Rick: “How can you close me up? On what grounds?”
Captain Renault: “I’m shocked – shocked! – to find that gambling is going on in here!”
Croupier: “Your winnings, sir.”
Captain Renault: “Oh, thank you very much.”
One has to mourn such a collective loss of innocence. The innocence of the British parliament tearfully quizzing News Corp executives over revelations that phone hacking was used in the pursuit of tabloid scoops. The innocence of those same executives who were “shocked, appalled and ashamed” at the means used by their staff to keep delivering front page gold. The innocence of senior Metropolitan Police officers on learning that underpaid colleagues routinely sold information to tabloid reporters.
And most of all the innocence of the Great British Public — the same public who made books like Evelyn Waugh’s novel ‘Scoop‘ into a 1938 best-seller, and did the same to Piers Morgan’s The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade two generations later. How shocked — shocked! — they all are to learn that tabloid journalists are, at heart, scumbags.
America too is shocked by the revelations — and with only slightly more justification. US journalists have trended towards higher moral ground than their Fleet Street counterparts, but only in recent years — as Paul Collins explains in this fascinating piece for Slate.
Really, anyone who has ever picked up a Murdoch newspaper, read a book about Fleet Street or laughed at any of the myriad movie characters based on News Corp executives (Elliot Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies is a perfect, and representative example) has to ask themselves whether they’re really shocked, or even surprised, by the revelations of wrong-doing at the company or whether this is all just a very convenient opportunity to bring about the downfall of a man that almost everyone in the public eye has a reason to hate.
week’s year’s episode of Why Is This News we ask exactly that question; with Paul offering a spirit defense of the most hated man in media, and Sarah wondering whether such a blasé attitude to corruption and criminality means he’s on the Murdoch payroll too. At one point in the show (which was taped yesterday), Paul suggests that it’s only a matter of time before non-Murdoch newspapers are accused of phone hacking — and worse. And what’s this in today’s Independent?