Friday 29 July 2011

Then I thought a bit more about it

Until schoolgirl victims of nasty crimes were found to be in the list of phones 'hacked' by journalists the general feeling I detected amongst friends and colleagues was of little real concern. I'm not saying that celebrities deserved to have someone reading their messages but they should expect that their lives will be minutely examined for tittle-tattle by those feeding the demands for red-top headlines. If they had intended to get up to anything that readers might find a little salacious then they could afford to use a different phone or should have had the sense to ask someone about the risks involved in the communication tools they'd be using. Whilst Hugh Grant and others are right - it is quite wrong and they are entitled to privacy - the fact that their messages didn't stay private was not exactly headline news in itself and some good solicitors would ensure a series of nice big settlements in their favour.

When certain victims' names, and those of other genuinely innocent individuals, sadly came into the story, however, a quite extraordinary frenzy of outbursts has followed and the news is dominated by News of the World, News International, Murdock, senior staff, journalists and advisors, the Prime Minister, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all and, good grief, House of Commons Committees. What no-one trying to defend themselves in all this has said is just how easy it is to get access to most mobile voicemail, which seems to be what most journalists or informers have done. It is not like accessing a person's computer, e-mail account or web site but often simply a case of dialling a number and entering an easily obtainable code. No, people shouldn't do it but there's a lot of things people shouldn't do.

Why might they have wanted to access those girls' phones or those of parents or others the subject of so much unbelievable outrage? No-one seems to have asked that question. If a journalist had discovered some vital clue that had helped identify a place, a person, a time or whatever which helped either solve a crime or prevent another, or display a different motive for someone's actions to that previously assumed or something valuable in one way or another then I doubt whether they would now be being pilloried and we would be generally grateful for newspapers digging deep where the police might have feared to tread. In fact, I suspect that we might never have queried the legality of their activities and the police would have turned a blind eye to the practice. They must, surely, be doing this themselves anyway?

I can easily understand that one's first reaction on hearing the news of certain victims' phones being 'hacked' would be the scream "What??!!" Mine was too but then I thought a bit more about it.

If all the girls' messages, or parents' calls or the minutiae of other non-celebrity people's lives had been publicised as a result and caused distress then, I agree, totally, that that would have been wrong, very wrong, and I would be firmly on the side of the baying hounds seeking sackings, resignations and more. But, unless I've missed something (I don't read the newspapers that seem to be concerned in the main) they haven't been shared with anyone and remain private. It does seem to me that we have, to a great extent, been wound up by a very clever campaign by a flailing Labour Party leader, haters of the Murdock empire and a motley crew of associates with the key aim of tarnishing the image of David Cameron.

Presumably he had better protected his voicemail and texts - or, more likely, not said or written anything they could use.

[This is not about education or e-learning - just something I wanted to get it off my chest.]