Last week, I wrote a post about the News International hacking scandal and whether the Great British Public’s hunger for gossip helped contribute to this mess. I stand by this – if affairs and the suffering of the families of murdered children does that much to sell newspapers, a good chunk of us should really be asking ourselves some searching questions.
However, I don’t want to pin the blame on the public. Since I wrote that post, things have just spiralled, to the extent that it almost feels like the entirety of the British establishment is up to its neck in systemic corruption. Let’s not kid ourselves, this story is seismic, implicating the media, politicians and the police in a web of relationships, bribery and violations of privacy that isn’t going away the longer the story goes on, but just keeps getting bigger. Rebekah Brooks, CEO of News International, has been arrested; Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has resigned due to shadows cast on his integrity. David Cameron, at the very least, has been disingenuous over his relationships with some of the key players in the whole thing. It’s got to the point where you need a flowchart to follow when who did what to who.
(Turns out even the Church of England has £9 million invested in Murdoch companies; I’d hope they’re considering the ethics of this investment, but the more I’m involved in church, the more I believe that, other than running costs, our money should be reinvested into communities and humanitarianism. So there.)
The real issue now becomes one of trust; the Establishment in the UK has sacrificed public trust to earn the favour of Rupert Murdoch and his minions,like he’s some media deity dispensing blessings and curses upon the people below. Even now that image has been blown wide open, his power still lingers – while a public apology was made over the weekend, over in America that same corporation/cult has come out fighting, belligerent as ever (thanks Fox News!), casting doubt on its overall sincerity.
But then, maybe it’s not about trust, maybe it’s about cynicism; this is Britain, we know the press is biased, we all assume that politicians are lying – the worst of that is that we accept it as a way of life; that’s just how things are, they’ll never change. And so distrust leads to cynicism, cynicism leads to resignation (in the non-employment sense of the word) and, maybe, resignation is the path to the Dark Side. And sadly this whole scandal isn’t tackling cynicism, as even the ‘good guys’ in the whole thing could be guilty of opportunism more than altruism. What would have happened had Murdoch allowed them to kiss his ring?
So maybe the real antidote to this isn’t a flurry of resignations, a crippled News International and MPs more concerned with their constituents than in selling their souls to Rupert, although all of these would be good. Maybe the answer is more woolly and touchy-feely than that; maybe it’s hope, hope that, actually, things can be better, that decent politicians and police and media types do exist. Hope that how things are isn’t how they’ll always be, and hope that the stories we consume no longer have to be written in the blood of innocents. All that and the grace to see those in the public eye as human beings, with all their faults and virtues and not as pawns and players in some Truman Show soap opera.
The Establishment has allowed corruption to enter its heart in pursuit of short term gains; this has been exposed, and now public life in this country stands at a turning point.
So where do we go from here?