Journalism As Bullying

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 3 2011 @ 11:33am


That, I think, is the worst aspect of the phone-hacking Murdoch scandal (although the practice almost certainly occurred in other parts of the press). You saw what they tried to do to smear and intimidate Louise Mensch MP because she stood up to Murdoch. Tom Watson, the hero MP of the affair, was similarly targeted for years:

"I had one particular chilling conversation in 2006," he says, "when I was told that she would never forgive me for doing what I did to 'her Tony'.

When I was made an assistant whip under Brown, the Sun did a story saying it was an outrageous I'd been awarded a job. Whenever I moved, there was a dig. It's painful and it's not easy, but that's the job, and the culture we operated in. It's when it's scaled up that those attack pieces take on a greater significance."

How was it scaled up?

"Well, there was the Red Rag week, where they ran stories for six or seven days, accusing me of lying and worse, on the basis of a story that wasn't true. [He was falsely accused of involvement in the infamous plan to set up an unseemly website for anti-Tory political gossip known as "Red Rag".] And then things like . . . people coming back to me, reporting conversations. Bob Ainsworth [then Labour defence secretary] met Brooks for a lunch and said she spent 15 minutes slagging me off before they could talk about defence policy. Those things end up coming back to you."

If you ever harbored any sympathy for Rebekah Brooks, a brutal bully, give it up. What she may be getting is nothing compared with what she regularly dished out.