Yeah. Yeah, that seems about right. Newspapers hack the messages of murdered teenagers for a story. Bears also do big poo-poos near trees and the Pope is not a Sikh. How many of us were truly, truly surprised that the News of the World (or any newspaper) would dig so deeply into the bottom of the barrel? Are we really shocked that the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt so meekly waved through News Corporation’s takeover of BSkyB, jettisoning a major share of the UK’s TV media into the hands of a man who already runs The Sun, NOTW, The Times, The Sunday Times, Fox News, 20th Century Fox Films, HarperCollins Publishing, New York Post and The Wall Street Journal? Were any of us (though sadly few read it) astonished by Hugh Grant’s interview with Paul McMullan in the New Statesman, which revealed the lengths – and costumes – that Cameron was prepared to take to keep Murdoch and his influence on side?
Twitter was alive with the glory of rage last week after Ed Miliband’s interview on the pension strikes which looped like a Cheeky Girls album. These moments are not unconnected. They are, in fact, of the same loop, the same careering wheel of fuck that the media and Westminster are spinning for each other and for us. Miliband is keenly aware of the paltry crumbs afforded to a Shadow Leader on the 10pm news, yet so entangled in New Labour’s obsession with soundbite politics, an obsession with the press that roundly destroyed their term in office when Brown refused to get his botty out for News Corp. This was Miliband emptying himself to the press. This was his announcement to us and to Fleet Street that he is bringing his bat out to play. In cutting his output down to precisely and only that which he wished to be printed, he was not being miserly with his opinions to protect himself from miscued headlines, gaffes and remarks lifted out of context. He was simply acknowledging the rules of the game: You know why I’m here. I know why I’m here. And nothing more.
This and the phone-hacking scandal are of the same family. The press has such a clasp on our political sphere that politicians – our lawmakers, our representatives! – cower before its power. Such is its freedom that it can reach into the inboxes of celebrities, footballers, MPs and now high-profile murder victims for a story. And yet we are not surprised. The PCC will come out later today and tug one off about a ‘thorough review’ of this practice and ‘compliance’ with the (highly, highly pissing questionable) Met investigation into the NOTW scandal. Cameron has already slammed the ‘truly dreadful’ actions of the paper, yet will not review the decision to sell BSkyB to Murdoch. The Emperor himself will come out later this week and sack Rebekah Brooks. But nothing will happen. No boycott will take off. Utter powerlessness is all one can offer to Murdoch in lieu of profound, revolutionary reform of British media. But importantly, we’ll all keep buying The Sun and watching The Ashes and the Premier League and Avatar in HD. Because really nobody believes the press can be stopped. Nobody is shocked by their power. Appalled but not shocked; angry but accepting. Yeah, that seems about right.