Well. I watched the start of it all with bated breath – who wouldn’t? First the allegations, then the sudden closure of the News of the world, then you had the circus like flan flinging which led to That Punch Up. It was spectacular beyond belief. Then it seemed to go a bit stale, like some sort of hackneyed bring out your dead scenario.
But then tonight, it struck me afresh. This is not about press freedom, cavalier journalism or David and Goliath, aka Guardian versus Murdoch. Well it is, of course, about all of those terribly important things, but there is something more at stake. The McCanns, the Dowlers, the poor man accused of Jo Yeates’s murder last December; people who, through no fault of their own, having already endured harrowing experiences, were then subjected to a second ordeal. And reading some of these dreadful testimonies, you could be forgiven for wondering if we had not reverted to some kind of new dark age; one where trial by mob and media reign supreme.
Do we live in a democracy? Do ordinary people count for anything in this country anymore? Do we have any shred of empathy or compassion left in our twitching, soulless bones, or are we now incapable of anything better than addictive voyeurism? I myself feel slightly nauseous to know that I watched the news and buzzed like a horrible horse fly around the media frenzy.
Kate McCann compares her experiences at the hands of the tabloid press to being raped. And I defy anyone reading that, or indeed seeing those other poor people coming out of the woodwork, to remain unmoved. It is like watching Night of the Living Dead; only this time, the spectres are those of the living, coming back to haunt those who raised them by dabbling in the dark art of hacking. It really is horrible. And it beggars belief that anyone could even attempt to justify such insidious, vulture-like behaviour on the flimsy, spurious grounds of press freedom.
Don’t get me wrong: I would not want to blunt the sharp, visceral edge of the British press – it is after all, the very same that burst the bubble of MPs’ expenses. But I think that what went on here was freedom for the few, at the great expense of the many. So I can only hope that something is done, because it is clear to me that something has been very rotten in the state of England – and for quite some time.