So, there we are - I hope we all enjoyed our day out at the political theatre. Everyone and his pet dog has had a go at this topic, but for what it's worth, some thoughts on the News International phone hacking shenanigans...
- Firstly, it amazes me how many times the consumer of politics, myself included, falls for the "Let's Sort All This Nastiness Out With a Nice Inquiry" model of public accountability.
How many times have we got all het up with bloodlust as some hideous, writhing gorgon is finally dragged kicking and screaming for public beheading before the Committee on Social Affairs or some such, only for him to be politely tickled with the feather duster of parliamentary disapproval?
Whether it's a former Prime Minister trailing a five-ton bag of skulls into the QEII Conference Centre or a sitting President who can't recall cutting an arms deal with the Ayatollah, the outcome is always the same: a long and windy exercise in heavily-generalised self-justification. Sometimes, we might as well give them a two-hour advertising slot on primetime television with a bank-busting CGI budget to show off their own radiant awesomeness.
Today's session was better, with some definite blows landed - the admission that they were paying their hacker-in-chief after his guilt was public knowledge, for instance, and I doubt that a few hours' worth of the CEO of News Corp telling the world that he doesn't have a clue what his underlings are up to will help the share price.
Foolishly, even I expected a little squirming from the Murdochs, at least. Instead, we got a volley of ham-fisted questions being casually dicked off for several hours via the ingenious rhetorical technique that is "mumbling, I don't know". I particularly enjoyed all those incisive follow-up questions along the lines of "Are you sure that you don't know?"
- That's probably got a lot to do with the MPs on the committee. I count two marketing types; one accountant; one former SpAd; a soldier; a novelist; an insurance salesman and a trade unionist. In a parliament filled with lawyers, is it too much to ask to chuck someone who can cross-examine a witness in there? Maybe, you know, someone capable of catching them out telling the odd porky?
Just maybe, what with this case concerning grave criminal behaviour, suborning of police officers and an assault on democracy itself, the justice committee might've been more appropriate.
- Ultimately, parliamentary committees aren't courts, nor should they be. Clearly they put The Fear into public servants, but any half-skilled bullshitter is going to walk away with nothing worse than a few headlines pointing out what egregious bullshitters they are.
Well, who knows. Maybe it'll all be sorted out by one of the complicit parties investigating its former co-conspirators in the highest echelons of the business and political establishment and the depths of the criminal underworld, thoroughly purging public life of lawbreakers, corrupt officials, thugs for hire and sycophants.
Some other thoughts on the general issue...
- Jesus, Murdoch senior looks and sounds like a confused tortoise, pissed off at having been woken from hibernation while there's still snow on the ground and nary a lettuce leaf in sight. Let's be honest - if the committee had gutted the old goat and a lot of half-digested celebrities and underlings had poured forth twitching onto the floor of Portcullis House, it'd still have felt a bit like the death of Stalin... Painful and prolonged, certainly, but not quite painful or prolonged enough, and at least thirty years too late to do any good.
- A safe prediction - this phone-hacking thing is going to turn out to be worse than we imagine, even now. Hands up anyone who would be surprised if it turned out that Rebekah Brooks had paid the Archbishop of Canterbury to rifle through Kate McCann's underwear drawer, three days before her daughter disappeared?
If it was revealed that James Murdoch routinely had lackeys who displeased him machine-gunned to strippy ribbons by ED-209 from Robocop, would you raise an eyebrow? Frankly, if Junior was naked from the waist down during that committee session, I'd shrug and say Well, that fits.
- Hats off to the Guardian - they've really played a blinder here, Nick Davies in particular. He kept on this like a terrier, and a flick through his book Flat Earth News shows how much of this scandal has been in the public domain for years.
Even their only slip-up - wrongly claiming that the Sun had swiped Gordon Brown's child's medical records in order to use his son's illness to shift units - turned out to be a triumph, as the News International rag trumpeted its alternative source.
This must've hit the public's ear like the fat end of a pool cue - We didn't screw the Brown family - we made love to them... It was about as appropriate as apologising for maligning a rough school by sending primary seven a free fuckswing.
And in short...
- I always find that mass resignations across multiple agencies and organisations are a sure sign that everybody acted in good faith and is innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, don't you?
- It speaks volumes that the Tories' internet factotums are reduced to smearing the mud about a bit, hoping some of it will stick to Mirror Group, or to outraged, piggy squeals about lefty pile-ons.
Of course it's a fucking lefty pile-on, you dolts. This scandal is the equivalent of the BBC Trust being caught conspiring with the Khmer Rouge to re-educate children in bloodcurdling revolution by impaling businessmen on sticks and throwing people who wear spectacles into pools full of ravenous mako sharks.
For anyone to the left of Ted Nugent it's a joy to behold and the best part is that, like Johann Hari, there's no way out because they're caught red-handed and guilty as sin.
- The most entertainingly hysterical denunciation of imminent Marxist takeover came from James Delingpole, who denounces the Hezbollah-worshipping of the Baghdad Broadcasting Corporation and the "Kim-Jong Il-style brainwashing... of CBBC".
Children's BBC! Truly, when you're reduced to arguing with Rastamouse, you've long since lost.
- Anyone else notice how it appears to be impossible for anyone to say the words Closure of The News Of The World without then appending the words After one hundred and sixty eight years?
Ah well, I could go on forever. The whole scandal has been a knee-slapping, laugh-a-minute comedy show from start to finish and it may get funnier yet. I just have worrying flashbacks to '97, when all those hacks vowed that the death of Princess Diana had made them see the light, resulting in a round of pledges to act reasonably and responsibly from that day forth.
You all remember how that worked out, right?
Update! Remiss of me not to mention the pie-flinging arse. All I'll say is this - British manufacturing may be on its knees; our industries dying a death in an era of long decline and our exports reduced to a shadow of their former glory but damn it, we can still produce world-class knobheads to compete at the highest level against the most cretinous twunts that the planet can throw at us.
Let's hear a cheer for good old Britain - still producing twits and chumps like an industrial fuckwit factory, despite everything.