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article imageOp-Ed: News of the World hacks — What didn’t get published, and why?

By Paul Wallis     Jul 17, 2011 in Crime
London - The News of the World scandal has also opened up another issue- What else did the phone hackers find? As a list of strange associations between people becomes more apparent, it’s becoming obvious that these hacks could have a much more sinister side.
The latest casualty of the scandal, Sir Paul Stephenson, has resigned as Metropolitan Police Commissioner as a result of “speculation” in the wake of the News of the World fallout Stephenson’s statement reads:
"…as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met’s links with News International at a senior level".
The rumors are continuing to spread. The New York Times:
According to news reports, Sir Paul hired a former News of the World executive, Neil Wallis, as a public relations adviser. Mr. Wallis was arrested for questioning last week.
The range of business and professional associations of some people involved in the News of the World is becoming to put it mildly questionable. It’s starting to read like a novel. Indications are that at least some of these associations relate to what can only be called bizarre situations in terms of the News of the World.
The information obtained from the phone hacks was of dubious news value at best. One of the few jokes which has emerged from the phone hacking scandal was that a hack would reveal that a celebrity was buying groceries and wanted to know if they should get any milk. Hacks on the phones of missing girls revealed the somewhat less than stunning news that people had been leaving messages telling the girls to call.
This is the question nobody’s been asking hard enough- These useless things are worth payments of thousands of pounds? To whom, and why?
There’s another interpretation on this situation, and it’s not exactly pleasant- Hacking the phones of celebrities is a typical method of breaking scandals like celebrity adultery, etc. It’s also a way of getting some negotiable dirt on people. This is starting to look like someone had a nice little cottage industry of extortion and blackmail operating under the disguise of “legitimate” private investigations and media coverage.
There are a few dots to join here, but it’s a pretty simple process if you know the history of the UK media, which has had links to London crime since the Krays in the 60s. Given the amount of money in celebrity media, which has become the Trivial Pursuit of the last couple of decades, it’s not too surprising that a “local resource” like information about people in the public eye could become a commodity for people to whom blackmail an extortion are second nature.
If you consider the monotonous regularity in which celebrity domestic trivia is unearthed and called “news”, you have to ask how much information never hit the headlines, and why it didn’t. If you know what someone’s buying in a grocery, how much trouble would you have finding out other things?
Then there’s the amount of money involved in the payments. On the face of it, the phone hacks were at best minor news items, worth a few pence at most. The UK media had an abysmal reputation in the 90s for sleazy practices, and a virtual paparazzi industry sprang up overnight. These people don’t work for nothing, and London’s large population of media pests can’t have been living on thin air for the last two decades.
So- Large payments being made for years to people producing items of very small value doesn’t sound right, does it? Methinks this is the tip of a very large iceberg. It would also explain the “fear factor” involved in dealing with media. The people affected weren’t afraid of the media- They were afraid of the people doing the digging for dirt. It’s not hard to see that people unaware of phone hacking could have been scared stiff of their dirty laundry coming out, particularly politicians, celebrities and police... and maybe some news editors, who could be seen as directly involved in this process by association?
If so, no wonder this scandal is spreading so far and so fast. A lot of people would have got caught up in this mess. This is only a theory and my personal opinion, but it fits the facts as they’re emerging. What’s bothering me is that the allegations are focusing on the media end of the equation, not the possible criminal links involved.
Let’s also bear in mind one basic principle of justice- The people charged are innocent until proven guilty. In this case, they can’t be the whole story, either. Hacking is itself a global industry, and the organized crime component is a natural consideration. It’s in everybody’s interests to dig a lot deeper.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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