Now I’m Hacked Off

Congratulations to the campaigners of Hacked Off. In your laudable attempts to obtain justice for the victims of gutter press intrusion, freedom of speech is now seriously weakened. While this may indeed make it harder for the media to intrude on a celebrity’s privacy, it is also likely to encumber legitimate investigations into wrongdoing by the powerful.

The whole Leveson business is a nonsense. Like many, I deplore the activities of the gutter press. Let’s not forget how all this started: the uncovering of widespread illegality, namely the hacking of phones and emails and the bribing of police officers. Illegality is the key word here. Laws already existed to deal with this. What should have happened is a vigorous and thorough investigation followed by prosecutions. But no, we had to have this public enquiry at vast expense.

What is more disturbing is that while the hacking was confined to politicians and so-called celebrities, no-one cared. It took the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone to generate any outrage. This was certainly a disgusting act, but it’s no more disgusting than anyone else’s phone being hacked, celebrity or otherwise. This demonstrates just how powerful a grip the so-called celebrity culture has on the British consciousness. As long as people get their daily fill of celebrity tittle-tattle, no questions will be asked as how the press came by the story. What breathtaking hypocrisy.

I would agree that something should be done to curb media excesses and to give proper redress to those victimised. How to create such protection is a difficult question and requires a very fine balance to be struck. What we have instead is the worst sort of compromise, dreamed up by politicians in the wee small hours. Let us not forget that it was politicians who were exposed by the press for fiddling their expenses. Law-making should surely proceed from nobler motives than revenge.

This is a dangerous precedent. The cat is now out if its bag, and will be very difficult to re-confine. And to deploy another cliche, we are now on a very slippery slope indeed, one that will only steepen over time. I hope I’m wrong.


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