Last year the MPs expenses scandal meant politicians were the hate figures of choice. Today it is the turn of Rebekah Brooks. But wait a minute –surely we should also hate the police officers and the nurses who have sold information to News of the World, presumably as a result of their hatred of celebrities who have more money than them?
We should definitely hate David Cameron; first for not holding an inquiry and then when he does for not holding the kind of inquiry we wanted in the first place.
Of course we all hate Rupert Murdoch, and have hated any arse-licking politician who has ever spoken to him like Brown or Blair or Cameron –although we hated Kinnock and Brown when Murdoch’s empire told us to.
Yes, hate works. Let’s not forget, either, that for years it was hate that made the News of the World go round.
Every week you can buy a copy of said newspaper which provides you with detailed instructions on who to hate and why and how much. Hate is the very essence upon which a publication such as the News of the World thrives: how to hate MPs because they are only in it for the money, how to hate celebrities because they are successful, how to hate your neighbours because they probably have more sex than you.
The News of the World has taught us to be creatures in its own image.
But shouldn’t we resist this barrage of hate?
How about compassion instead? We should feel compassion for those 7/7 victims whose phones were hacked; compassion for the Dowler family who have been through so much. Admiration and compassion for the family of Joanna Yeates and her boyfriend who, in their moment of tragedy, squared up to the tabloid media and stopped the hate campaign against wrongly accused Christopher Jeffries. Their compassion in a moment of anguish should be our model.
We should feel admiration for Hugh Grant, whose eloquent arguments in debate with Paul McMullan, former features editor at News of the World, on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday are a shining example to those of us who care about the future of media.
We should feel admiration, too, for the Guardian journalists who broke the story in the first place.
Of course, there are no excuses for the behaviour of the News of the World and other tabloids in the past. But surely we should pause for thought before simply replicating the same sort of feeding frenzy in reverse. Certainly, the truth must be outed — but let’s do it calmy, and show due consideration and respect to those victims who have been trampled underfoot and who might not wish to have the whole painful mess dragged up again.
Jonathan Powell writes in the New Machiavelli that governments tend to quickly launch inquiries in order to sate a public outcry, only to find that such inquiries eat up resource and rarely pleases anyone at the end — the Bloody Sunday inquiry being a rare exception.
So let’s show the media how it should be done: cool, calm, factual. But not hate — definitely not hate. Hate will turn us into a nation that reads drivel like the News of the World and believes that this dreadful mess can be solved with a quick inquiry.