Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Moral Compass

Image courtesy of The Guardian
I am not normally one to jump on the super-hot topics in the news, but this one is perhaps the necessary exception. For those of you not from Britain, and therefore unfamiliar with the maelstrom unfolding here, please read the story here

In summary, it has become clear that a private detective hacked into the mobile phone mail-box of the murdered teenager, Milly Dowler - while she was still missing and before her body was discovered some months after her tragic disappearance. 

The technician at the centre of this revelation cited pressure and the expectations of the News of the World to produce results as his 'mitigation'. I grant you that he did apologise which is more than many do.

I wasn't always a priest, so know a little about the pressure of delivering results. I even acknowledge that most trades have their 'dark arts' (those ways we maximise on 'opportunities' in ways that are not necessarily recordable). In this I am a realist. I also know that a man would not have desecrated the agonies of a family searching for their missing child without the tacit approval of someone higher up the food chain. I do, though, find myself wondering how the mental processes took place. The technician at the centre of all of this, Glenn Mulcaire, must have made some choices. They will have revolved around that "all in day's work" thing, and as I am quite expecting to discover, to have been acts in line with an endemic moral failure of the newspaper concerned. 

The condemnations of Mr Mulcaire and his titian-be-curled boss are many and varied and I need not add to them, but I find myself wondering what else is ignored or tolerated in largely normal walks of life. I would gamble that most of us have been bystanders to a malpractice or two in our time (even the ones that seem minuscule by comparison); I know I have. I am normal and I have had to pay the bills, so of course I have. While we shake our heads in justifiable disgust at this greed-fuelled abuse of privacy, we may also wonder what has passed us by in the past, so that we all may not be bystanders in future.

I would contend that buying the News of the World newspaper is to condone and support the actions of Mr. Mulcaire and his employers, incidentally.


  1. Well said. I've long disliked the News of the World and other like tabloids.

    Whatever explanations are tried, none will wash. Latest news is that the phones of the Parents of the Soham Victims were also hacked, as were those of the families of the 7/7 victims.

    When people say to me that Evil and the Devil do not exist, I would point to this type of activity and say, think again!

  2. The News of the World is and always has been a scurrilous rag, prime exponent of the not so noble art of "gutter press".
    To expect normal even half-decent behaviour from its employees is to forget who owns it.
    The rot starts at the top!

  3. I'm broadly in agreement with your piece, but if the latter part of your argument is correct then your last paragraph is a non-sequitur.

    Surely stopping buying the NOTW (it's a moot point; I've never bought a copy, and I'm not convinced you're a subscriber!) is an act of judgement on a basis of moral repugnance which fits very badly with the awareness of sin in the world at large, and especially in myself. It would be more reasonable to conclude that the answer is to stop buying anything, or engaging at all, with the World. And indeed a few Christians have gone down that route.

    But surely Christians in the world should rather point out the endemic nature of sin, and while insisting that society as a whole (usually through legal process) should punish wrongdoing, should refuse to judge individually. I refuse to proclaim myself as morally better than Rupert Murdoch, though I insist that he should be accountable before proper authority.

  4. Personally I can't stand the NOTW and am appalled at this level that it's journalists have sunk to. I like your post David, but where things may or may not be part of the culture of a particular job or industry, but that doesn't make it ok. Most people have morals even if they aren't of the Christian kind, and everyone as an individual has to be accountable for their own actions. We are not talking about a little disagreement with the boss here, this is morally wrong on every level. Mulcaire is not the only one at fault though, there must have been plenty of journos doing this and lots of people above them authorising it. This is not about one or two people so the press focus on Mulcaire and Wade as inidivduals is not actually helpful. As we have seen today there are more and more accusations coming out which indicates something that is sadly, endemic.
    Frankly I am not surprised though. I mean if you work for a newspaper like that what do you expect? This whole thing epitomises society's obsession with other peoples lives too. I mean the NOTW would not have done it if they didn't think it would sell papers, right?

  5. Good post David
    What the NOTW has done in adding to the agony of the parents of a murdered child is outrageous and speaks of a rotten culture that goes in my view way beyond one paper

  6. I thank you all for, and appreciate very much, your comments here. As I write my own comment in reply, it seems that as I had predicted only yesterday, the crisis become even darker and more disgraceful.

    Red (nice to see you here again), I take your point and accept it. I have been criticised elsewhere on blogs for mt pragmatic view of the real world, and as I read your words accept that perhaps I should acquire a sense of disdain otherwise lacking in many ways.

    SJ, I too take your point. Christians need to be the voice and action of 'the better way'. I am not sure I agree with your own assessment of your moral fibre when compared to Murdoch as I know you to be a moral person (and therefore manifestly 'above' the aforementioned) - I believe Jesus placed himself where he needed to be in the narrative of parabolic correction!



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