Monday, July 25, 2011

Hackgate: The Sunday Times and the gigglers

I bought the Sunday Times for the first time in ages yesterday, thinking I might find contrition over Hackgate on every page. And how wrong I was! Chortles, chortles everywhere. The diktat from on high is plainly to laugh off the scandal, to treat it with amused patience. News International's many critics are not the enemy: they are source material for knowing giggles. Which brings us straight to AA Gill.

Dispatching him to review the parliamentary select committee's bungled inquisition of the Murdochs was a clever move. Such is Adrian's unstoppable eye for physical imperfection, he could mirth up Treblinka. Tom Watson, we are reminded, claimed £4,800-worth of food exes in one year (cue fattist joke); and the committee chairman's reaction to the pie splat was the 'horrified demeanour of a dowager duchess who has discovered a naked Zulu in her bath.' Ah yes, a naked Zulu. Foreign.

None of this gentle knockabout will have exacerbated reader-hernias, but the branded (ie Gill-ish) comic intention, harnessed to a practised prose power, was sufficient to maintain a virtual smirk. More to the point, this souffle propaganda posed no threat to Gill's long-term contract with the paper.

Close by was Adrian's pal Jeremy Clarkson who has already told readers that one of his best friends is Rebekah Brooks. Buried in his usual auto-throwaway shtick was his take on Hackgate: 'The people who knew the person who once met someone at a party who may or may not have illegally listened to Sienna Miller making a hair appointment.' Giggles! Renew that man's contract!

Over on the next page, an interview with Chipping Norton resident Alex James by Giles Hattersley lay in wait. Young Giles kicked off about Hackgate's Chipping Norton set - 'The Camerons, Rebekah Brooks and the junior Murdochs, all hanging out in the Cotswolds, being fabulous and powerful in... honey-coloured homes.' Y'know, bit like Dallas, but with the oil flowing copiously at Wapping. This was mild court foolery, licensed, liveried impudence. Yet the Sun would never have permitted it.

Boldest of all the gigglers was the anonymous author of the Wendi Deng profile, the 'Crouching tiger, hidden big hitter'. She was described as the 'quietly dutiful wife of Rupert Murdoch'; and readers of Private Eye's latest Murdoch pisstake, featuring Wendi and her reputed Anglo-Chinese joke pronunciation, will be interested to learn that she does indeed call Rupert 'Lupert'. Irksome pre-marital gossip was rehashed; even Murdoch's hostile biographer Michael Wolff got quoted without insulting epithet. We were told that the old man's habit of banging the table as he talks 'must get on [Wendi's] nerves at the breakfast table'. I don't doubt it.

Certainly the ST's Hackgate damage limitation strategy is cleverer than the Sun's, but then the market's different. A well-informed readership wouldn't tolerate express attempts to justify, extenuate or downplay journalistic illegalities. Instead, we get the worldly yawn veiled in toothless irreverence, the 'Oh yah, yah. Next!' treatment. The emperor's nakedness is observed without drama; the sense of a passing fuss about nothing in particular is implied in sundry asides. A case of hoped-for Hackgate death by wisecrack.

Put another way, the gigglers made their own case for the abandonment of press self-regulation. Pronto.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Johann Hari - his website's back! Funny that.

I am delighted to see that Johann Hari's website is back up* after my post yesterday. It's not for me to speculate but I guess he realised that one can read his stuff in the Indy's archive; and then there are the versions in cache. One way or the other Google proves there is indeed life after death.

*However, the links on the site are dead. My thanks to an Arcatiste for pointing this out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Missing: Johann Hari's website.

The website of the Independent's suspended columnist/interviewer/awards hoover Johann Hari has disappeared: And if you click cached on any of his Google story links, the message informs 'website closed'. This is a most worrying development. I should have thought this is the time to brazen out the accusations (of plagiarism, made-up quotes, etc) and proclaim one's innocence by maintaining accessibility of the evidence (of putative authentic journalism). I wonder whether Hari's judge and jury Andreas Whittam Smith knows about this.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jonnie Marbles and and his pie-eyed Murdoch tweets

After Murdoch R's marvellous Young Mr Grace act (of Are You being Served? fame) at the select committee hearing today, it was entirely in keeping with the theatrical atmosphere that an idiotic anarchist comedian called Jonnie Marbles should do his bit to turn Wendi Deng into an action hero. I'm going to ask her to guest-edit this blog. You need sharp reflexes in this job and a fearless approach to retribution.

Mr Marbles is of course on Twitter (@JonnieMarbles) and the tweeted build up to his shaving cream pie assault on Rupes is riveting:

 'The queue for the select committee is already 50 people long. It's like a shit festival.'

'Apparently, if you keep your souvenir Select Committee wristband, you get a free beer next time Murdoch gives evidence.'

'The SWP have arrived. Bloody protesters'.

'Rupert Murdoch appears to be going senile.'

'One gets the sense that they haven't really done the required reading ahead of their presentation. Think they may fail this module.'

'It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat.'

Monday, July 18, 2011

@ExNOTWjourno2: Mystery 'M' of Twitter who knows all about News International

Who is the mysterious @ExNOTWjourno2 who has been dropping prophetic cryptic clues on Twitter about the phone hacking scandal? I have no idea. But having once been myself an anonymous supplier of juicy nuggets, who fooled hundreds of gullible London hacks by dint of intimidating talent, I cannot but be intrigued. 'She' answers to Marie and signs off as M. So we're looking for a man who likes Sudoku.

Her bio reads: 'Journalist @ NOTW for last 5 years. Axed to save skin of Rebekah Brooks! Enough Is Enough Of This Horse Sh#t !'

'What is the Colour Of Justice?' she tweeted around 10am today. This afternoon we heard the news that the boss of Orange had resigned. Could Hackgate (and justice hue) have something to do with Orange? Enjoy the game if it's not a con!

Some tweeters claim that M with her capitalised clues has anticipated many of the major happenings in the unfolding scandal. She claims to be on a revenge mission ever since the Murdochs shut down the News of the World and made her redundant. Apparently she declined to sign a gagging order yet it's news to me that redundancy offers have been made to ex-staff. I could be wrong.

The news today that Hackgate whistle-blower, and former Screws showbiz hack, Sean Hoare, has been found dead in his home in un-suspicious circumstances, prompted M to write: 'RIP Sean.. Now i'm really going to go for the jugular... I Don't Feel I Can Continue.. Sean would want me too... This isn't right possums. This situation has spiralled out of control. I will ensure the people behind this pay.'

Of the select committee inquisition due, she growls: 'I have a front row seat for tomorrow possums.. It's going to [sic] ad a bloodbath. NI thwarted the first investigation.'

Another prediction? 'It's Only Monday.. You wait until Thursday.' I'm not sure Madame Arcati can take much more excitement.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rupert Murdoch sexes it up for gerontophiles: The elder as harried quarry

Rupert Murdoch
The still-potent elderly media villain is a rare creature of celebrity. Periodically, the grim mugshot of yet another suspected doddery octogenarian Nazi war criminal (or Hugh Hefner) graces our media pages and screens, but in the main we are simply not accustomed to the sight of an ancient elder being set upon by baying hacks and paps on our city streets for crimes allegedly committed in our lifetime.

For this is the lot of Rupert Murdoch, 80. As the phone hacking scandal mushrooms on various Bikini Atolls here and abroad, Rupert finds himself alone in the genre marked Media Harried Quarry. What stands him apart from, say, Lady Gaga, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Jonathan King and the many other magnets of media screaming hunting parties, is his sheer age. The deep facial furrows, the fried bacon eyelids, the tufted pate, the faintly rolling gait of the faintlier unsteady - I note the blonde personal trainer and concede he can jog upright - yes, all these mark him out as special, if not unique, in the iconography of... the Media Harried Quarry.

Part of the reason for this latest polish to his celebrity is his failure to die. By 80, apparently, few of us are fit for anything much. If a person dies aged 80 we say, 'Mmm, not a bad time to go.' Eighty is about 15 years since usual retirement age (for men in the UK); about 20 years if you're a UK female. If a sports journalist managed to reach 80 in post we would cast doubt on the competence of Human Resources at his/her publication. This is not how things should be, just how they are.

For Rupert to get to 80 while still running his multi-national, multi-media empire is in itself an extraordinary thing.

So for him to metamorphose into Public Enemy Number One and to have ghastly journalists a third of his age waving their notebooks and dictaphones under his nose, actually running after him when he has plainly waved them off en route to the gas-guzzling company four-wheel drive; bellowing questions and demanding answers (pause for breath, dearies) - well, this is an event worthy of memorialising.

Welcome to the still-potent elderly media villain on our bustling streets; on our TV screens. Ready yourself for the sight of other rogues of advanced vintage pursued by the hacks and paps. I sense a new fashion! Unwittingly and unwillingly, Rupert has broadened our view of what can be achieved at 80. Old age is now no barrier to the media persecution of non-Nazis (or of Rebekah's elderly sink estate paedos). Once again he has proved his pioneering spirit.

Thank you, Rupert.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Roger Alton: Why is this ludicrous oaf still in journalism?

A word on Roger Alton's shambolic appearance on Newsnight last night. I was surprised that the Times wheeled out its decrepit executive editor to counter the suave super-hero of the hour Hugh Grant on the topic of phone hacking. At one point Lord Fowler dismissed Alton's lame attempts to defend the press as 'rubbish'. And cringe-worthy was Alton's fake justification for hacking when he asked rhetorically whether it had value as an investigative tool if it exposed a paedophile scandal.

Like many other journalists he seemed oblivious to the small matter of illegality.

Alton himself is a curious sight, part Harry Hill, part fall guy in a Benny Hill sketch. The late comedian would have patted Alton's bald head and sent him on his way with a kick to the arse. How such a man lacking in any obvious sign of intellectual accomplishment, any philosophical coherence whatsoever, or just plain street-smarts, came to edit the Observer and Independent is well beyond my understanding.

Only the other day, he made a complete fool of himself on TV when he attacked Mumsnet for its campaign against the late News of the World. Instead of expressing proper regret over Milly Dowler and other cases, he ridiculed Mumsnet members as 'yummy mummies' and 'organic shortbread' eaters, and castigated them for making poor hacks unemployed. All very Alf Garnet.

This is the man - Roger, not Alf - who of course at the Observer cosied up to Blair and Campbell and supported the Iraq War, all because he was flattered by their courting of him. That such an oaf of a man splutters on in a senior role at The Times is itself yet further evidence of the mental rot in British print journalism.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Clemency Jopling and her erotic musings on Rupert Murdoch

Clemency Jopling of yesteryear
Delighted to see that the erotic fiction author Clemency Jopling has set up a blog called Clemency Jopling's Erotic Jottings: she vows to write 'about anything erotic that seems likely to amuse, arouse, or interest the reader.'

In dubious fulfilment of this promise, she naturally name-drops the less-than-nubile Madame Arcati in a posting on the Dignitas pin-up model Rupert Murdoch. Apparently I am a 'scarred and grizzled' veteran of Fleet Street - even if finding one wrinkle on my moist flesh would challenge the talents of the late hawk-eyed Helena Rubenstein - which I think may be misrepresenting my varied background. Like a humming bird I have dipped my beak in many a career bloom so that versatility is my key quality.

In her next work of fiction, she may wish to focus on a passionate liaison, that transgressively crosses the age divide, between an 80 year-old media mogul and his worshipful, flame-haired CEO, 40-something. The trauma of ED might be highlighted in graphic scenes of phone hacking vacuum pumping.

Those unfamiliar with Clemency's oeuvre may wish to immerse - Amazon. Her titles include Mr Biddulph Sees a Ghost (The Erotic Adventures of Mr Biddulph) and Mrs Smith's Academy IV: Zuleika's Correction.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Henri Llewelyn Davies: 'It was I who brought her to "Death" Rowe and Woman's Own'

Psychic astrologer
 Henri Llewelyn Davies
My recent piece on the untimely death of pychic astrologer Henrietta ('Henri') Llewelyn Davies at 56 drew this letter from a former colleague of hers....

Dear Madame,

I hope you don't mind me e-mailing you.

By pure chance (fate?) today, I came across the news of the death of Henri [Llewelyn Davies] on your web-page. I am so shocked and saddened; I didn't know. Please could you tell me how she died?

I knew Henri very well in the early Eighties -- contrary to what your blogger 'Liz' has to say, it was I who took her to Woman's Own.

It seems you knew her well, so you might also know of her time at Look Now magazine. This is where I met her -- she was a good friend of the then-features editor, Adele-Marie Cherreson, and I joined as a junior, working my way through the features dept to become Deputy Editor. We became good friends, and when I found myself working for Bridget 'Death' Rowe as Assistant Editor at Woman's Own (!), I suggested Henri as the new astrologer. Bridget R wasn't easily convinced, but I think she was interested in trying something different, which Henri certainly was, and so it began.

I later went to TVTimes, and, of course, took Henri with me. When I left, Henri stayed on and we kept in touch for a couple of years: she came to my wedding, and I keep an astrological chart and reading she wrote on the birth of my son 18 years ago, scribbled in her unmistakably spidery handwriting! She came out to visit me here in St Albans, but said she felt twitchy leaving the city. Reading her quotes in her obit tonight, I can hear her voice in my head so clearly...Life went on and we probably last spoke about eight years ago, when I began writing a novel on life after death.

Sorry for the unloading, I'm sure you appreciate how I feel. If you could find a moment to tell me what happened to Henri, I would be extremely grateful.

With all best wishes

Doretta Sarris Hogan

Dear Doretta

Thank you for your letter. Henri told me that before she was hired at Woman's Own, 'Death' Rowe took her out to lunch - perhaps to Joe Allen's though I can't be certain. Bridget was perfectly fine and chatty until she rose at the end and suddenly gave Henri a bizarre look as if to remind her who was in charge. The bipolar-ish change in countenance from friendly to hostile was intimidatory. It might not have helped that during lunch, Henri told the editor that her journalistic career would end in her late forties. This proved correct.

Henri died of a brain tumour after treatment for lung cancer. Here is her Telegraph obit.

Best wishes


Friday, July 08, 2011

Duncan Fallowell's How To Disappear memoir: The movie

Duncan Fallowell's new book How To Disappear: A Memoir For Misfits is now due out mid-August (preferably before the 12th) from Ditto Press. Nazareno Crea, who has designed the book, was inspired to make this short film with Stewart Smith to accompany it. Click arrow once to watch on this site before sitting back with a glass of opiate.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Rupert Murdoch arrested: the words we dare not speak for some reason

The end of the News of the World: let me savour those beautiful words. Allow me to roll those delicious vowels and consonants over my tongue. Never did I imagine Madame Arcati would outlive the corrupt farrago that became the Screws. Of course, the Sun on Sunday, or some such, will serve as replacement, though its SOS acronym is perhaps too ironic to prevail.

Rupert Murdoch is lauded for his dark genius in pressing the nuclear option and distracting us for a few seconds as we mouth silent shock-horrors and wonder what will happen to Carole Malone and her 'hell' tropes. This is not genius but guile, though I must admit he caught me and the rest on the hop.

Actually his true genius is more subtle, entirely mercurial and located in an omission. We debate the heinousness of his past editors and journalists without ever entertaining the idea that he, Murdoch himself, should be arrested, tried, and if convicted, jailed. Every line of police inquiry should not end just at the point of executive control of corruption - such as with the Andy Coulsons or Rebecca Brookses - but should journey on to the fount, the inspiration - to the baby factory of journalistic nightmare. To Rupert.

Book after book by ex-Murdoch editors chronicle the same story: of a bullying, manipulative proprietor ever pushing back the boundaries of decency and legality in his Borg-like mission to reduce the world to a mindless form of voluntary moronism, with programme guides. Rebecca Wade nee Brooks became what we see today by imitation of her boss. She and others translated his desires via practical, modern-day methods. Did he ever give any thought to how stories were obtained as he licked his cash-fingers? The DNA of this hideous chapter in British journalism may be traced to Old Rupes and what he expected by way of results.

What he knew or didn't know precisely is neither here nor there. He was happy to shovel the profits even when, as years ago, he knew something was up. Now with his usual ruthlessness he dumps 200 staff on a heap. Some will make it to SOS of course.

But he remains at large.

Alastair Campbell: A Twitter interview with Madame Arcati in (approx) 140 characters

Alastair Campbell tweeted this morning: 'Vol 3 of my diaries Power and Responsibility published today. Trying out new and interesting strategy - not doing media, off to Burnley.'

So I tweeted back: 'How would you describe your new strategy so I can quote you in blog? 140 characters... '

His Twitter interview in full without Hari-esque additions or refinements:

'Extracts major bestseller. Full vols more historic record. Reviews, word of mouth and ongoing 'normal' media engagement.'

And that's it. Perfect. I hope Madame Arcati counts as a 'normal media engagement.'

Diaries Volume Three: Power and Responsibility (The Alastair Campbell Diaries), click here to buy

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Rebekah Brooks and Milly Dowler: Simple, just apply the Sharon Shoesmith test

The matter of Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International's UK ops, and what as editor of The News of the World in 2002 she may or may not, or ought to, have known about the Milly Dowler phone hacking outrage, bears an uncanny resemblance to the matter of former Haringey boss Sharon Shoesmith and what she knew or ought to have known about Baby P.

Brooks, nee Wade as editor of The Sun in 2007, was merciless in her persecution of Shoesmith, holding her to account because she was a highly paid executive presiding over a tax-funded, dysfunctional children's service. Personal knowledge was an irrelevance. In a fateful twist that involves a child-victim, Brooks now finds herself in a not dissimilar situation, trying to save herself by making a virtue of her ignorance when she presided over what was plainly a dysfunctional newspaper.

Surely, in deciding whether Brooks go now, or when she's pregnant next year (see the current Private Eye for more), we should apply the principle she championed against Shoesmith: take personal responsibility because she was there. Like Shoesmith, Brooks was on a huge, perks-fattened salary, in return for her management skills. Indeed, Brooks' salary and perks far exceeded Shoesmith's.

Like Andy Coulson at the Screws, Brooks raised the stakes and imposed a bullying staff culture which made failure a no-option. Cheating was an inevitable consequence of her mindless careerism and pandering to Murdoch. She was happy to take the credit for her newspaper when promotion was dangled before her, but not the debit when disgrace is the alternative.

So Rebekah, practise what you preached against poor old Shazza.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Duncan Fallowell: Do you understand The Catatonic Sequence video?

Duncan Fallowell has posted a very annoying video on YouTube called The Catatonic Sequence. It features seven Tarot cards and carries a warning to those who are 'easily influenced' and mentions something called The Seventh Game.

Could the film-ette be a satire on the Tarot (my brother is a most proficient reader), or a cryptic tease of some sort, or a secret message to Al Qaeda? I seriously doubt any of you will know, but comment if you must. (Don't post anything news-worthy which you don't want noticed by the media. I shall use it. You have been warned)

Incidentally, Duncan's memoir How To Disappear has a new release date: mid-August. I understand his publishers Ditto Press took account of my astrological warning against a June 15 publishing date (wrong kind of Moon phase) and are now entirely in my heavenly thrall. I shall permit a mid-August release. It's possible Duncan, as a life-affirming agnostic secularist thingumy, is cross about my pagan intervention and has hit back with this vid. If so, I forgive him. Madame Arcati is used to being much misunderstood. And abused. (Click screen arrow once to play)

Friday, July 01, 2011

Ian Shuttleworth and Madame Arcati fall out over Johann Hari and a thin-skinned egotist

The very gifted stage critic of the Financial Times, Ian Shuttleworth, is awfully cross with Madame Arcati. This is what happened.

The other day I posted my enlightened view of Johann Hari and his quotes-lifting activities. I said his career would soar on the controversy. Among the many comments, sent in voluntarily and unsolictedly, were two by the man known as Shutters. He had a beef about Hari. Years ago, the Indy columnist had 'begged' him for quotes to grace a star profile Hari was composing. Shutters withheld the name of the celebrity in question, for some reason. Much to Shutters' horror, these 'quotes' were then used in what turned out to be a snide piece about a very famous showbiz person once close to the critic: while the profile was anonymous, Shutters' words were ostentatiously credited.

It seemed wrongly as if he had contributed knowingly and abundantly to an assassination piece on the secular deity of film and theatre. His friendly intent had been cruelly distorted by guileful, hateful Hari. Apparently, Shutters was struck off someone's Christmas card list from then on and left out to dangle on his FT rotary clothes dryer. Zebra wept far away.

The comments section of a post is a public place so Madame Arcati thought: That's an interesting story, it requires amplification. She gave it its own post and drew attention to it on Facebook and Twitter. Cue Shutters' drama-queening, his abject boo-hooing. Now, on Twitter, he whines: 'Twice inside a week I've found my throwaway comments dined on. I keep forgetting how many people dine on throwaways, and with what relish.' And: 'I am, I fear, irredeemably naive. I've tried to learn, but. I really must just shut up, one way or another.' Then he did the thing that can't be forgiven: he unfriended me on Facebook!

An Arcatiste has now kindly supplied me with a copy of this mystery Hari profile. In 2002 the young mite turned his attention to the many cuts on Sam Mendes, all latterday Orson Welles and no rosebud. The piece is indeed a tad irreverent. Actually, Hari really can write. I commend it. In vain I sought Shutters' 'quotes' until towards the end I happened on these (Shutters' words in double quotes):

'"The mood in Cambridge drama back then wasn't so much bitchy or malicious. It was that very 1980s climate of careerism." In that milieu, where "Sam was quite obviously the business, and didn't exactly have to struggle", Mendes inevitably attracted a considerable degree of resentment and envy.'

And that's it. Only.

Ian, poppet: this is called journalism and plainly your erstwhile pal Mendes is a thin-skinned egotist who doesn't like members of his circle talking about him. End of. And as for your 'throwaway comments' dined on by me: you supplied them of your own volition. Comments pop up on Google searches, too. 

If you're going to howl, don't whimper if you're heard.

And as for Hari: my apologies to him. I assumed he had done something very wrong in his Mendes piece. In fact I find it spot on in tone and insight. And he is to be congratulated for not relying entirely on other people's written work.