The phone-hacking saga and the rancid role played by social media
The phone hacking story, complete with its seemingly endless facets and nuances, has been and continues to be riveting. It contains lots of the elements that newspapers would, figuratively, pay good money for: celebrities, politics, illegal behaviour, scandal.
And perhaps most interestingly, we’ve seen newspapers thrown by the fact that they themselves are now the story. And in this position, they’ve been testing the water, likely unsure whether tomorrow’s headlines will feature their own title. Luckily, they’ve had the benefit of time to test that water, the story having taken top billing for the last three weeks—save half a day last week when an illegal distillery in Lincolnshire took BBC News’ number one slot.
And social media has been in its element, driving the news and likely influencing the billing that the story has received as it has evolved and morphed.
But social media has also been rancid. In many cases, it has behaved no better than the now defunct News of the World. Whilst its users haven’t hacked the phones of missing schoolgirls or passed service personnel, they have celebrated appalling developments in the story, throwing petrol on to an already volatile and rapidly growing fire.
While there is no justifying what appears to have happened at the News of the World, there is also no justifying some of the acidic and Neanderthal comments that have been levelled, largely at the as yet innocent Rebekah Brooks.
I am not defending her. I am attacking those that have prematurely attacked her. In a democratic society that prides itself on a fair and proper justice system, I find it shameful to read such comments. Comments such as those written would have drawn six-figure out-of-court settlements had they been printed in the News of the World.
Twitter has been instrumental in driving the story forward. Tom Watson , Graham Linehan and Charlie Brooker for example have been fabulous to follow throughout the furore. But Twitter in particular has also been evil, rancid, frenzied, libellous and downright subhuman in its reaction to those stories—and indeed the humans at the centre of the story.