Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hacked off

A very interesting piece of journalism was produced by the New Statesman yesterday, giving a worrying insight into the mind of the tabloid journalist and also hinting that several acts of perjury have been committed in the ongoing News of The World phone tapping case. Oddly on this occasion, this was not the work of a trained undercover journalist but was the result of a disgruntled Hugh Grant deciding to record a conversation with a hack called Paul McMullen, who had recently run a story on the celebrity.

Despite not receiving much in the way of mainstream coverage, it was nice to see someone turn the tables on a so-called journalist, who seemed to think he had a god given right to spy on people for profit and then claw the moral high ground by shoving public interest into the debate.

What was worrying however was Grant’s claim that McMullen had said: “phone-hacking was a price you had to pay for living in a free society”, belying the self important, hypocritical idiocy that tabloid journalists sometimes possess.

It is an argument I have heard journalists make before, when challenging the authorities. However, I have always winced at the irony they have missed in making such a statement, considering that that makes them an authority unto themselves.

The sad fact – especially after reading some of the information that McMullen unwittingly provided - is that the would-be ‘stewards of our freedom’ are often part of the same corrupt systems and frameworks that we are all trapped within. The only difference is they can do what they do with an inflated sense of self-esteem and occasionally fuck up the plans of politicians they might personally dislike; bearing in mind of course that is not done for our benefit but for their own.

This is not to say that all career journalists are bad. Having worked as one myself I have been lucky enough to meet genuinely good ones, who do represent the ideals that journalism aspires to. However it is so often the case that the most unpleasant, assiduous hacks end up writing the important news.

In many ways the average journalist is quickly becoming redundant. Bloggers and sites like WikiLeaks continue to do a better job of getting information about corruption into the public domain, rather than plying us with stories about what brand of milk celebrities are buying. Perhaps this is a good thing if the people delivering us our daily dose of information are as self-important and amoral as McMullen is.

The most important thing for any person to understand about the news is that it is representative of someone’s viewpoint. Everyone views the world through subjective goggles so you can’t receive any news without taking it with a pinch of salt. True, some events are indisputable (take 9/11 for example) although the facts behind those events may never be known fully.

Also the arguments made by the News of World in favour of their ‘phone tapping for freedom’ activities are about as effective as screwing for virginity.

Grant actually poses an interesting idea though. Why don’t we subject the same sanctimonious hacks to invasive harassment, in order to find out more about their lives? After all, according to their own arguments they’ve entered themselves openly into the public forum and therefore are fair game to us, the reading public. Shouldn’t we really get to know who it is that is writing our news? I’d imagine the truth won’t be very pretty.

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