Monday, May 14, 2012

dial M for Milly

Dial M for Murdoch

Tom Watson and Martin Hickman

Like many others, I suppose, I only really started paying proper attention to the phone hacking scandal when the Milly Dowler story broke on July 4th, 2011. Until then, the hacking saga was mainly about royals and some football people being hacked, and I’m not interested in either group of people, and didn’t have a high opinion of the papers involved and their editors to begin with, so there was no surprise element. The Milly moment changed everything, as it demonstrated very clearly how the tabloid folk trampled even on the people they pretended to stand up for (such as victims of crime). And it was immediately clear to me (if not to Rupert M) that this time they would not get away with it.

Luckily, a few brave investigators and reporters including the authors of this book and the Guardian’s Nick Davies pursued this story relentlessly from the beginning and worked hard to make the rest of us pay attention too. For us who missed all or parts of the beginnings, this book is a great way to catch up with the story and learn how all the different threads, including not just the phone hacking but also an unsolved murder case and multiple cases of police corruption, fit together and feed into the tangled web of inquiries we are witnessing today.

Up to and including the Milly moment, the book reads like a gripping thriller, as the quest for the truth looks very much like a lost cause for the fearless investigators who suspected that criminal actions were widespread at NI but couldn’t prove it yet. After the closure of News of the World, as our heroes are clearly on the winning stretch, the book loses momentum a little bit. It quotes from relevant inquiries in detail, even though at least today’s UK readership will remember the crucial moments of the last few months, so they could have been summarised a bit more concisely. It will be different for readers in a few years time, but by then the book will have to be updated anyway, to include new findings and those that are at the moment blocked by legal concerns.

Those lucky enough to live in a country whose media are not dominated by News Corp can read it as a fascinating tale of media power and corruption, essentially a modern day Macbeth. The moral is, if you give someone a bit of power, they will want more, and they will begin to think they can get away with murder.

PS after posting this review on amazon, I immediately got two "unhelpful" votes, which is very untypical (I've been at 84% helpful votes for years now). I deleted the review and reposted an improved version, thinking maybe it was really not helpful enough, and got a fresh unhelpful vote within 12hours. I can only conclude that some NI-friendly troll is keeping an eye on these reviews and marking down those that praise the book.

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