Protest-jacking: the new phone-hacking



Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger at the Leveson Enquiry desk


First they came for celebrities’ voice mail, hacking their way past default passcodes to the salubrious morsels contained therein with wolf-like ravening. We were, as a nation, outraged by it – when the full extent of the gutter-trawling came to light – and in our newly formed (and firmed) revulsion screamed a yell of disapproval in the form of Leveson, the process, the judge and judgement of an industry fallen well below civilisational propriety. There were, after all, some standards, and we wanted them adumbrated and enshrined with the soft-force of legal account. A charter was the result and the first victory: a sweet one in the circumstances – the culling of a major red-top beast, Murdoch’s News of the World, hacking central, privacy’s graveyard temporarily. All good news.

The bad news is the scum are back.

Post-Leveson, post-hacking, post-being booted out of commission (post-office), post the squalid circulation of soft-pornography (post-orifice), the rotten brigade have invented new ways to shame us and the fourth estate further. Protest-jacking we should call it: no less invasive, no less an abuse of position and no less a piggy-back ride on dubiously provenanced info, protest-jacking sucks the salubrious morsels from angry gatherings instead of databanks, but angry gatherings no less private than bytes shielded by pin numbers. My coshing with it came last Sunday attending a wholly private interruptive-protest/performance against a lunching Nigel Farage. How did these tabloid outriders know we’d be in Kent, and that specific part of it at that specific time? Information breached, or leeched, however way you look at it. What the hell kind of business was it of theirs, this private gathering of marginalised voices, this huddle of singers and dancers in their bubble of protest? None. Who was it who signalled swoop down and feed? No-one and nothing. Not the boomboxes quietly squawking, gently pumping for détournement of a particularly virulent type of saloon bar somnolence. Certainly not the baby-feeding breasts doing a stirling job of putting Farage and crew off their stirling-bought English roasts.

Adding insult to injury, our gathering included many employed at one time or another by my paper The Guardian. Not blowing any trumpets, but if there’s one publication that’s campaigned ceaselessly for the Leveson cause it’s the Graun. Why? Because investigative journalism is not equivalent to license; press freedom ends where private individuals’ privacy begins. A speculation: was it because there were so many Guardian contributors present that we were targeted for this new post-Leveson style invasion? Was Bad Journalism coming back for revenge on Good Journalism?

Whatever the truth, the scum, and their dirty tricks, are back at it. So beware: if you’re planning a private derive to disrupt the Sunday pub lunch of an avowed racist, the chances are you too will be quietly penetrated then loudly trashed. You too will be dragged through the dim and mucky filters of furiously white and British tabloid journalists minds to emerge as ‘filth’ and ‘scum’. The practice of disrupting the lunches and family outings of little England bigots, for decades an intimate enterprise, a deeply personal carnival of boundary-incursion, as private as the house Farage lounged in was public (as in public house) – the modest, quiet, private (not to mention noble and rather beautiful) practice of occupying the privacy of bigots is now shot open, bleeding at the hands of esurient pricks in the feral press. 

Leveson: round two please. Don’t let this virus spread. Keep the tradition of invading racists’ privacy private.

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