Politics

Paul McMullan – Are We Accomplices?

Has there ever been such an explosive and, quite frankly, entertaining witness at a public enquiry as Paul McMullan, ex News of the World journalist turned whistleblower?

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Twitter almost exploded this afternoon as McMullan gave evidence about phone hacking, journalistic methods and the ties between the press, the police and politics in UK.

He admitted being proud of the Name and Shame campaign that led to a paediatrician being beaten up by yobs who misunderstood the difference between paediatrician and paedophile.

He defended phone hacking as being a “perfectly acceptable tool”.

He was asked if phone hacking was widespread at the NoW and if his editors know about it and admitted it was done as a last resort, and that

“We did all these things for the editors, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson…

They’re the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it.”

Asked about privacy, and if he believes that no one should have the right to privacy he replied,

In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in.

Privacy is evil; it brings out the worst qualities in people.

Privacy is for paedos; fundamentally nobody else needs it.

When asked about Denholm Elliot’s daughter Jennifer, who was exposed as a prostitute by him, he stated,

I went too far on that story. Someone crying out for help, not crying out for a News of the World reporter.

When I heard a few years later that she’d killed herself I thought ‘Yeah that’s one I really regret.’ But there’s not many.

Then he drops a bombshell. Talking about the links between the British press and David Cameron

He ends up with Murdoch lite – James – and Rebekah Brooks. For 21 years you have a culture of illegality of phone hacking and fiddling your expenses and so on, under Rebekah Brooks. What you have is a future prime minister cosying up and being moulded by the arch-criminal, Rebekah Brooks, the criminal-in-chief.

He went on to defend the hacking of Millie Dowler’s phone

The hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone was not a bad thing for a well-meaning journalist to do.

We were doing our best to find the little girl. The police are utterly incompetent and should be ashamed that the killer was allowed to carry on.

He even talked about losing his child for 20 mins and going through the emotions that Mrs Dowler went through, as if it were in any way comparable.

What are we left with? Journalists who can barely decide what to write about – George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, The Leveson Inquiry, Cameron, McMullan, Brooks. At the same time, Iranian students have attacked the British embassy in Tehran, forcing staff to flee out the back door.

It is like when you are waiting for a bus and two come along at once.

Watching Paul McMullan was like watching a car crash – horrifying, fascinating and strangely compelling. It is easy to be caught up in the amusement and the glee when someone “tells tales” but there was something very serious going on behind all the humour.

There remains a deep seated distaste of this man, and the suspicion that he would do anything in his power to bring down his former employer, Murdoch, and his former editors, Brooks and Coulson.

McMullan exposed the reality of life as a tabloid journalist. The grime, the sleaze, the utter lack of remorse except in a rare case. He has no shame, he defended his actions.

How can a man stand up before his peers and defend the hacking of Millie Dowler’s phone, when he KNEW that it had given the Dowlers false hope that their daughter was alive?

How can he defend the searching through bins, the hacking of phones, the car chases (which before the death of Diana were “fun”), saying that the public had the right to know. That no one had the right to privacy.

How can he excuse all of the dirty methods used, with the statement that the British public wanted to know so they should be informed. That if the public did not want the gossip, the scandals then they would not be published.

Circulation defines what is the public interest. I don’t see it’s the job of anyone else to force the public to read this or that.

I don’t see it’s our job to force the public to choose – ‘You must read this and you can’t read that.’

And does he have a small point there? Do we, the public, share responsibility with our quest to find out intimate details about public figures. Do we share the blame every time we click on the Daily Mail or People?

Undoubtedly, circulation rises when a new scandal is published. How much were the first pictures of Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri worth? How much are new pictures of Suri shopping with her mother worth now? Is it our greedy nature, our thirst for gossip that encourages the Sun to bribe receptionists and hairdressers for intimate details of Charlotte Church’s life?

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not in any way defending this odious little man. He makes my skin crawl.

Still there are questions to be asked.

Can we shift the blame onto those who search for dirt, while still reading the scoop online?