Calling it “hacking” makes it sound difficult and technical, when basically what the News Of The World did was phone voicemail boxes that, like most, had easily-guessed PINs. It was spying. It was intrusion. It was burglary. It invaded the lives of innocent people every bit as violently and recklessly as breaking into into their homes and ransacking their bedrooms. Where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy, they find a stranger there, manipulating their lives for money.
‘Hacking’ once meant something very different; it was a morally neutral or actually positive word, simply meaning skilled use of computers. Ironically there was even a hacker code of ethics – a concept these debased editors would have to look up.
This has added a great deal more fuel to an already raging debate over libel and privacy law. That reform is desperately needed is, as the “superinjunction” debacle showed, beyond question, but such difficult decisions would be better not made in the context of newspapers carrying out criminal acts. Laws made in anger and haste are likely to be bad for all journalism and all freedom of speech, not just Murdoch’s papers and their like.
And it should be remarked that other British tabloids are quite capable of doing breathtaking violence to basic moral concepts. Look at today’s Daily Express. In the light of a study that failed to find a link between salt and early death, they label all people who discouraged eating salt as ‘fascist’.
That’s what the Daily Express thinks fascists are. Not people who overthrow democracy, who rule by fear, who murder all opposition. People who say you shouldn’t eat too much salt.
Evil is infantile.
4 replies on “Don’t Call It Hacking”
The entire industry is doomed to ethical oblivion, because people don’t care until it becomes so unbelievably, blatantly obviously disgustingly wrong that they are forced to say “wait, that’s wrong.”
Listening to the private phone messages of an underage murder victim is wrong, but y’know what? So was listening to the phone messages of a pop singer or a footballer. It’s just as wrong, it’s just not as overtly disgusting.
Ofcom is watching.
Earlier I thought that the issue of ‘phone hacking’ needed to be separated from that of Rupert Murdoch’s media ownership. Now though I’m not sure it can be, so I reworked the piece a little. I hope that didn’t do any violence to its meaning.
I also tried to cool down a bit and write in a less incensed tone. But I don’t think I really managed that.
Quite the development. Murdoch tries to put out the fire. The paper will close on Sunday. And he’s giving the last earnings to charity.
I hope hope hope this doesn’t dissuade authorities from putting people into jail. Andy Coulson got a cushy job with the Tories after bailing out of this mess in 2007. I’d hate to see more responsible people getting off the hook.