Happy chapter in 'Little Miss Muffet' tabloid tangle
Author Nick Davies let many breathe easier with his tale of how Rupert Murdoch's empire works
In France, politicians sleep with journalists and until recently have got away with corruption because of fierce privacy laws. In Ireland, a nod-and-a-wink culture and punitive libel laws inhibits investigative journalism. In the United Kingdom, which has been kept pretty honest by a free press, the brilliance and ruthlessness of Rupert Murdoch introduced a reign of tabloid terror that caused the establishment to bend its knee.
In his Hack Attack: How the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch, a riveting page-turner published last week, Nick Davies explained why even powerful people were terrified of being "monstered". He used as an example, little Miss Muffet, who was sitting on a tuffet until the arrival of a great spider scared her so much she ran away. Tabloids have to choose. Do they savage her cowardice, or do they accuse the spider of indecency and threatening behaviour?
The spider has no way out. If he pleads he merely wanted to rest his many legs, it's "an unrepentant spider last night threatened to spread his regime of fear". Agreeing to apologise is "a humiliating climbdown"; a refusal damns "an increasingly isolated spider"; the telephone lines will sizzle with the hunt for anyone who dislikes the spider and with calls to known arachnophobes soliciting "alarmist quotes and calls for action".