As the fever pitch rises against News of the World, I am reminded of the anti-banker feeling at the height of the economic crisis three years ago. At that point, it wasn’t safe to admit to being a banker. Southwold Pier had a game – Whack a Banker – where you crashed a mallet down on a bankers head as it popped up. Nice.
Yet recent opinion polls now show more British people think the last Labour government caused the financial crisis than bankers. In other words, things have gone back to ‘normal’. The rich and powerful are keeping us in our place again while they siphon off the world’s resources. Bankers have been at least partially rehabilitated and their champagne corks are popping again.
Bear that in mind over the NOTW. The behaviour of their paid hacks and the management who encouraged them was every bit as disgusting, corrupt, ruthless (and incompetent) as their friends in the banking fraternity. Yet the danger is that in a few years everything will have returned to ‘normal’ again. The megalomaniac media magnates will be running things again – corrupting police, scapegoating the weak and the vulnerable, and telling us there is no alternative to their status quo.
Every now and then, something happens to expose the stark reality of how the rich and powerful govern the rest of us through a trail of greed, immorality, criminality and incompetence – the banking collapse and the NOTW scandal being the two latest. Briefly, there is genuine disgust and anger at their behaviour and a demand that ‘something should be done’ to punish those responsible and to ensure that it never happens again. Promises are made by those in power to make changes but somehow they get delayed, time moves on and somehow we are back to normal again. If the nettle isn’t grasped to make fundamental change at the height of these waves of anger, it is too late and nothing changes. The failure to tackle the banking world should be a lesson to us now on the NOTW.
Radical solutions are needed to tackle the shocking state of the media too. Let’s spread the inquiry into the NOTW to the other Murdoch titles, especially the Sun. Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB may now be in pieces but his existing empire needs to be broken up too. We need an independent media watchdog with statutory powers to defend press freedom from the powerful media moguls. We need mechanisms to encourage and facilitate the development of new independent media.
Each time we fail to take the opportunity to tackle the excesses of the rich and powerful, things go back to ‘normal’. And the rest of the population get even more cynical and feel more powerless to do anything about it. And that suits the hacks and bankers just fine.