Thursday, 16 February 2012
Consider the implications of bringing down The Sun
It's proving pretty difficult for many people - on the Right as well as the Left - to be all that sympathetic to The Sun, the soaraway British tabloid (above) that is showing alarming signs of thudding to the ground like a dead albatross. The ongoing phone hacking allegations, and (still more dangerous) Operation Elveden into illegal payments to police and army officers, as well as civil servants are threatening to bring the once all-powerful paper to its knees.
Is there a little bit of you that feels that heavy-handed policemen have turned up hammering on doors in the middle of the night? Well, The Sun itself has always liked a dawn raid, and it must gall the paper's many, many victims to hear the paper's own journalists complaining about their treatment at the hands of the boys in blue. News International has meted out much nastier roughings-up in the past. Do you think 'good, Rupert Murdoch should pay for some of his dirty work'? Well, consider that much of the current civil war within his organisation is designed to save News Corp, the group's real American powerhouse, from destruction by lopping off a gangrenous limb.
But hold on. While illegality must of course be investigated and if necessary prosecuted, and of course it's hard to feel the milk of human kindness run like Niagara given the paper's past, there are some serious issues here.
The many-headed hydra of the press had to fight many battles to be as free as it is today - and as objetionable, aggressive and downright nasty. Giving newspapers that are going down in flames anyway yet another push might just speed up the conflagration - and make us all the poorer in the end. Do we really want no press at all? For without News International, it's unlikely that any daily apart from The Mirror, The Daily Mail and The Guardian will be players in any sort of mass market within a decade. Close relations with specific policemen have helped to bring many miscarriages of justice to light - practices that by no means end at Wapping's door, and which will see policemen feeling many, many collars yet - should they chose to pull on the scarlet thread they have hold of.
Consider the UK without many print newspapers at all. Does this pass the public interest test that the Director of Public Prosecutions must think about when he decides to prosecute? Many fearful secrets probably lie hidden in the murky deeps of 1990s and 2000s telephone and email logs. Pulling them all out into the light might end with just that catastrophe.
I'm not sure about this one. But it is a thought, and a possible future, that should stay many hands before they come crashing down on News International.