An archive piece from December 2011, so the news ain't so new, but the themes curiously are ringing louder than ever...
Just when exactly did the media start taking over?
Few nations are as addicted as
It was ever so. The first press in Fleet Street was built in 1480 by Wynkyn de Worde. That’s his real name. Caxton gets the credit but de Worde built the better machine, in the same shop where Caxton worked. Some of the titles printed there include: The Squire of Low Degree, a saucy romp; The Ship of Fools, a dark comedy about a ship lost at sea full of deranged weirdos; and The Canterbury Tales, which takes a good long look up and down at a cross-section of the society of the time.
You should see Fleet Street now. The papers are gone, decamped in the 1980s to the East end. I’m sitting writing this in the building that used to be the Daily Express but now it’s a bank. I’m in a glass corridor suspended twenty feet up. It’s night time. The old streets are spread out below, quiet, yellow lit, empty. 500 years of journalism has exploded into every corner a computer can reach and more. Our desire to record, to reflect ourselves, to communicate, has reached orgiastic proportions. Like Narcissus gazing at his reflection, we are all mesmerized. Has it gone too far. Or do we just need to adjust to this hyper self-consciousness?
A ruckus is brewing here over the use of
phone-tapping by newspapers to eavesdrop on the private phone conversations of
hundreds of people, including many famous, to get the dirt to put in stories.
In particular, the News of the World, which has denied it with the grease of
expert liars, and whose former Editor Andy Coulson is now Prime Minister David
Cameron’s right hand press guru, Director of Communications. Interestingly it
was an investigation by the New York Times that stirred the whole mess up. The
Poms weren’t really too bothered. Or rather, the newspapers weren’t. Since the
scandal broke only the Guardian has been reporting it. The lion’s share of
major papers are owned by one man, Rupert Murdoch, that canny son of
So far, Cameron’s backing Coulson. It’s brinkmanship of the highest order. Who can outstare the stare of the greatest liars in the land. Will they get away with it. Do people care? Is there anything really that anyone can do about it anyway?
Technology lets us record every moment now with devices getting too small to detect. Kids are spreading their news in Facebooked technicolour soft porn trivia. Privacy is terribly old fashioned.
When everything is recorded, is it possible not to care? Could that be the new freedom? To not care. Can we, should we, give up our devotion to privacy?
Perhaps it’s time to give it a go. Stay ahead of the curve, put privacy in the past. Perhaps we should stick it to the voyeurs and gossipmongers. And be the news ourselves. Share those special secrets, drive naked into town, leap like mad ones by the light of the silvery moon. The staid would get reported then, those not salacious or brazen enough. And for once the News of the World could live up to its name.
That’s next New Year’s resolution taken care of.