When he’s investigating a story, Nick Davies, of the Guardian, has been known to barrage his subjects with phone calls, wait outside their homes or offices, and accost their friends with hard-to-duck questions. Davies, who is sixty-one, works from home, because, he says, “I don’t need a school prefect to stand over me.” He was the indispensible reporter in the revelation of the abuse of power and illegal phone hacking perpetrated by News of the World and the Sun, the London newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In the midst of the scandal, before the official inquiries and trial juries confirmed the story, I separately asked two senior News Corp. executives, “How accurate was Nick Davies’s reporting?” Given the trouble that their company was in, I was ready for them to try to persuade me that Davies was an irresponsible sensationalist. Instead, each declared, “About ninety-five per cent accurate.”
- to barrage somebody with questions acribillar a alguien a preguntas
Indispensible: Indispensable, essientially, necessary
perpetrate: to commit, ex: to commit a crime = to perpetrate a crime
Now Davies has produced a four-hundred-page ticktock of the scandal, called “Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch.” It’s not Davies’s style to rely on the he-said-she-said or on-one-hand, on-the-other-hand formulations. When he has compelling evidence, as he did against Scotland Yard, Davies is direct:
Something very worrying has been going on at Scotland Yard. We now know that in dealing with the phone-hacking affair at the News of the World, they cut short their original inquiry; suppressed evidence; misled the public and the press; concealed information and broke the law. Why?
Davies collects facts, one brick at a time. He tilts to the left, but he does not lose his balance. When it might be easy to assume that Scotland Yard officers were silent because they feared that the newspapers would expose their extramarital affairs, Davies writes that he found “absolutely no evidence” of this. For too many years, the story that Davies and the Guardian unearthed was ignored by much of the British press. Davies told of how reporters for News of the World routinely tapped phone messages, producing verbatim dialogue that could only have come from illegal intercepts, and yet Murdoch’s editors, whose job it is to monitor a reporter’s sources, professed their innocence.
tilt: move into= inclinar
- to tilt one’s head inclinar la cabeza
verbatim: exactly same word ex:
“A monstering from Murdoch’s droogs is a terrible experience,” Davies writes, going on to describe how, after the former Labour minister Clare Short criticized the Sun’s daily Page 3 pictures of topless women (which jacked up newsstand sales), the editors launched a campaign to savage(to attack=atacar salvajemente) Short. They dubbed her “killjoy Clare,” variously describing her as “fat,” “ugly,” and “short on brains,” and dispatching half-naked women to knock on her front door; News of the World “ran two bogus stories suggesting she was involved with pornography,” and “published a smear (el frotis= mancha) story which attempted to link her to a West Indian gangster.”
Although Rebekah Brooks was recently found not guilty of knowing about the phone hacking and the police payoffs when she was editor of the Sun or News of the World, or when she served as C.E.O. of Murdoch’s fours London newspapers, Davies shows that she was certainly guilty of being a bully. He recounts(contar) how, to stop the Guardian from reporting on the hacking scandal, she told a friend of its esteemed editor, Alan Rusbridger, that she was disappointed in him, especially since “we were so good to him over his love child.” He did not have such a child. Tales of her vendettas fill this volume.
Senior Murdoch executives paid former employees who participated in the illegal hacking in order to keep them quiet. Clive Goodman, the royal editor of News of the World, received two hundred and thirty thousand pounds (more than three hundred thousand dollars), plus his legal fees; Glenn Mulcaire, the phone-hacking specialist at News of the World, received eighty thousand and fifty pounds. They settled with the hacking victim Gordon Taylor and two other litigants(a person engaged in lawsuit) for a total of about a million pounds in return for their silence. The public-relations executive Max Clifford, another hacking victim, received just over a million pounds.
Put another way, it was a coverup. Davies reported that News International, the unit to which the four newspapers reported, deleted three hundred million emails from the time the Guardian and Davies started exposing the scandal, only ninety million of which were recovered by investigators.
Davies highlights the ring kissing and cowardice of politicians, but he also takes aim at the press, whose shortcomings were a subject of his previous book, “Flat Earth News.” He does not spare his news colleagues for the stories they fail to cover or distort. This is a book, he writes things that the citizens of a democracy rely on an independent press to expose. Yet much of the press abdicated(
To get the story, Davies sometimes crossed lines. He writes of attending a parliamentary hearing featuring Rupert Murdoch and his son James. Exasperated that the Murdochs were not being held to account for the hush money that James authorized, Davies text-messaged questions that the Labour backbencher Tom Watson should ask. He writes of discovering hacking victims and encouraging “them to sue,” introducing them to lawyers, and giving them “ammunition( ).” Woodward and Bernstein tell of how the Senate Watergate Committee chairman Sam Ervin asked to see them in order to get some sense of how deep Watergate went, but they say that they didn’t feed him questions (although, like Davies, they did get a sense of where the investigative committee was going). Davies says that he rejects the “passive” approach of reporters sitting back and just, well, reporting. Yet this is what an independent, arms-length Fourth Estate is generally supposed to do. Davies obviously believes that he could not have helped to crack open this scandal without stepping out of bounds. Could Davies have unravelled the scandal without becoming more of a participant? Is what he did so different from a reporter behaving like a citizen when, say, helping to free a child trapped in rubble? These questions are worthy of debate.
Davies is wrong, I believe, in some of his interpretations. He assails(attack) Murdoch as “the man who threw 6,000 men out of work when he broke away from the printing unions in London.” A better argument can be made, I think, that, by battling the restrictive and wasteful work rules that were strangling London newspapers, Murdoch economically liberated the newspapers, saving many more jobs. Davies also claims that, after overseeing News International in London, James Murdoch was brought by his father to the U.S., where he is “discredited, unfavored, powerless.” While it’s clear that Rupert Murdoch summoned James to the U.S. to shield him from further embarrassment, I think it’s also true that he has been elevated to a more central role as co-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, the financial heart of the Murdoch empire.
In the end, Davies is left depressed. Despite the many trials and parliamentary hearings, as well as the devastating conclusions, in 2012, of an official inquiry led by Lord Leveson, he believes that the British tabloid press still behave like vultures(, ignoring privacy and factual reporting in order to manufacture stories that sell newspapers. He also believes that Rupert Murdoch and the political élite have escaped, their power undiminished and their behavior unaltered.
All of this exposure, as well as the brief humbling of Rupert Murdoch, easily seduced us into thinking that we had won a great victory, that truth had caught up with power. Very soon, however, as attention faded and the scandal slipped into the past, the élite simply took back their power, as if we had never challenged it—as if the tide had stayed out just long enough to allow us to build our castles on the sand, and now we watched as waves of irresistible force returned to wash them all away.
But there have been changes. Today, no British tabloids would dare to hack into phones or electronic communications as they once did. Many hacking victims have received monetary or moral vindication. Murdoch employees have been convicted or sent to pasture. Murdoch was compelled to shutter the profitable News of the World. His desire to acquire majority control of BSkyB, which Davies posits was one of Murdoch’s prime motivations in courting politicians, has been shelved. Politicians no longer defer to Murdoch so easily, at least in public. All this, thanks to Nick Davies and the Guardian.