The true depth of depravity of the British tabloid press is finally being revealed. They may hide behind a comic book-like façade full of gossip and foolishness, but beneath their shiny, bubble-gum exterior prowls a sick and sinister beast with no moral code.
Among the latest victims embroiled in the News of the World phone hacking scandal is Milly Dowler, the 13-year-old who went missing in 2002.
Private investigators working for the News of the World hacked into Milly’s voicemail and listened to messages from her family members and friends. When the voicemail box became full, they deleted some of the messages.
The deletion of the messages not only gave her parents false hope she might still be alive, but also could have compromised the prosecution of her killer. All this for the sake of an ‘exclusive’ to sell more copies of their carefully crafted but putrid excuse of a newspaper.
Like vultures, the British tabloid press circle as they wait to gorge on human anguish and suffering. But while they might argue celebrities are fair targets, they have shown themselves to be just as eager to devour the reputations and feast on the misery of ordinary members of the public.
Police have also made contact with the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, murdered by Ian Huntley in 2002, over fears their phones were also hacked.
The paper now stands accused of potentially hampering two of the most notorious child murder inquiries in modern times.
The story has not surprisingly become front-page news, however one paper saw it fit give it a mere 100-word mention in its ‘news in brief’ section on page two. Yes, no prizes for guessing, it was The Sun.
The bereaved relatives of the July 7 London bombings are the latest to be believed by police as having their phones hacked.
But fear not, the British tabloids selling their comic book poison-penned tripe here will tell you not to worry. They will claim they are ‘Irish’ products, but no matter how those ‘Orish’ editions try to distance themselves from the sins of what they will claim are their titles on ‘the mainland’, they operate in the same moral vacuum.
It is unlikely the hacking pandemic was confined to the UK. Given the right story and the right circumstances, only a fool who would think the left arm of a British tabloid operating in the Irish market would behave differently than the right arm, which has demolished any level of journalistic standards in Britain.
Louis Walsh may have been their latest victim here, but just like in the UK, celebrities are not the only ones targeted by the bile belched out on a daily basis by the tabloid press.
Early this year The Irish Sun featured the headline “Trinity Sex Swap Prof” with the tagline “A boffin at the country’s top university is a transsexual.” Thus it saw fit to publish the details of a private citizen based on the ‘news value’ that they happened to be transsexual. Alan Shatter’s wife also made the front page for her “Drink Drive Shame.”
These tabloids drip feed readers a deadly cocktail of celebrity and scandal until they become junkies, ever eager to inject the horrible heroine of the tabloid fix into their veins on a daily basis.
While the Irish are among the most prolific and highly educated consumers of newspapers and media, if the virus of British tabloids is left to spread here unchecked it will destroy any of the remaining codes of ethics traditionally respected by our national press.
Back in the ‘80s Spitting Image rightly depicted tabloid hacks as pigs feeding at the tabloid trough. Now they are trying to gorge their way through the Irish media. In this onslaught you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. So it is time to boycott the British tabloids to ensure we don’t give the pigs their fill.
Paul Allen is Chairman of Paul Allen and Associates Public Relations in Dublin