find the most obnoxious people on this blogg are gloating and using this as a battering ram against Gordon Brown. In fact, I even went to look at the Daily Hate’s website and look down and among the condemnation, the gems appear.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2013534/Rebekah-Brooks-rang-Gordon-Brown-say-Ive-seen-sons-medical-files.html#comments

Three pages of this stuff. What kind of ‘person’ has a go at a man just because his son has a terminal illness? The same kind of scum that goes after the disabled.

Andy Coulson was not hired by the Tories in spite of his record, he was hired because of his natural instinct for dishing the dirt. There is simply no tactic too underhand, too loathsome, too illegal that they would not do win. They will steal, lie, cheat and do anything else they need to do to blacken the name of opponents.

Every now and then, we get a ‘wintervial’, a ‘blah, blah green sheep’, ‘bent banana’, ‘hairnets for fisherman’ story from these bastards and do you know what? We lap it up? Millions of people actually believe this shite.

That is the thing that the vermin are really wary about here. That is why the bleating of Dennis Kannavah et al about the Guardian/the BBC bringing down the NOTW are so telling.

It never occurs to the Tories that their readership can actually think for themselves. It never actually occurs to them that people who read ‘The Sun’ are capable of forming an opinion independently without the aid of a cartoon or a ‘News in Briefs’ page three girl telling them what to think.

The Tories have to be careful, here. A few Right Wing commentators are pretty conspicuous by their absence on this thread. They know they cannot damage the propaganda machine and leave the telling of news to people who are only interested in telling the truth and not selling the Neocon line.

Doesn’t change the fact that the Sun should not have been illegally obtaining a child’s medical records, of course (if these new allegations are true).

The same way the Guardian should not have illegally obtained the Wikileaks stuff or the New York Times the Watergate Papers?

FFS, where is ‘the public interest’ in (1) illegitimately obtaining a child’s medical records and (2) putting this private information on the front of a tabloid?

Public interest. Sure, that’s not a magic button that validates leftist spying and condemns rightist spying (this exercise shouldn’t need the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, in fact).

It shouldn’t and yet it will. So your solution is to turn this whole area over to unelected and unaccountable political appointees – who happen to be entirely on your side politically? The dangers of this ought to be obvious. Handing over such major powers not to the laws, but to frail men, is a classical trope in the Western tradition and we have tended to claim no sane person would choose the judgement of a man over impartial laws.

And yet the criminal justice system does it all the time: not everyone who has prima facie committed a crime is prosecuted, there is a test of whether it is in ‘the public interest’ to do so.

And no we are not going to get this right every time, and yes this does rely on avoiding human frailty. But some things are obviously wrong, like hacking a missing / dead girl’s voicemail and plastering illegitimately obtained medical information on the front page of a newspaper.

I really can’t believe we’re having this discussion.

Discovering that the US president is involved in corruption and lawbreaking is in the public interest. Hacking Milly Dowler’s voicemail isn’t.

Except it relies on some arbitrary and entirely class-based definition of what is in the public’s interest. Because the public certainly seems to be interested in Milly Downer’s voice mail.

Um, I think recent events have proved otherwise.

Nor am I convinced that exposing Nixon was in the public interest.

Insane.

The point, as CG says, is public interest – which isn’t the same thing as “what the public are interested in” as some people think.

Quite.

Also,

freedom of speech != freedom to invade other people’s privacy, bribe coppers, and steal medical records

Sorry mods, my HTML fail @53 is the reason this page is now in italics.

Public interest

There is no defence of public interest to infringements of RIPA. Any unlawful interception of communications is a criminal offence. That applies as much to downloading other people’s emails as it does to listening to their messages.

People can get a bit confused when it comes to media law. Public interest is a defence to libel actions (fair comment on a matter of public interest), and to breach of confidence questions, but it isn’t a defence to the process crimes (if they can be called that) of getting the story. It wouldn’t be a defence to theft (if diaries, photos, documents and so on were lifted from a victim); it definitely isn’t a defence to breaches of the OSA; it isn’t a defence to RIPA offences; nor contempt of court.

(That was me trying to turn off the italics, and failing.)

“I really can’t believe we’re having this discussion.”

Those of us who have learnt from previous time-wasted attempting intelligent conversation with ‘So Much For Subtlety’ are not in fact having this discussion.

Though I am morbidly curious about one thing: by denying the difference between ‘in the public interest’ and ‘of interest to the public’ – which distinction is the cornerstone on which this whole area of policy properly rests – SMFS has now blindly wandered into a position where he either has to oppose good investigative journalism, such as the Telegraph’s scoop on MP’s expenses, or support the rights of tabloids to hack murdered children’s phones. So which way is he going to jump?

Tim J,

Thanks for the clarification, and I take your point.

But aren’t I right that there is a broader concept of public interest, which appeals to the discretion of the authories have in terms of which crimes to prosecute?

I think I can recall a case where a media organisation investigating child-pornography downloaded various illegal images, thereby technically comitting a criminal offence. They then immediately turned over the results of their investigation to the police, and the prosecutor quite rightly decided that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute.

But aren’t I right that there is a broader concept of public interest, which appeals to the discretion of the authories have in terms of which crimes to prosecute?

Yes, the CPS must decide (1) whether there is a reasonable chance of conviction and (2) if it is in the public interest to prosecute.

The public interest? Does anyone really think hacking into Milly Dowler’s phone and Gordon Brown’s child’s medical records is the same as Watergate or Wikileaks.

Come on people, they are scoring own goals at every opportunity. Who seriously thinks they can defend this? All you are doing is an attempt at deflection from your allies and no-one wit an I.Q. above forty is being taken in.

These are the so called ‘decent people’ who rely on smears, lies and downright theft.

I wouldn’t piss on a Tory if he was on fire.

But aren’t I right that there is a broader concept of public interest, which appeals to the discretion of the authories have in terms of which crimes to prosecute?

Oh absolutely. And that’s fine, so long as there isn’t, you know, a slightly unholy nexus between press, police and Government.

64. So Much For Subtlety

32. Mr S. Pill

Humtetum. Where did I say that *every* self-described leftie has called out Hari etc etc? I merely pointed out that people do.

In the context of asserting that the Left does not have a double standard and has attacked Hari. Sure, people have. Right wing people for instance. Even some on the Left. But it has been the Left defending him.

And depending on where you look Obama does get roundly condemned for his various failings etc.

You have to look long and hard to find any criticising Obama and nowhere is the mainstream left doing so. All those protests against the war in Iraq – gone. All those protests against Guantanamo – as dead as the dodo. Drone strikes? No one cares when Obama does it.

To try and argue that all things that are illegal are alike in their moral wrongness is plain daft.

To compare NI to the Nazis is what is daft. I am not arguing that all illegal things are alike. I am just pointing out the inconsistencies in what people are claiming. If you want to argue that the NOTW’s crime was not phone hacking but being Right Wing, please do so.

33. Mr S. Pill

One more thing SMFS: you talk a lot but I still don’t know what your actual point is: do you suggest we punish all trangressers of the law equally? So Bernstein and Woodward and on par with Coulson et al?

I suggest that whatever we do, we do it consistently. Either we like investigative journalism that breaks the law from time to time or we don’t. We don’t simply reward our ideological allies and punish our enemies.

34. John B

Pretending to believe “the public interest” and “things that the public are interested” are the same

Which I didn’t. As is obvious to anyone who read what I said.

pretending to believe that the Watergate investigation was a Bad Thing? These are not the actions of a sane person.

I am not pretending. It is hard to step back from the politics of the day, and it is even harder once you do to think of a single benefit from Watergate.

65. Chaise Guevara

“It is hard to step back from the politics of the day, and it is even harder once you do to think of a single benefit from Watergate.”

Getting rid of a corrupt leader? Helping to ensure that politicians fear the people? Preventing the Republicans from keeping hold of the White House through illegitimate means? Fuck me, but you’re bullheaded when you don’t want to admit the bleeding obvious.

66. So Much For Subtlety

50. Chaise Guevara

Say what? Sorry, did I give you the impression that I belong to The Whatever Judges Happen To Believe Party? Put the straw men away.

Actually yes, more or less. You do.

Laws have to be intepreted, SMFS.

And chemotherapy kills healthy cells. We should not embrace either when we do not have to.

Class-based? What are you on? In any case, if you’re seriously gonna sit there and pretend that “in the public interest” = “things the public find interesting” then I’m going to assume you’re deliberately being obtuse to waste my time. Let me know if you want to discuss this a bit more maturely.

I am not. But it is a lot closer than what that phrase normally means – what the upper middle classes think people ought to be interested in.

I’m pretty sure political corruption is something that should be exposed.

Why? In general you may be right. But the consequences of Watergate were dire at a time when the world needed American leadership.

Whataboutery.

No it is not. If Roosevelt’s chicanery had been exposed he might have been driven from office and we would all feel noble and pure. But he was fighting WW2 at the time. Which was kind of important. The lesser evil was to ignore it. Which the American media did. Rightly.

52. Jim

What kind of ‘person’ has a go at a man just because his son has a terminal illness? The same kind of scum that goes after the disabled.

Don’t you have that the wrong way around? People use Brown’s son, allegedly, because they want to have a go at Brown. They would not hate someone just because their son was ill. In the same way that discussion of Thatcher’s decline and illness does not bring out the best in LC and it is not because she is sick.

They will steal, lie, cheat and do anything else they need to do to blacken the name of opponents.

Classic projection?

Every now and then, we get a ‘wintervial’, a ‘blah, blah green sheep’, ‘bent banana’, ‘hairnets for fisherman’ story from these bastards and do you know what? We lap it up? Millions of people actually believe this shite.

Because everyone and then it is true. The bent banana thing for instance.

It never occurs to the Tories that their readership can actually think for themselves. It never actually occurs to them that people who read ‘The Sun’ are capable of forming an opinion independently without the aid of a cartoon or a ‘News in Briefs’ page three girl telling them what to think.

So why do you give a f*ck what they print if it does not matter?

53. ukliberty

FFS, where is ‘the public interest’ in (1) illegitimately obtaining a child’s medical records and (2) putting this private information on the front of a tabloid?

I have no idea. But that is not the point. Where is the public interest in setting up the government to decide what is or is not in the public interest?

And yet the criminal justice system does it all the time: not everyone who has prima facie committed a crime is prosecuted, there is a test of whether it is in ‘the public interest’ to do so.

Criminal justice is not political and it is also failing. In part because those with the responsibility for judging what is in the public interest do not have the public’s interests at heart.

But some things are obviously wrong, like hacking a missing / dead girl’s voicemail and plastering illegitimately obtained medical information on the front page of a newspaper.

So if Reagan was in office and someone came to you with his medical records showing he had early stage dementia, you would sit on them?

54. ukliberty

freedom of speech != freedom to invade other people’s privacy, bribe coppers, and steal medical records

I agree. But it is not right when our friends do it and wrong when our enemies do.

59. Larry T

Though I am morbidly curious about one thing: by denying the difference between ‘in the public interest’ and ‘of interest to the public’

I am not.

SMFS has now blindly wandered into a position where he either has to oppose good investigative journalism, such as the Telegraph’s scoop on MP’s expenses, or support the rights of tabloids to hack murdered children’s phones. So which way is he going to jump?

I am going to do neither. I am going to say we can have either rule – and I lean towards being generous with the press – but we need to be consistent. Either way. We cannot say that High Minded Middle Classness is fine but Prole Feed is wrong.

67. douglas clark

Seems to me that JohnB is right. It is our outstanding duty to tear everything that the Rupe has done apart and feed it up his anus.

@66 I’m sorry but the implication that tabloid fodder is a class issue, is bullshit. Tabloid readers != the working class, despite what bullshit defences have been deployed by tabloid editors over the years to deflect criticism of their piss-poor celeb hungry output.

69. Chaise Guevara

@ 66 SMFS

“Actually yes, more or less. You do.”

Yawn. Shit or get off the pot.

“And chemotherapy kills healthy cells. We should not embrace either when we do not have to.”

But we do have to, because if we can’t intepret laws we can’t use them. I asked what your solution is. What is it? Without one, this is a bit like you complaining that oxygen is imperfect and then blaming me for pointing out that it’s better than nothing. And it doesn’t do much to dissuade me from the impression that you’re being deliberately obtuse.

“I am not. But it is a lot closer than what that phrase normally means – what the upper middle classes think people ought to be interested in.”

Please don’t make me cite a dictionary reference at you. “In the public interest” means, roughly, “what people should have a right to know” – normally something with implications for the democratic system, or for their safety. Nothing about the upper-middle classes. You made that bit up.

There’s a clear distinction between “interesting” and “in the public interest”. I’m sorry that you find that inconvenient, but just try to deal with it, OK? We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if the terms didn’t happen to use different derivations of the same word.

“Why? In general you may be right. But the consequences of Watergate were dire at a time when the world needed American leadership.”

That’s not Woodward and Bernstein’s fault, though, is it? It’s Nixon’s. The corruption caused that fallout.

“No it is not. If Roosevelt’s chicanery had been exposed he might have been driven from office and we would all feel noble and pure. But he was fighting WW2 at the time. Which was kind of important. The lesser evil was to ignore it. Which the American media did. Rightly.”

Yes, ok, there are occasional times when keeping a corrupt politician in power is more in the public interest than kicking them out. So what? What’s that got to do with your confused attitude towards the intepretation of law (i.e. the fact that you object to every possible solution yet have none of your own to offer)?

Sorry, got confused between GB’s sick kid and GB’s dead kid. Corrected. And doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to The Point.

Hmmm, is your fullname John inconsiderate Bastard?

SMFS,

freedom of speech != freedom to invade other people’s privacy, bribe coppers, and steal medical records

I agree. But it is not right when our friends do it and wrong when our enemies do.

Of course it isn’t right – every case must be judged on its merits, that’s the point.

SMFS,

So if Reagan was in office and someone came to you with his medical records showing he had early stage dementia, you would sit on them?

Well it depends, doesn’t it? It depends on what that means, what his colleagues seem to be doing about it (if anything)… if it looks like it could lead to him making terrible decisions (I don’t know anything about Reagan and I have no idea what “early stage dementia” means) and he refuses to step down and the people around him don’t want him to, I’d say there is a justification for publishing that information on the face of it.

I cannot on the other hand conceive of a justification for a journalist or his agent to hack into a missing child’s voicemail (and delete her messages), a child that the police and parents are actively searching for. Or hacking into the voicemails of dead soldiers. Or voicemails of victims of 9/11.

Ronald Reagan had his finger on the button that could have unleashed the nuclear war that would have destroyed us all. So there is little doubt that his medical State of mind was an issue. GB son’s is a small kid with perhaps lego bricks or a playstation.

More most of us, we can make a clear distinction between private information that should remain private and relevant information that we need legitimate access.

I can fully understand why the sub human scum find such a concept difficult to grasp, but trust me decent people can easily make the distinction.

The Tories have been in the gutter, suck it up, take your bumps and move on.

Of course the Guardianistas want to publicly humiliate their ancestral enemies–basically, the not-quite-so-well-educated majority–to smash their institutions and to collect the stuffed heads of their leaders as trophies. Twas ever thus. However, hacking the voicemails of abducted children, the families of dead soldiers, the victims of 7/7 bombings, etc, etc, etc, and on and on and on, is totally indefensible. Just because liberals are hypocrites (who is not?), doesn’t mean that all bets are off and any act, no matter how shameful, can be considered.

“Hmmm, is your fullname John inconsiderate Bastard?”

Yes, yes it is. Is your full name Stupid Dave The Fucking Idiot?

Vimothy: thanks. While I don’t agree with your take on the left, that’s still the starting point of basic human decency. As I said above, I don’t like the Telegraph and consider some of its motives suspect, but the MP expenses investigation was fucking brilliant, and anyone who’d ban that from occurring again or have the Telegraph’s reporters jailed for doing it is a bloody idiot.

BTW, annoyingly I can’t edit comments on LC, otherwise I’d sort out this italic annoyingness.

@8 Richard:

Good point, but I reject that the newspapers simply reject their readers’ preset views. They shape their readers’ views at least in equal amount, if not more. That’s why politicians have spent decades scared shitless of them.

I noticed no particular hostility to Muslims in the UK after 9/11, and indeed after 7/7. The real ratcheting up of the rage, the creation of things like the EDL, started only when the tabloids decided to tell their readership that Muslims came here as part of a pre-planned conspiracy (in close collaboration with the Labour Party, of course) to “destroy our way of life”.

“Sorry, got confused between GB’s sick kid and GB’s dead kid. Corrected. And doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to The Point.”

This is outrageously offensive. I suggest you edit accordingly. I think significantly less of you and this blog as the result of this.

79. Paul Newman

I think this will do it Lets see…

Al, and indeed everyone else who thinks that “using words to accurately report facts” is outrageously offensive: fuck off.

Thankyou for editing your post, I can only assume by the level of agreession shown you have issues with your self confidence – Im glad you overcame your own shortcomings to do the right thing with regards the death of a child.

It’s become clear that the pernicious influence of Rupert Murdoch has worked its way into our Parliament and into our Police forces – it is clear that there has been widespread ‘incompetence’ (at best) in the Met and that a generation of politicians have failed partly because of their fear of falling foul of News International.
If at the conclusion of this scandal heads roll and changes are made leaving us with a cleaner society and a healthier more dynamic democracy and a truly pluralist press – then it will have been worth it.

http://www.allthatsleft.co.uk/2011/07/news-international-the-met-police-and-the-sound-of-ferrets-scrabbling-in-a-sack/

Lol – You can tell people who disagree with a writing style to fuck, off but suggesting there are better abjectives than ‘dead kid’ needs deleting.

What are you so scared of? I could never decide if this was a serious discussion board or a place for people who think there clever to intellectually rub themselves against each other.

Thanks for the confirmation.

I’ve sorted out the italics and deleted some comments. I amended the text in the original article, and accept it could have been seen as insensitive.

I amended the text in the original article, and accept it could have been seen as insensitive.

I guess you can fuck off as well then…


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