This is a rant.
My Twitter feed is awash with fellow journalists expressing their rage and disgust at the closure of the News of the World. 168 years of brave, quality journalism destroyed overnight because of the action of a few bad apples, they say. Good journalists who loved their paper losing their jobs because of bad management decisions. A tragedy.
To which I say: I don’t recall their sympathy the last time the government refused to help a struggling British business in order to prevent redundancies. I don’t recall the News of the World’s brave journalists sticking up to defend the miners when Thatcher went to war with them; I recall them cheering her along all the way. The News of the World has been an enemy of ordinary British people for years, feeding them a non-stop diet of drivel and scandal while happily spurring on the destruction of British manufacturing, the slow stagnation of real wages, and the dismantling of the welfare state.
Throughout the sordid revelations of the last few days, Murdoch’s defenders have pointed to the News of the World’s brave campaign victories. But even the actions it cites as honourable stink. Like Sarah’s law, the supposed child protection victory that has been consistently opposed by children’s charities as likely to hamper the rehabilitation of sex offenders and encourage vigilante violence.
Vigilante violence is, of course, something the News of the World is intimately familiar with. Rebekah Brooks was editor of the paper when its campaign of naming sex offenders – slammed by police – led to an innocent paediatrician being targeted by a moronic hate mob. Not to mention the racist attacks spurred on by its hate campaigns over asylum and immigration.
The genuinely important pieces of campaigning and investigative journalism of recent years, like the Guardian and later the Telegraph’s reporting of the MP’s expenses scandal, had nothing to do with the News of the World. Its only interest is in titillation; the only wrongdoing it’s interested in exposing tends to involve toes being sucked and illegitimate babies being fathered.
So this is not a tragedy, and every one of those who’s lost their job needs to accept that they sold their right to feel like a victim the moment they took the coin of this irresponsible, racist, sexist, homophobic rag. Will the Sun on Sunday be any better? I doubt it, but we can hope. If, in twenty years’ time, we look back on the return of British public life to some vestige of seriousness and sanity, today may well be seen as the first great turning point.