The End of the News of the World is Nigh
Actually, after 168 years and 8,674 editions, the end is upon us.
It is quite easy for a minority of perverts and reprobates to tarnish the good name and undermine the integrity of otherwise respected and revered institutions. We’ve seen pilfering politicians do it to Parliament; paedophile priests do it to the Roman Catholic Church; greedy bankers do it to the financial sector; thoughtless royals do it to the Monarchy; political bias do it to the BBC; and unprincipled journalists do it to the press. And doubtless inquiries into the phone-hacking scandal will reveal more than a few corrupt police officers, which will in turn erode confidence and trust in the Met.
As pillars of the Establishment are systematically undermined by corruption from within, it is perfectly reasonable that those without may feel dismay, disgust, and anger at the behaviour of the few. The problem, of course, is that these ‘few’ make normal functioning almost impossible for the many: mud sticks. We now live in a world in which it is axiomatic that all politicians are just out for personal gain; the bankers are greedy; the Royal Family unhinged; priests are suspected paedophiles; the BBC is untrustworthy; journalists are amoral; and the police are corrupt.
Comparing sins is difficult: there is no sense in which the rape and torture of children can be equated with the financial hardship inflicted on millions; or the subtle manipulation of national perception can be compared with a few invasions of privacy. But all of these end in hardship, injustice, suffering, and pain. Which is why you might expect the Established Church to speak prophetically into this degradation, devaluation, and decline; to confront head-on the corruption, perversion and prostitution of our national institutions.
Except that the Church of England has itself regressed, compromised, and supped with the Devil.
It is one thing to preach that the behaviour of the News of the World has been ‘utterly reprehensible and unethical’. But it is ever-so-slightly undermined when one learns that the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group apparently has no problem with a $6m (£3.76m) investment in News Corporation. The EIAG chairman has written to Rupert Murdoch to insist that the Board of News Corporation takes all necessary measures to instil investor confidence in the ethical and governance standards of News Corporation. He says: ‘We cannot imagine circumstances in which we would be satisfied with any outcome that does not hold senior executives to account at News Corporation for the gross failures of management at the News of the World.’
Beam. Mote. Eye.
The News of the World sought to investigate and expose hypocrisy, lies, and deceit in high (and not so high) places. It has successfully scrutinised the rich and powerful, the great and the good. It has less successfully titillated us with exposés of the tedious sex lives of celebrities, sports personalities, and people who scarcely matter to anyone but themselves. But when one chooses to expose hypocrisy, lies and deceit by means that are themselves laden with corruption and deceit, the hypocrisy is manifest.
But let us not be naïve about this: the end of the News of the World is something of a tragedy for investigative journalism, and so a diminution of the propagation of truth. There are very many of the rich and powerful, the great and the good, who will be rejoicing today that there will be less observation of their lives and less scrutiny of their affairs. And organisations like the BBC will be jubilant that this whole sorry saga has called into question the ethics of the Murdoch empire and the appropriateness of his bid to take over BSkyB.
The end of the News of the World is also something of a tragedy for the ordinary man: the newspaper has been at the forefront of campaigning for the victims of thieves, murderers, liars, and paedophiles. It has often brought some refreshing common sense to some of the touchiest subjects in British politics. But now we risk moving into an era of statutory press regulation, at the behest (incredibly) of a Conservative prime minister. Where once was freedom will be control and conformity of the sort we see now on the Continent, and the europeanisation of our media will be complete. As our once-great British newspapers gradually fade and die, it will probably be for the blogs to hold the rich and powerful to account; to scrutinise the greatness and goodness of the great and the good.
And if they should ever seek to regulate the blogosphere, then we shall no longer be free at all to investigate, speak, or contend for the truth. If the end of the News of the World heralds the end of the freedom of the press, it will soon be for the state to determine and license who is ‘fit and proper’ to disseminate information. And Orwell's vision of the future will be upon us. If it isn't already.