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Hack Attack: Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Paul Donovan recommends an exposé of how the News International empire spread corruption through every walk of public life

Hack Attack, by Nick Davies (Chatto and Windus, £20)

This excellent book reveals the true horror of a media empire run wild, spreading corruption into almost every area of public life.

The consequences for democracy are huge, with Guardian journalist Nick Davies unveiling nothing less than the British equivalent of the Watergate scandal.

A central figure in this deceit of course is former News of the World (News of the World) editor Andy Coulson, who went on to be placed at the centre of government, serving as the Prime Minister’s chief of communications. Coulson is serving a prison sentence.

Davies charts the often lonely furrow that he and the Guardian had to plough in trying to reveal a web of corruption that embraced not just the News of the World and its journalists but other sections of the media, the police and politicians.

The News International line had always been that phone hacking was the work of a lone reporter, royal correspondent Clive Goodman, and investigator Glen Mulcaire, jailed in 2006.

The truth was that the hacking was being commissioned on a huge scale by news editors and the most senior executives on the News of the World payroll.

The police had the evidence from the Mulcaire case but at best had been negligent in not following through, at worst wilfully failing to investigate crime.

The book charts the battle to get the truth out, with most national newspapers siding with the bully in the playground — News International.

One of the strengths of the book is how it plots the whole corrupt morass of hacking but also gives background insights into how power works and the particularly corrosive network of relationships that existed between the police, politicians and News International.

The bullying of Gordon Brown to get him doing what News International and ultimately the Murdochs wanted him to do in policy terms and the revelations about direct influence on matters like the Iraq war, privatising the health service and opposition to Europe, leave the reader to question who these people are and what right they have to be influencing the democratic process in this way.

Davies outlines how a whole coalition of interests came together in a campaign of opposition. There were those being hacked, the politicians — often one and the same — the lawyers and the Guardian.

As an exposé of a corrupt abuse of power, it’s an excellent book with he final three pages of the epilogue putting the whole scandal into the context of the neoliberal onslaught that has hit people the world over for the past 30 years. Soberingly, Davies concludes: “For a while we snatched a handful of power away from one man. We did nothing to change the power of the elite.”

Davies does undoubtedly over–egg the role of the Guardian, riding into opposition on its trusty steed to oppose the evil Murdoch empire.

The Guardian did play a vital role, standing virtually alone among mass circulation national newspapers, many of whom no doubt were concerned about their own dirty linen getting aired in public.

There were though others like Private Eye magazine which played a vital role in unveiling the scandal. Even so, this is an essential read for anyone who wants to really understand the corrupt forces at work in Britain today.


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