Listening to the news this week has been even more horrendous and soul crushing than normal.
The Syrian regime’s bombing of their own people in Homs whilst the world stands back is brutal beyond words. Why is this different to Libya? Why is there no concerted international pressure? Every night on twitter there are messages of support to the French journalist Edith Bouvier, injured in Syria and hoping someone will get her out. I listened with disgust and horror to Paul Conroy’s widow talking on the radio on Sunday about how the Foreign Office had explained to her that it was too dangerous to send someone to rescue her husband, the Sunday Times photographer who was injured in the bomb blast that killed Marie Colvin. How she wanted someone to say to hell with the protocol, they were going to go and get him.
I thought the tragic death of Marie Colvin (read her final report for The Sunday Times here) might have been a game changer, but apparently not. When the news came in of her death it made me realise that this is a true journalist, someone who believed that the independent reporting was essential and would go to any lengths regardless of her own personal safety to get the truth. I thought back to the Leveson Inquiry into Media Ethics and J K Rowling’s testament, where she talked about there being two types of journalists, those of the calibre of Marie Colvin who are essential to ensure a fair and democratic society, and the other sort that just invaded her life (and countless other public figures) and caused untold levels of stress and upset for no true journalist purpose. If you have time to read her written witness statement, the extent of press intrusion is quite staggering. She said they should have a different name, that you could not compare the two. J K Rowling is absolutely right. We distinguish between photo-journalists and the paparazzi, we should do the same for journalists and what I don’t know. Muck-raker hacks? Bottom-feeder fantasists? Mmm not that catchy. I think they need some work.
Yesterday the Leveson Inquiry heard from the Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commission, Sue Akers who said “there was a cultural of illegal payments” at The Sun. Bribery was openly discussed. Multiple payments were made to officials in Government, Police, Prisons, Health Service. One journalist was given £150,000 for payments to “sources” not for stories in the public interest but for “salacious gossip”
This coming the day after the launch of The Sun on Sunday, and Rupert Murdoch crowing that he had sales of 3 million yesterday. Do you think Murdoch knew what was coming and rushing out that launch before Sue Akers’ statement?
It is worth pointing out this is The Sun, not the News of the World. The Sun. The Sun that accused other papers of a witch-hunt against them last week. The levels of corruption just make me sick. But what worries me more is, is anything actually going to change? We have to ensure that they do, and we can all start by not buying The Sun, ever. I am surprised twitter haven’t started a campaign to boycott major Sun advertisers too. We have to stand up and say we will not accept this.
If that wasn’t bad enough Barclay’s Bank, the only British High Street bank that didn’t need a handout from the Government during the financial crisis has been outed as trying to claw back £0.5 billion from the Treasury on tax it hadn’t even paid. This being announced on the day that Occupy London protesters were removed by bailiffs.
So one of the very few voices daring to question the ethical nature of big business practices has been snuffed out on the day one of those billion pound companies are found to be “trying it on again”.
Really I am not feeling a lot of hope today for the future of this country. How have we got into this mess? What is the answer? Everywhere in my own life I meet with decent, kind, honest people. I have experienced altruism on life-affirming levels. I think I a fairly moral and decent person. Is it true, is it as simple as power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? I haven’t even touched on the Workfare scheme. News out last night was that McDonalds had taken £20 millions from it and used it to enhance their existing employees, they had not created one single job, Asda have started cutting the hours of paid workers and using the unpaid labour instead. These again are companies making millions every year.
Is it endemic? How can we stand up and say not in my name? Any thoughts and views are extremely welcome. Surely if we all stick together and say we demand better we can make a difference?