Bit of a game changer this one. It’s a rare occasion that such a substantial blow is landed on a central pillar of tabloid tyranny (the most central in this case). It’s also an absurdly inspiring display of how just two deeply dedicated geezers (author & journalist Nick Davies & companion & former Guardian editor Allen Rusbridger) can make an unprecedented change to the unchallenged dominance of the corrupt status-quo, seriously contesting the invulnerability & unilateral hegemony of the corrupt giant & their squalid modus-operandi.
It’s quite a big book, at 408 pages & the scale of data is ginormous. It doesn’t feel like one story, rather a multifarious narrative with about five central themes amongst tons of details & sub-stories. It’s also very well written with rich descriptions (“And I remember all the others who suffered the same fate, left behind like roadkill as Coulson roared off into his gilded future”), a distinctive humour & characters that makes it quite novel like (massively in places).
I guess the focal nucleus is the Hacking Scandal that sunk the New Of The World in 2011. The Murdoch Press then! in all it’s utter sordid flagrancy.
I always wondered how it was possible/legitimate & god-forbid successful/lucrative to essential “retard” the public with misinformation at best & lies at worse? All decked out in a slow moving ooze of stupidity & tawdry brain-cell debasement? & I guess if it was just kept to pathetic non-permitting up-skirts (is that actually legal/ok?) & celebrity based scatology, it would be harder to castigate. But when you start covering “real news” with the same level of incapacitated stupidity/mendacity & gross factual inaccuracy all in the vicinity of the aforementioned garbage, essential blurring fiction & fact & creating a kind of idiot’s corner approach to real news/issues? is it actually legal to lie to people? On that scale? Openly & incessantly? Day in & day out? Really? & all in a country that apparently admires education?!?! What does this say about Britain’s relationship with truth?
Anyway, that may be legal (perversely) but mass wire-tapping, phone hacking, “bin-spinning” (rifling through a targets trash looking for information), bribing (especially it seems the police who come off especially atrocious in this book) blackmail, unlawful access to confidential data & a whole sprawling jeremiad of the dirtiest dodgiest misconduct & corruption certainly are not. All of them went on though, not as an exception but more as a default, vastly prevailing policy & standard culture. Apparently one of the main agents/innovators of such casual criminality was a guy called Kelvin MacKenzie who was appointed as editor of the Sun by Murdoch in 1981. Davies describes his thirteen year stint as editor as “anything goes, nobody cares, nothing can stop us now”. MacKenzie himself puts it as “don’t worry if it’s not true – so long as there’s not too much fuss about it afterwards”. Another quote from MacKenzie is about Richard Attenborough’s film Ghandi to which he chides “a lot of fucking bollocks about an emaciated coon”. We’re in good hands then. Beyond MacKenzie it just becomes a fast-flowing sewer with former colleagues admitting that “police officers were being paid ‘left, right and centre’ ”. lets get onto the cops. Man-oh-man they come off the worse of the lot! A whole colony of bent coppers, cowed or benefiting from the virulence they are supposed to be policing. To call them ineffectual would almost be complimentary. Whether by intimidation or coercement, they come across as completely inefficient/bogus, not bothering to follow-up, implement or perform in the face of overt Fleet Street criminality, “unhelpful to the point of being obstructive”. It happens again & again & again & is actually the most indelible impression/memory that I have of the book…Scotland Yard, The Met & The Press Complaints Commission enfeebled, complicit, practically useless unless serving Murdoch’s interests in some sick reversal of rolls & distortion of duty. it’s a whole new angle on the bent copper, taken to absolute extremes.
The book boasts much’ much more, with excellent analysis of the Cameron/Coulson fiasco (crook on crook crime), Murdoch & Rebekah Brooks (Brooks was recently reappointed as chief executive of News UK, a year after beating the hacking charges & receiving a payoff of more than £10m to resign in 2011, just to usurp the previous record on rancidity) & the “monstering” (amplified & often prolonged public defamation) of targets that fell-foul of the papers/Murdoch’s approval. The entire Hacking Scandal trial is meticulously covered as is it’s aftermath.
Hack Attack is an especially amazing book/journalistic achievement & one of the most revealing accounts of how putrid Murdoch’s empire & it’s many serving bodies (the police very much included) are. & what does that actually say about the countries that house them? It would be unbelievable if it were not actually the literal fact! Nick Davies & Rusbridger blasted a huge hole in Murdoch’s slurry pit, & had him & his protégé Brooks bleeding effluence all over the shop. News Corp has since publicly patched-things-up & survived with it’s empire very much intact, but the stench is still overbearing.
Author: Nick Davies
Publisher: Vintage (2014)