News of the World - soon to be no more
I once sat in a council planning meeting where 30 people had turned up to oppose a new housing estate. They had all written identical letters to the planning committee, presumably operating as some sort of action group. The chairman of the planning committee told them only one of them could speak about the plans. His reasoning was that if they’d all written the same letter, then they all had the same points to make.
It felt quite remarkable and undemocratic at the time. In effect he was saying ‘protesting shouldn’t be easy.’ Or maybe he was saying ‘If you really cared about this, you’d have made more of an effort.’
I was reminded of this today as news of the closure of the News of the World was announced. From some on Twitter, there was a sense of jubilation, perhaps best summed up by this tweet from Lord Prescott:
I think this is the first time I have ever seen a politician celebrate the loss of 200 jobs. But then again, as I blogged earlier this week, Prezza will stop at nothing in his personal war against Rupert Murdoch, a war which he managed to put on hold during the years Murdoch backed New Labour. As an aside, Prezza told Jeff Randall on Sky News tonight that he’d told both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown he was uncomfortable with how close New Labour was to Murdoch.
This tells us one of two things: Either Prezza is suffering an acute case of 20:20 hindsight, or Blair and Brown didn’t feel the need to pay attention to a man who was, in theory, the deputy prime minister. I suspect a bit of both.
That all said, it is worth examining the impact the Twitter and Facebook campaign has had since the first revelations on Monday that it wasn’t just celebrities who are alleged to have been the targets of the News of the World hackers.
Within hours, the idea of contacting the firms which advertise in the News of the World asking them to pull their adverts had taken off. A website which allowed people to send pre-written emails to companies such as Cadbury and Butlins appeared. With one click, this site let you send pre-written tweets to the accounts of similar companies.
Without leaving your desk, without even having to eat into your lunch hour, it was possible to become part of a groundswell of opinion which had risen up because they wanted to do something. And that’s quite understandable, because what was being alleged was, and remains, horrible. And the allegations got worse.