Phone hacking fallout: ten days that shook Britain

Jonathan Freedland writes:

This has not looked like a revolution. There have been no crowds massed overnight in Trafalgar Square, no tanks or water cannon deployed on the streets of London. And yet, in their own bloodless way, these have been the 10 days that shook Britain and shocked the world. Quietly and without violence, we have witnessed a very British revolution.

Yes, the government remains in place and Buckingham Palace is safely unstormed. Our official masters still rule over us. Nevertheless, these wild, dizzying days have carried a distinctly revolutionary echo.

One of the most famous images of the revolutions that swept eastern Europe in 1989 came from Romania, when Nicolae Ceausescu addressed a crowd in Bucharest’s main square. Suddenly, someone started booing. Then another, and another began jeering and whistling.

No one had ever heard such a noise before, least of all the dictator himself, who stared at the crowd, utterly baffled by such a show of dissent. The revolution was under way within hours, the regime toppled within days.

What happened in that moment was that the Romanian people lost their fear, instantly but completely.

Of course, Rupert Murdoch is no murderous despot. But he was feared by the very people many would have assumed were too powerful to be intimidated. From the moment late on 4 July that the Guardian reported that the News of the World had listened to, and deleted, messages left on the phone of a missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, that fear, accumulated over three decades, began to melt away.

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