Still Buying The Sun? Why?

Where to begin? As the character of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now says, ‘The bullshit piled up so quickly in Vietnam you needed wings to stay above it.’
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Where to begin? As the character of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now says, ‘The bullshit piled up so quickly in Vietnam you needed wings to stay above it.’


With the tsunami of defensive and evasive bullshit on tabloid behaviour coming out of the recent Commons Select Committee, we had to upgrade those lowly wings to jetpacks. Not only did we have to lift above the rising pool of effluence emitted by those called to testify (that is, when they could be bothered to even remember to bullshit us), but we had to try and outrun it as well. It didn’t just have depth, it had lateral spread. We needed sandbags to keep it from the doors.

Well, with the current Levenson Inquiry underway, there has been a pleasing blow-back for those who previously spouted their BS. And now, happily, we’re not the only ones needing a tide breaker. Because with the mounting evidence of the enquiry, a different kind of flood has broken.

So tabloid editors and hacks from over the years have been doing plenty of sandbagging recently too. And finally, after years of us thinking that the Murdochs and Brooks and Coulson were exactly what we thought they were and exactly what they appeared to be, it has now been irrevocably proved to be so. And so the tide of toxins laps even at their doors. Albeit doors that are hung on the kind of houses you can only buy with savage amounts of betrayal money.

But betrayal of what or whom? When Brooks left Appleton Hall County Grammar School as a young woman with thoughts of entering the Fourth Estate, she may have had plans to become a journalist and even had greater ambitions to become an editor; but it’s unlikely she would have been aiming to become the nationally loathed and shamed editor of tabloids that had exhibited some of the worse degenerations of ethics and journalistic code. What sane person would have that as an ambition? And how could you have phrased it to your careers advisor.

Only if Brooks left school with the desire not to wade waist deep through human excrement could we say that she has betrayed herself by doing so. And if she didn’t then we can only applaud her… resolve? Achievement?

And only if Brooks’s parents had had hopes that their daughter would not become the kind of person who could lay a consoling arm across the shoulders of two mothers whose children had been murdered - Sara Payne and Sally Dowler - while at the same time using the work of journalists who’d hacked the mothers’ phones… only then could we entertain the idea that Brooks may have betrayed her own parents’ expectations of her.

Hopefully their granddaughter, that is the daughter that Brooks is now pregnant with, will grow up in a country where the degenerate excesses of the staff employed on her watch have been expunged to the point where Brooks’s own daughter will never have to live though or be on the receiving end of behaviour of the depths inflicted on other people by her own mother. Albeit a protection for the child bought at the expense of said behaviour. (Even the precious gift of irony here seems near defeat…)
This is the defining thing about people who behave badly toward others: they are lacking in two needed but interconnected elements: imagination and empathy. Imagination is needed on some level, any level - actually, the ground level, because it is the footings of empathy (I feel; others feel). And the resultant empathy is needed to make that crucial leap between ourselves and others. The jumping spark that starts the engine, that ignites the light.

But if you lack the particular imaginative gene for that kind of connection then you might find it hard to see that your own children (even those yet unborn) and the children of others are more than less the same. Or at least deserving of equal rights. Even when they’re grown. And if you don’t see that than you will end up thinking that those other people - those Other People - are different. They don’t feel the same. They don’t feel at all.

Because, you see, these people, they were only Other People. People not like me. They didn’t have any feelings. So I felt no shame at hurting them.

Did Rupert Murdoch betray his own high journalistic standards in order to lower himself to preside over publications that sanctioned such behaviour? Not that we can see. He earned the nicknamed the Dirty Digger as far back as the early Seventies after he bought The Sun in 1969 and the New of the World in ‘68. So you could say he very quickly found his level and, to give him his due, stuck with it.

And, given that, you can see how we would really, really struggle to make a good case that James Murdoch has betrayed his father’s expectations that he might do better. It follows that he didn’t expect his son to do better because Dad thought that what he was doing was good enough. Murdoch junior might not wield a digger with quite as big a shovel as the old man’s but it appears to be just as caked in dirt. Daddy must be proud. Havard Business School less so.

And what standards Kelvin MacKenzie thought he was honouring when as editor of The Sun he libelled the dead of Hillsborough and then went on to even more shamefully lie to their relatives when he said he was sorry (after he was ordered to apologise and duly obeyed), we can only guess. I’d guess it was the standards founded by daddy bear Rupert two decades before.

Did any of these people, from Rupert Murdoch down (and it’s debatable how shallow the drop) to the photographers spitting at a young actresses to get her to react or, for the same reason, calling a woman a whore; or the never-more-appositely-named hacks who broke into the phone of a murdered child or lied their way into hospitals or staked out funerals; or the editors who knew about it and used it and even sanctioned it and then even lied in apology to the relatives of the dead they had libelled… did any of them picture their lives turning out this way, or that they would one day in the future behave like this without blushing?

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson’s nadir may be having to bear the identification of themselves as liars and their description as ‘the scum of journalism’, and of Brooks as ‘criminal-in-chief’, by that upstanding rodent-like specimen, former News of the World deputy features editor, Paul McMullen, during his Leveson testimony. Never have pots and kettles called so black. And yet never so accurately. Venom doesn’t always cloud vision.

It’s a grimly fascinating spectacle to find out exactly what rats do when there is no accessible way off the sinking ship - and what they do is this: they employ the same fidelity and loyalty and morality and generosity and empathy that they did when they ran as a pack… and they do this by raping each other and killing each other and then feeding off the ones left dead.

As Husker Du once sang, ‘Feed the rats to the cats and then the cats to the rats and we’ll get the cat skins for nothing.’

And where do you stand in all this, dear reader? Still buying The Sun? Still handing over your thirty pee? Really.
Say the guy who lived next door was like a human embodiment of the Sun newspaper, and whenever you knocked on his door, he opened it wide with a cheery smile and even cheerier ’Wotcha, mate!’ And then proceeded to gave you updates on sport, celebrity news, lots of local gossip and (wait for it) on some days he’d even flash you a piccy of a topless young woman who lived round the corner. And for all this he only charged you 30p. Would you knock on his door and pay for it?

Maybe you would. Good guy, nice chap, bit of a laugh, saucy but no real harm. God love him. Bless.

But what if you came home one day and found him with his arm though your neighbour’s letterbox as he rummaged around for their mail to get information on them he could sell to you? Or worse, you found him with his arm through your letterbox trying to steal from you in order to sell it to them? Then you found out that the only reason he could tell you details about the murder of your other neighbour’s child was because he’d had his arm through their door too. And if he couldn’t steal the information, he'd just make it up anyway to get you to give him your money.

Would you still be knocking on his door the next day with your 30p in hand.

I’ve actually overheard grown human beings with brains and everything, moaning about the behaviour of the News of the World whilst flicking through a copy of The Sun. Of course, at that point I produced from out of a black canvas bag I was carrying a large black metal shovel and hit them viciously in the face. The shovel handle shuddered so hard my elbows cracked. Snot-like explosions of blood and brain violently spat and popped out from behind the shovel from the sudden pressure change in their wet, open heads. The shovel clang could be heard right down the street. It was so funny, I can’t even tell you. I really laughed. I even made money from writing about it and selling pictures of it.

Because, you see, these people, they were only Other People. People not like me. They didn’t have any feelings. So I felt no shame at hurting them.

No shame at all.

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