Monday 19 March 2018

Paper's closure is a hysterical gesture for hysterical times

To kill a healthy working paper for short-term PR or commercial advantage is a shocking over-use of power, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

ANYONE who says they saw that one coming is a liar. The unceremonious closure of the News of the World in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal was truly one of those shock moments which not only come out of nowhere, but to which the correct response takes time to form itself out of the chaos of fast-moving events. Certainly, the initial glee felt by many of those who had marshalled the now victorious Twitter-mob against News International was quickly tempered by the realisation that hundreds of people had been put out of work, including 22 staff in Dublin.

One Labour MP was still crassly hailing the closure of the paper as a triumph of public opinion over a powerful conglomerate even as the paper's shellshocked current editor was pointing out that the people responsible for the scandal had "all left five years ago" (90 per cent of the present staff had joined after the period when these abuses were happening).

That's not to say that what was being revealed by the Guardian investigation and the ongoing police probe into the newspaper's activities wasn't horribly distressing. Most readers could turn a blind eye to the hacking of the phones of politicians or celebrities. While primly deploring the invasion of privacy, they were prepared to take the slightly soiled feeling of complicity in order to enjoy the benefits of getting some dirt on the rich and famous. Millions did it, lapping up the juice which they knew wasn't being discovered in an admirable way, but which they decided was harmless enough fun; and if they say they had no idea where it was coming from, they're liars too.

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