Monday, 18 July 2011

Did Piers Morgan 'Invent' Phone Hacking?

Rice Krispies boxes feature Snap, Crackle and Pop.Image via WikipediaThere are growing mentions in media linking my old pal* Piers Morgan to the phone hacking imbroglio that has so excited the British media and parliament over the past two weeks - and which is now showing every sign of crossing the Atlantic in a tide of Murdoch-toxic sludge and washing up against the shores of the home of the brave and the land of the free.

I'm sort of sorry about that, because I'm quite the Piers fan. I admire the way he picked himself up after riding the crest of a wave as Murdoch's brightest, blue eyedest boy, leaving Murdoch behind him as he became editor of the Daily Mirror and then being dumped massively overnight following the Iraqi abuse story that saw him fall foul of the very authorities that had courted him so assiduously right up to the day of his fall from grace. I've worked with him professionally on a couple of occasions and, once we all accept this is all about Piers, he's quite fun to be around. He's very smart indeed, viscerally and intellectually understands the dynamics of fame and celebrity and is very much the larger than life character that manages to project itself into millions of American homes.

He must be getting his wagons into a circle right now. You see, Piers is on the record as referring to some of the techniques used to do phone hackery. The smoke has already started rising, this post at UK blog Guido Fawkes shedding some light on matters by documenting how the Mirror hacked Ulrika Jonsson's answering machine to scoop the Sven Goran Eriksson affair, while MPs have now started baying for Morgan's blood after references in his most readable memoir, The Insider and in his diaries have clearly put him in the frame. This diary entry, in particular, was called out by one MP:

"Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages."

This, of course, makes things even more interesting - pulling a major American talk show host (which is, love him or hate him, what is keeping Piers in Rice Krispies these days) into the scandal is going to add plenty new fuel to the flames and keep the pressure building nicely on Murdoch - although Morgan's comments don't talk to his time on Murdoch's watch, he does bring a nice splash of star quality to the story and keep it building nicely.

This has turned into the biggest story since the Daily Telegraph exposed MPs expenses - probably bigger, as it now has much greater international appeal. It's a fantastic opportunity for anyone wronged by the media to get stuck in and we can expect to hear lots of calls for restraining and reining in the dangerously unfettered press, particularly from those who have a vested interest in ensuring the media are cowed and sycophantic.

The fascinating question is whether this will bring Murdoch down and I, for one, would be selling any NewsCorp shares granny left me. Quite what impact it has on the rest of the Fourth Estate is yet to be seen, but I'm not optimistic. Parliament reminded me in a queer way of Tahrir Square. Here, again, was a people casting off the yoke of their oppressors...

*The 'my old pal' is ironic. Piers wouldn't know me from a broom handle.

Update: Radio-tastic pal Robert 'Wes' Weston turned me onto this - eight minutes enjoyably spent! Piers gives MP Louise Mensch a jolly good roasting over the hackegations story here: Piers owns MP Video.

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