The Leveson Inquiry has, thus far, clearly identified the underlying philosophy and ethos of British tabloid journalism.
Central to this ethos has been found to be dishonesty, bullying, political manipulation and a complete disregard for what might be considered as civilised standards of behaviour.
'The Inquiry is now moving on,' confirmed Lord Justice Leveson, this week, 'to examine what has led to this pitiful and unsavoury situation.'
A common theme in the testimony of tabloid representatives has been the pressure that the tabloid press has been under from their readers to plumb greater and greater depths of squalor and bad taste.
A clear indication of this was the circulation figures for the News of The World on its final Sunday. This was 4.5 million, the highest since at least 1998. At that point many of the questionable practices adopted by the News of the World had already been exposed.
All the circulation revenue of the final edition was donated to charity. However, it remains true that each person buying that final copy of the newspaper was, in effect, supporting phone hacking, media harassment and disregard for the normal values of society.
In order to understand why so many people would behave like this, the Leveson Inquiry today interviewed Mrs Mavis Reader, who was selected as being a typical representative of the tabloids' readership.
Below is a transcript of that interview:
Lord Justice Leveson (LJL): 'Hello Mrs Reader. Thank you for agreeing to give evidence to this Inquiry.'
Mavis Reader (MR): 'Pleased to 'elp.'
LJL: 'As you know, this is an independent inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media in Britain today. You have been invited as an example of the quintessential tabloid reader.'
MR: 'What's quinty. . . er. . . what you said?'
LJL: 'It means that you are typical of most tabloid readers, and so your opinions will represent those of the tabloid readership.'
MR: 'I've always done me best to be average.'
LJL: 'Please tell the Inquiry why you read tabloid newspapers.'
MR: 'Well, there's the 'oroscopes an' the CDs an' the special offers. Then there's the news, o' course.'
LJL: 'Ah. What sort of news interests you?'
MR: 'I like best the stuff about what celebs are sleepin' wiv what uvver celebs.'
LJL: 'You favour the salacious material, then?'
MR: 'What's sally. . . . er. . . what you said?'
LJL: 'The naughty bits.'
MR: 'Yeh. I like to read what the uvver arf gets up to. Mind you, you get a bit jealous of 'em too, so it's always good when they split-up, get arrested, go into drug re'ab or sommit like that.'
LJL: 'Does the veracity of tabloid articles concern you?'
MR: 'What's very. . . er. . . what you said?'
LJL: 'It means that many of the things written about people may not be true.'
MR: 'I s'pose it'd be better if stories were true - except if it made 'em borin'. I'd sooner read sommit interestin' and untrue than sommit true an' borin'.'
LJL: 'What about other news?'
MR: 'The papers confirm what I already know about millions o' good for nothin' asylum seekers comin' into this country an' committin' all the crimes. An' 'ow all kids are drunk 24/7 an' attackin' everyone - them that aint bin abducted by paedos, that is. Then there's the revelations about 'ow they keep lettin' all them people get away wiv it.'
LJL: 'Who lets which people get away with what?'
MR: 'I dunno, it changes every day. If it wern't for the papers, I wouldn't know what to be outraged about.'
LJL: 'Mrs Reader, as you know, you are one of the last people from whom we are taking testimony.'
MR: 'What's testy. . . er. . . what you said?'
LJL: 'You are one of the last people to tell us things. The tabloids have already been forced to admit that they are not too concerned about truth; that they generate interest in celebrities in order to later vilify them; they promote paranoia and anger by selective reporting of bad news - particularly about young people and immigrants; they hack phones; they bully people and they even try to control the behaviour of the government.'
MR: 'That's terrible. Someone should stop 'em.'
LJL: 'They say it's your fault.'
LJL: 'Yes. They say they feel dreadful about doing all those terrible things but, if they didn't, you wouldn't buy their newspapers and then they and their families would starve.'
MR: 'Well yes that's true, but. . .'
LJL: 'The tabloid editors said they'd had enough of being blackmailed by you to print more and more sleaze and scandal. I gather they're going to run a series of articles exposing you and your fellow readers, revealing how you mercilessly drove them to the unsavoury depths they now plumb.'
MR: 'If the papers are campaignin' against it, then I'm wiv 'em. Someone should do sommit about us bastards!'