I know the whole thing is reprehensible and unforgivable, but you have to admit the British really know how to put on a scandal.
You may be tired of hearing about the demise of notorious sleaze-tabloid News of the World, following reports it had an occasional issue with procedure and ethics within which it accidentally hacked the cell phones and eavesdropped on someone else's voice mail – about 4,000 times.
You may have tired of hearing journalists wail and beat their chests as they deplore the horrible ethics of the reporters, and of security wonks talk about how easy voicemail hacking is, how often it probably happens and how little most people appreciate the need for some basic standard of security rather than using the same damn password everywhere because it's tattooed on the back of their hands along with their Social Security Numbers so they don't forget.
But check this out:
Not only is NOTW accused of regularly, specifically and very successfully targeting the British royal family for its bit of un-state-sanctioned espionage. It and other News Corp.-owned papers also reportedly hacked the voice mail of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and tried to hack his bank account, legal records and family's private medical records.
NOTW reporters may also have hacked the voice mails of victims of the 9/11 attacks, bribed police who guarded the very person of the Queen for information it needed to hack the phones of some aides to the royal family and generally demonstrated, as News Corp.'s leading British paper, "a culture run amok" to so great an extent the shareholder lawsuits that follow every crisis are coming not from crackpots, but from the $4.5 billion Amalgamated Bank of New York and other major investors. (Though, as a union-owned bank, Amalgamated has more inherent moral conflicts in its money-grubbing than the average bank and may be trying to emulate a conscience, whether it has one or not.)
But that's not enough drama and splash.
No. Hacking the leader of the second-most-prominent nation in the Western world and the only monarchy no one really hates and victims of terrorism and kidnapped, murdered little girls is not enough.
This scandal and the police investigation behind it was broken with help from a likeably attractive, very English movie star who went undercover to help gather information for police, while bumbling and stammering the whole time exactly as he would have if the whole thing were being filmed for release rather than recorded for prosecution.
Hugh Grant – HUGH GRANT??? – told the BBC he was wired for sound by the police when he had drinks in the pub with a paparazzo working for NOTW who admitted hacking into Grant's phone and those of many other celebrities not for reasons of national security, but for bits of juicy gossip.
AND the paparazzo was self-aware enough to joke about the possibility Grant was recording the conversation – a bit of irony that the police caught on tape and which should only have been able to have been written or spoken as part of a script that would be criticized as being too patly convenient to be real.
McMullen told the BBC he suspected the actor was taping him during his pub visit, but joked that he didn't want to believe that, quote, "an actor who's very well-known would lower himself to such tactics." He called the thought of Hugh Grant coming into his pub and recording him with "a silly little pen," "hilarious," adding that he didn't mind being turned over.
News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch closed the whole paper as of today, after selling a record 4.5 million copies of its final edition Sunday.
And what do we get? Congresspeople Tweeting racy pictures to strangers and resigning out of embarrassment that they couldn't have come up with something more interesting over which to resign in disgrace.
No one does scandal like the British.