by Neil Harris
THERE’S not too much separating the capitalist world from the underworld – the “criminal classes”. In the end, criminals are lazy capitalists; the mentality is much the same, it’s just the work ethic that’s missing.
They tend to have similar tastes when it comes to leisure activities too. So hanging around the sports events, casinos, restaurants, nightclubs, bars and hotels favoured by the rich, you’ll find an entertaining mixture of petty criminals, informants, bent coppers, journalists and the occasional spy: all on the lookout for a good story to sell.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Ian Cutler was up to his neck in all this as a staff photographer for Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper. Cutler made a fortune as a “snapper” but had a knack of annoying powerful people; corrupt police officers and gangsters all took violent revenge on him and he became well acquainted with prison food in his time.
Fallen on hard times now, Cutler has been reduced to selling his self-published memoirs; Camera Assassin II, but your local library isn’t going to be stocking this one any time soon. Ghost written by Eddie Chapman, the burglar, con-artist and wartime double agent, this is a foulmouthed insight into working life at the News of the World. Luckily for New Worker readers, we’ve carefully read through all the sordid tales of debauchery and excess so that you do not have to.
It wasn’t his first attempt to enter the literary world – he was involved with the legendarily decadent Simon Regan in producing Scallywag, a ruder, cruder and poorer version of Private Eye magazine. Scallywag got sued out of existence by Prime Minister John Major’s caterer although some old issues are still to be found hiding in the murkier areas of the internet.
Cutler now dishes the dirt on his former colleagues at the News of the World and a very grubby world it is too; a lying, boozing, fraudulent world of prostitutes, long liquid lunches and inflated expenses claims that earned the pre-Wapping “Fleet Street” its nickname of “The Street of Shame”. Most of his colleagues seem to have been so preoccupied with getting drunk and having underage sex that they had to resort to making up stories for the paper. Above all, he revels in exposing the hypocrisy that allows “newspapers” like the Sun and the Daily Mail to claim that they stand for press freedom.
There is no indication that Murdoch approved of what went on but he was happy with the circulation figures and the front pages. Occasionally, he would get involved with the paper’s agenda and then their lying became political to supply him with the features he craved.
Murdoch is alleged to have been pre-occupied with “welfare scroungers” and Cutler details how stories were made up for him using models and prostitutes photographed to illustrate how people were working while claiming state benefits. “Every last one of them was a setup. We’d go out, set up a picture, then (Ray) Chapman would invent a story to go with them….”.
The left was always a target for Murdoch so Cutler and his gang were happy to oblige. Ted Knight, the Labour leader of Lambeth Council was a victim: “In efforts to expose ‘Red Ted Knight’, (Ray) Chapman and Cutler paid black models to pose as council workers moonlighting in council time with council equipment”.
The state-owned British Leyland was another battlefield of class struggle and Cutler came up with a fabricated front page story of workers sleeping on the job. Titled “The Goodnight Shift”, this 1979 story was well timed to discredit the Joint Shop Stewards Committee and was one of a number of “stories”’ used to smear the communist chief shop steward, Derek Robinson and to justify his dismissal and victimisation.
Usually it was the vulnerable, the young and the poor who were their victims, with Cutler and his colleagues sniggering at their misfortunes. This culture of sexual exploitation and abuse is one that Jimmy Saville and his circle would have felt at home in and probably were.
This was the world of the capitalist media of the 1970s and 80s. Homophobic, sexist, racist and revelling in sexual violence, these well paid scumbags created the justification for the belittling and domination of more than half of the working class – those who were female, gay or from ethnic minorities. That made it all too easy to for them to take on the remainder: it’s called divide and rule.
And then the News of the World moved to Wapping, leaving behind the old Fleet Street, its drinking culture and 3,600 victimised printers. It was now using new technology with a non-union workforce and the papers were providing a steady stream of cash to fund Murdoch’s worldwide ambitions. The new generation of media bosses running the propaganda machine were sober, efficient people like Rebekah Wade and Andy Coulson but that’s waiting for another book and a different author.
The book, written by Ian Cutler and Eddie Chapman, has now been updated as Camera Assassin 111 and it can be downloaded in Kindle or PDF format for just £2.95 at http://www.cameraassassin.co.uk/. Print copies are sometimes available from website mail-order booksellers.