21 December 2011
Previously, the MPs expenses scandal revealed that elected parliamentary representatives and unelected peers of the realm were not averse to stealing from the people they were supposed to be representing. Some went to jail: many did not. But we realised that the first part of Lord Acton's maxim still remains true today: "All power corrupts".
When the inquiry into phone-hacking started we all knew that sleazy tabloid hacks would stop at nothing to get their stories - doorstepping, deception, bribery, diving into dustbins - but I don't think many people were prepared for the depths of cynicism touched on by the grotesque figure of Paul McMullan and his "Privacy is for paedos" bon mot.
But as the days have gone on it's got worse and worse. The so-called journalists all claimed they were under orders - and some of them even claimed to be acting in the public interest. For public interest, read "football players' sex lives" and circulation figures. The buck was passed upwards.
We already know that the newspaper owners were not aware of the criminal invasions of privacy and moral harrassment that were used to provide them with the scandals on which they made their profits. They didn't know - because they told us so. Har har.
Those giving the orders - the senior editors - said the same thing. "I wasn't responsible ... It wasn't my remit ... You'll have to ask somebody else." And then when those responsible for making legal decisions stepped into the box (professional, senior and all rather slimy lawyers) they retreated into Circumlocution Office mode and sidestepped responsibility, doing their best to create the impression that they were men of integrity and honour - when it was quite clear that all the people concerned were from a moral world inhabited by scumbags.
And en route we've had the corruption of the police force thrown in for good measure - a regular system of bribery and the selling of confidential information. Plus collusion between government officials, private investigators, and the Press.
These are people from the top tables, people on six and seven figure salaries, people with celebrity status. Some of them might not actually be guilty of course - but the inquiry is rather like lifing a slab of stone which has been lying for a number of years in the corner of a dirty farm yard. When you lift it up, you recoil with disgust at the mass of low forms of life squirming there.