Hackgate exposes the Press as an ‘unreliable narrator’?

Charlie Brooker, a man I rarely read, reckons it is the press itself is the Elephant in the room of the hackgate story:

The phone-hacking affair is one of those stories where the media itself becomes the elephant in the room – an elephant that’s steadfastly ignoring all the smashed and trampled furniture, and is sitting quietly in the corner, mumbling about Hague’s sexuality and the Pakistan cricket squad, and occasionally nodding off mid-sentence to dream about an imaginary crowd gawping in astonishment at a dress they didn’t see. Or to put it another way: an unreliable narrator with the fattest, greyest arse you ever saw.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I always read Mr Brooker. (I even read the link).
    And of course hes absolutely right.
    It probably wont win him any awards from fellow hacks but hes probably doing a better job of acting FOR the Public on this story than most of his fellow journalists.
    More power to his elbow.

  • Time was showbiz reporters could make or break careers, their stinging columns were regarded with fear in some quarters and admiration in others. What did Cassandra say when he cost the Mirror a fortune? He, She or it…it was worth every penny for the smiles it raised.

    There was a time when great investigative reporters risked their lives finding the news in far flung places, they were the stars in the journalistic firmament.

    At home newspapers risked all to tell the truth and shame the devil. I think the last time that happened was the thalidomide disgrace.

    Im not sure if it ever happened in the north, if it did I don’t remember it.

    Times have changed, it seems journalists don’t go after stories anymore, they wait for them to arrive at their desk disguised as computer chips and eve dropping devices. Nothing out spoken or heroic there, more the kind of thing that is never openly discussed, like a Victorian venereal disease.

    Having said that I have been impressed with Sluggers relentless pursuit of NIW. It is looking like a rare example of how journalism used to be..

  • Mick Fealty
  • Michael

    How can anyone not be a regular Charlie reader/viewer? He gave the world Nathan, Daily Mail Island and sick notes.

    And on anything from Manuelgate to South Ossetia he comes across as level headed, jaded, sarcastic, caring and foul mouthed all at once.

  • I see where Fealty, our beloved Onlie True Begetter is coming from.

    I, too, had rarely considered Charlie as a great political guru, as he proves here. More to the point, only in the tenth of fifteen paragraphs (do I count correctly?) does he arrive at the Coulson Affair.

    Of course the press is an unreliable narrator. Its elements can only interpret that which is presented to them. That’s why we allow afterthoughts (a.k.a. “history”).

    What we “know” so far is that Andy Coulson occupied increasingly-senior desks at the Sun for nearly two decades. In all that time, even when he became editor, he never knew how his colleagues were obtaining stories, nor that they had unlimited expenses for “private detectives” and outside “investigators”. Better believe it.

    But I have my deep suspicions. I know that doesn’t sound right.

    For why?

    Because I have sat repeatedly through Sleepless in Seattle. I know that “Annie Reed” (Meg Ryan) has to have the OK from her editor before she can stalk “Sam Baldwin” (Tom Hanks). “Annie Reed” works for the Baltimore Sun, which probably sells more copies than the Guardian or the BelTel. So there!

  • Point taken. Thanks I missed that little gem.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    It was Liberace.
    But surely journalists are too close to people……Simon Cowell and Max Clifford are the real innovative journalists.

    Meanwhile our own press pack are playing football with politicians. They are the insiders.

    But if a young Brazilian is shot dead on a London tube by police .it is investigated by….police. The Public and Journalists are skeptical.
    A newspaper vendor is shoved to the ground by Police and dies..The Public and Journalists are skeptical.
    Civil Servants in Stormont investigate civil servants. The Public and Journalists are skeptical.

    Doctors investigating Doctors.
    Solicitors investigating Solicitors.

    The Press Complaints Commission (journalists supervising journalists)
    The Public are skeptical….but curiously the Journalists arent.
    And the Coulson affair…will journos investigate journos?
    Im not holding my breath.
    Cold economic realities there.
    A lot of journos will soon be on the dole. It should ensure silence.
    On the other hand…..Id offer an amnesty.
    It strikes me that “being curious” is an asset to journalists. One might reasonably expect a newcomer in the tabloid newsroom to actually ask an older colleague “whats all this phone tapping business…..any truth in it?”
    …but they have been curiously reticent.

  • Well, yes. But not strictly kosher.

    The Menezes killing was investigated twice (Stockwell 1 and Stockwell 2) by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The Crown Prosecution Service succeeded in a guilty verdict under Health and Safety at Work laws (don’t knock it: after all, they banged up Al Capone under tax laws). There was a public Coroner’s Inquiry and an open verdict. Short of a copper’s head on a pike, what more do you want?

    As for the rest … well, Rupie Murdoch is a great fan of the Press Complaints Commission.

    Anyway, medicine is for the doctors, law is for the lawyers, education is for the teachers. How else do you expect to get a pension?

  • FJH

    Yes it was Liberace. He sued and won, but Cassandra made his point and sold a lot of newspapers…and back then regardless of the Liberace ‘victory’ everyone believed Cassandra. Cruel but memorable.

    I can understand why there is hesitation to investigate Coulson. Nothing to do with Cameron, if only. It would take a brave journalist to seriously challenge News International, or perhaps one or two courageous bloggers will take up the challenge.

    For the others, journalists should be investigating the death of an innocent Brazilian and the death of an innocent passer by during a demonstration, the whole policing of which is now discredited.

  • joeCanuck

    People should not forget that the number 1 priority for most newspapers is not to inform the public but to make money. There are good, even great, newspapers but, like most things, you get what you pay for.

  • Liberace took the Daily Mirror for all of £8,000 plus costs.

    It must have seemed more back in 1956.

    It didn’t, as you say, impact greatly on Cecil King’s money-machine (circulation: about 4.5 million as I recall).

    Lest we forget, the whole libel trial turned on William Connor’s use of “fruit-flavoured” (a Judge and Jury aware of common argot?). The general excuse was that Connor had got it right, but was tanked up after a liquid lunch at The Stab in the Back (a.k.a. The White Hart) and the less-street-wise resident lawyer missed a trick over nuances of language.

  • Malcolm Redfellow

    I did not intend to divert attention from the main thrust of this thread!

    As for Cassandra. In 1956 I was six years old. I have taken care not to look the case up. I prefer to remember the laughter. £8000 was indeed a lot of money back then, what was the average wage a fiver a week, paid in cash..

    It did not of course hurt the Mirror, it didn’t hurt Liberace either, perhaps it was one of the first examples of any publicity is good publicity.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Redfellow,
    The point I was making was that the police investigations in the Stockwell and other incidents have done little to sate public concern and journalists have been at the forefront of the “conspiracy” theory.
    Indeed there are some journos who cant quite bring themselves to think that the Catholic Church fully investigated child abuse.
    Yet Journalists as seen now clearly to be incapable or unwilling to police themselves. A real journalist might be ashamed of the fact that their advocate on Newsnight tonight was Kelvin McKenzie….the thinking mans Jon Gaunt.
    But alas in the wider freemasonry of journalism, journalists are obliged to support the worst elements in their profession.
    Kelvin predictably played the “revenge card” but it was as usual bluster.

    The interesting thing about Cassandra/Liberace is of course Connor made the allegation at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence. Mr Liberace had little choice but to sue.
    But a bigger story might conceivably have been that the Chairman of the Labour Party in the late 1950s and possibly at same time of the Caasandra incident was also a homosexual….and had been arrested a few times for it…and he was a former Communist.
    Allegedly honey-trapped in Moscow, that might appear a bigger story than a Yank on a piano.
    But Tom Driberg was of course not just a MP. …he was a journalist with Beaverbrook.and enjoyed Beaverbrooks favour.
    No way would William Connor have outed a fellow left winger.
    Or a fellow journalist.

  • FJH

    Sure the journalist have howled along with the public, but where is the investigation? Where are the threats to ‘publish and be damned’.

    Driberg, not so much fun in a house of staunch Labour supporters and Irish at that…Oh no, that sort of thing was only to be expected from a tory press.

  • You are all quite correct: we should stick to the topic more closely. My apologies. Now I shall continue as before …

    I accept that there was (and is) more than an element of “dog doesn’t eat dog” in the old Fleet Street order. Driberg was known to be litigious (and not averse to perjuring himself — that got a mention in the Oireachtas during the debate on the Defamation Bill). What I do not accept is that it was all some great leftie plot. Many on the right enjoyed similar immunity: Bob Boothby springs to mind.

    Anyway, that was then: this is now.

    So what do we make of the Telegraph and Djanogly (watch for tomorrow’s edition)? Can a junior minister, in the Justice Ministry no less, be caught out using a firm which has previously “shaded” the law? Can a Tory spy on his party colleagues and get away with it? Has the Telegraph unfinished Expensesgate business with Djanogly?

    The last couple of weeks have dispelled any lingering doubts that this Parliament would lack sleaze-potential. Or that Cameron would, or could carry out those noble and high-minded threats, made in opposition, to keep his administration Persil-clean: ‘We need politicians that we can elect clearly, we need ministers to be accountable always, and we need to be able to throw out politicians decisively when they do the wrong thing.’

    May I quote, yet again, that old High Tory, Catholic moralist, Hilaire Belloc? (Try and stop me!):

    The accursed power which stands on Privilege
    (And goes with Women, and Champagne and Bridge)
    Broke and Democracy resumed her reign:
    (Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne).

  • Adair Turner’s dismissal of the financial services industry could apply to plenty of others: ‘Socially useless’

    The self-styled ‘fourth estate’ are – in many ways – socially useless.

  • Why do so many commentators and policeman assume that there is only one private eye who has hacked telephone voicemail in the whole country, or that this is only done by newspapers on the phone numbers of celebrities?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    They dont.
    On BBC News 24s Dateline programme……Brian McConnell of RTE stated (and invited fellow panelist Ms Polly Toynbee to agree) that everyone in journalism knew the extent of phone hacking in the journalism “profession”.
    While Ms Toynbee did not actually agree, she did not demur. Neither did Gavin Esler raise any objection to this affront on the profession.
    Yet this appalling breach of law and decency……which if had been committed by the Police or a government department……would have been reported ad nauseum by the Press……appears not to interest Fleet Street very much.

    One might reasonably expect journalists to expose this and clean up journalism. Alas too many prefer to have taken a vow of silence.
    Already the lowest ranked of all professions in terms of trustworthiness (estate agents and politicians included) the reputation of journalism has not been enhanced. And can I suspect only be saved by some very public “mea culpas”

  • Funny you should mention that.

    Here I am, reading the current issue of Tribune. Well, why not? What was good enough to publish George Orwell, Michael Foot, Nye Bevan, John Freeman, Ian Mikado, Robin Cook, Gordon Brown, Chris Mullin … and quite a few others is good enough for me.

    So, in front of me is the regular Mediawatch column:

    It’s no accident the revelations have received little coverage in the Daily Mail and none at all in most of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. Isn’t it great to have freedom of the press? […]

    It’s time for a new investigation. Not one conducted by those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo or protecting the Government, but a proper independent investigation that can get to the facts without fear or favour. At the very least there should be a judicial investigation. The police should re-open their inquiries.

    That is by-lined to Jeremy Dear.

    “Who he?” I hear you say.

    He is general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ah you wouldnt have heard me say “who he?” Im sure Jeremy Dear is a name familiar to many.
    And no doubt his call for a fresh police investigation will be echoed here as many Sluggerites are in fact members of the NUJ and will no doubt back him to the hilt.
    Their silence can certainly be interpreted that way.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I thought this thread would “run and run”

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Interesting development that Chris Bryant (Labour MP), Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate and an “investigative journalist” called Brendan Montague have now applied for a judicial review.
    Im sure we all wish them well.

    Is this the same Brendan Montague, who stood in for the Democratic Left/Workers Party whatever in the 1990s.?