It’s a scandal and a disgrace and it should never have happened, but the phone hacking by the News of the World is a great story.
How we love to salivate over the ‘top dogs’ being made to squirm under a piercing cross-examination by a morally upright-looking gentleman, surrounded by lots of other people, mostly men, all sitting around looking at screens, each other or into space. What all those people are doing in the background of the Leveson Inquiry I don’t know, but they’re an intriguing sideshow, when the attention wanders from the testimony being given.
Okay, it’s not the Nuremburg Trials. But that’s why it’s so enjoyable. It’s serious, but not mass murder. It’s juicy, but not too salacious. And most of all, it’s the slightly self-satisfied grunt of smugness it affords us ordinary people, to see the powerful reduced to mere wimpering wimps in fancy suits.
Rupert Murdoch gave a show of contrition and sorrow for the misdeeds of the News of the World. Yeah right, what else is he going to say? Of course he has to appear apologetic. He has to distance himself and save what he can. Apology is the new black. Everyone’s doing it. Doesn’t that simply imply that there’s a lot more, worse, that could come out but they’re hoping a sincere looking ‘Mea culpa’ will take the heat off and no-one will probe any further?
During some of Murdoch’s long pauses before answering (was he trying to remember what happened or trying to recall which version of events he’d agreed to say happened or just trying to look as if he was thinking it through sincerely?) there was time to ponder other aspects of the case. Who sat and listened to the, presumably, hours of voice mail messages left by and for all the ‘celebs’ who’d been hacked? Did they have special words that would alert them to an interesting message — like “extra-marital affair” or “really secret meeting with someone I don’t want the world’s media to find out about” or did they have to concentrate hard on every line?
God, there must have been some dross. How exciting are your phone messages? If they’d hacked my voice mail I’d have to have paid THEM compensation just for having to sit through countless “Oh hi........... LONG PAUSE... eh.... well, sure, I’ll try you on the home phone. Bye” and “Hi Nuala’s mobile, it’s me. Give us a call when you get this will ya?” and “This message is four minutes long... followed by background sounds cos someone’s mobile rang my mobile by mistake (it’s called a Butt Call, when your phone’s in your back pocket and acidentally calls someone).
But maybe there’s an allure in discovering that the ‘beautiful people’ are just as ordinary as we are. That Hugh Grant gets unwanted calls from his local gas company wondering if he’d be interested in their Old Boiler Scrappage scheme. (And don’t say “Hadn’t he already got rid of her?”) or that Sienna Miller gets calls from the latest squeeze saying he’s just at the shops, does she need potatoes? What would Victoria Beckham’s say? “Hi honey I’m just putting out the dinner. Do you want two lettuce leaves or three?”
The biggest surprise to me is that those doing the hacking didn’t then start hacking the phones of the News International bosses, just as insurance. Now THAT would be fun!