A book review that probably wouldnt be published in a British Newspaper describes the state of British Media in the wake of the Phone hacking scandal

Hack-Attack-The-Inside-Story-of-How-the-Truth-Caught-Up-with-Rupert-MurdochReview of ‘Hack Attack,’ About a Rupert Murdoch Paper’s Trials, by Nick Davies from the New York Times

by DAVID CARR AUG. 14, 2014

In the United States, most of us fall for the movie version of Britain — horsy, obsessed with propriety and full of hard stares of unfulfilled longing between the genders. And then there is the Britain of Nick Davies’s “Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up With Rupert Murdoch.”

This version is less Jolly Olde England than a country gone mad, drunk on prerogative, a tiny treehouse of a place where people lie just for practice and trash the law for sport and gain. There is so much excess and human pathology on display here, it makes “Bonfire of the Vanities” seem restrained.

The book traces Davies’s three-year campaign to bring to account News Corporation and its British subsidiary News International, along with its owners, the Murdochs, and various enablers in Britain. It is a travelogue of a relentless pursuit, detailing how Davies, an investigative journalist, refused to accept the common wisdom of the political, media and law-enforcement establishment that hacking at the Murdoch-owned News of the World — breaking into the voice mail messages of public and private figures — was an isolated instance of tabloid excess. As it turned out, the practice was exceedingly common and casually deployed to create villains in order to sell papers and, when it was useful, to persecute enemies of the Murdoch empire. The Britain that emerges in “Hack Attack” is a festering petri dish where, as Davies puts it, “everything is for sale. Nobody is exempt.”

While Davies is a populist and a partisan who loves catching out the rich and punishing elites, he clearly believes that the common folk of Britain have gotten exactly the government and media they deserve. Not only are they willing to lay down a hard-earned quid for one of the tatty papers Murdoch and much of the rest of Fleet Street sell, but the voice mail and email boxes of those newspapers are always jammed with proffers from waiters, hotel clerks and trainers who are more than eager to spill dirt for a few pounds. If, as Janet Malcolm has said, journalists are always selling someone out, the public in Britain seems happy to serve as their wingmen. In that cultural context, the hacking of phones on an enormous scale by The News of the World, Britain’s most popular newspaper, seems like just one more part of how business gets done in a country where the cruelty of the press is chronic and callous.

There’s a long, florid history of tabloid excess in Britain, hardly restricted to the Murdoch-owned papers. This part of the tale began in 2006, when Clive Goodman, the royals editor at The News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator the newspaper had hired, were arrested and charged with hacking the phones of the British royal family. The pair eventually pleaded guilty and went to prison, and Andy Coulson, the editor of The News of the World at the time, resigned. News Corporation officials insisted it was an isolated incident spawned by a rogue reporter, an assertion that turned Davies into something of a rogue himself because he knew better.

On July 8, 2009, Davies published the first of what would be many articles in The Guardian about the extent of hacking at The News of the World, writing that News Corporation had paid out more than £1 million to settle hacking cases that would have led to embarrassing exposures, and pointedly noting that Coulson, by then the Conservative leader David Cameron’s communications director, had served as deputy editor and then editor of The News of the World while much of the hacking had gone on. There were many attempts to knock down and minimize the story, but working in concert with the attorneys of several victims, Davies published a series of reports over the next few years suggesting that hacking was rife and that knowledge of the practice went right to the top of the newspapers and the political establishment.

As an old hand in journalism, Davies knew the dimensions of the cesspool and was more than willing to stand in the muck for years to figure out what was at the bottom. He is, as it turns out, just the kind of person you don’t want to have on your tail. It’s less about his strategic brilliance and more about an innate refusal to give up — ever. That which cannot be known is precisely what Davies wants to know, over and over again. He wages a ground war to get at the truth, which comes less in one single “aha” moment than as a slow drip of facts penetrating a tissue of lies. Evidence is destroyed just before he gets his hands on it, the police redact documents so as to denude them of value. Then, just in the nick of time, a confidential source or secret document arrives. In that sense, the book moves right along, from cliffhanger to cliffhanger.

Nick Davies
Nick Davies

Continue reading A book review that probably wouldnt be published in a British Newspaper describes the state of British Media in the wake of the Phone hacking scandal

The Troll Slayer – A Cambridge classicist takes on her sexist detractors (Long Read)

Mary BeardProfile From the New Yorker BY REBECCA MEAD SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 ISSUE

In February, Mary Beard, a classics professor at the University of Cambridge, gave a lecture at the British Museum titled “Oh Do Shut Up Dear!” With amiable indignation, she explored the many ways that men have silenced outspoken women since the days of the ancients. Her speech, which was filmed by the BBC, was learned but accessible—a tone that she has regularly displayed on British television, as the host of popular documentaries about Pompeii and Rome. She began her talk with the Odyssey, and what she referred to as the first recorded instance of a man telling a woman that “her voice is not to be heard in public”: Telemachus informing his mother, Penelope, that “speech will be the business of men” and sending her upstairs to her weaving. Beard progressed to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Tereus rapes Philomela and then cuts out her tongue so that she cannot denounce him. Beard alighted on Queen Elizabeth and Sojourner Truth before arriving at Jacqui Oatley, a BBC soccer commentator repeatedly mocked by men who were convinced that a woman couldn’t possibly understand the sport. A columnist for The Spectator, Beard noted, currently runs an annual competition to name the “most stupid woman” to appear on the current-affairs show “Question Time.”

Finally, Beard arrived at the contemporary chorus of Twitter trolls and online commenters. “The more I’ve looked at the details of the threats and the insults that women are on the receiving end of, the more some of them seem to fit into the old patterns of prejudice and assumption that I have been talking about,” she said. “It doesn’t much matter what line of argument you take as a woman. If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it.” Such online interjections—“ ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain”—often contain threats of violence, a “predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder, and so forth.” She mildly reported one tweet that had been directed at her: “I’m going to cut off your head and rape it.”

Beard belongs to a generation that came of age during the feminist movement of the late sixties and early seventies, but as a scholar she does not specialize in writing about women, or about gender in the classical period. Her doctoral thesis was a study of Roman religion based on the letters of Cicero. Her later books have included social histories of the Parthenon and the Colosseum.

In common with other scholars of her generation, Beard often brings a proletarian focus to the world of the ancients, one that incorporates the experience of ordinary people. In “The Roman Triumph” (2007), Beard considers not just the symbolic power of the empire’s lavish victory celebrations but also their more prosaic elements: “What, for example, of those who flogged refreshments to the crowds, who put up the seating or cleared up the mess at the end of the day? What of the spectators who found the sun too hot or the rain too wet, who could hardly see the wonderful extravaganza that others applauded, or who found themselves mixed up in the outbreaks of violence that could be prompted by the spectacle?” In “The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found” (2008), she points out that the ancient city lacked zoning regulations, which meant that a blacksmith’s noisy shop could lie on the other side of the wall from a wealthy family’s frescoed dining room. Her deductive observation from the presence of tartar on the teeth of skeletons—that Pompeii was a city of bad breath—is a typical Beardian turn.

Beard’s ancient world can seem, at least on the surface, rather like the more urban and liberal parts of our own. Her Rome is polyglot and multicultural, animated by the entrepreneurialism of freed slaves in overcrowded streets. At the same time, Beard warns against the danger of smoothing away the strangeness and foreignness of Roman life. Her latest book, “Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up,” which has just been published, is an engaging exploration of what made the Romans laugh—bad breath, among other things—but it also explores dimensions of Roman sensibility that have become elusive to us. Beard observes that there is no word in Latin for “smile,” and makes the striking suggestion that the Romans simply did not smile in the sense that we understand the social gesture today. (Writing in The New York Review of Books, Gregory Hays, a classicist at the University of Virginia, has challenged the claim: “It may well be that the Romans did not smile, as we do, to indicate greeting or willingness to serve. But the smile of amusement, pleasure, or approval is probably as Roman as gladiators and stuffed dormice.”) Beard’s popularizing bent is grounded in a deep knowledge of the arcane, and she gives new insight into the hoariest of topics, according to Elaine Fantham, a well-known Latinist who is a generation Beard’s senior. “If you are a Latinist, you are always being asked to talk about Pompeii,” Fantham says. “When Mary does something, it is not old hat. It becomes new hat.”

Continue reading The Troll Slayer – A Cambridge classicist takes on her sexist detractors (Long Read)

Today’s One Liners

Told the kids I’ve got them a dog *just* like Spot. They’ll be devastated when they find out I meant ‘not real’.

Amazing how some people don’t like playing snakes and ladders. And yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. ‘Security-guard-who-threw-me-out-of-B&Q’.

I used to wake my girlfriend up with a cup of tea every morning. Until she started complaining about how long the sheets took to dry.

I often wonder if Weston-super-mare would be as famous if the horse didn’t have any special powers.

“They don’t make them like they used to”, is pretty much just the brief history of manufacturing.

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.” “I’m very sorry, sir.”“It’s fine, but it’d be great if you could add some more.” – Spider restaurant

If someone tries to give me a lobotomy, they’ll get a piece of my mind.

Check Out An Unpublished Chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

imagesby Isha Aran

Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of the most iconic and beloved books, despite Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s effort. Now, a chapter entitled “The Vanilla Fudge Room” that did not make the cut to the final draft has been released, and it is delightfully dark as expected.

The Guardian has published the chapter, which was “deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral for the tender minds of British children.” That seems rather harsh considering the story revolves around the disposal of children at the hands of a candy magnate bachelor. But maybe writing about two boys to be pounded like fudge and then cut up into “neat little squares” is a bit much.

You can check out the whole chapter in its amazing dark glory over here.

Original Article

Guardian Article

Actual missing chapter

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