Ten thousand jaws could be heard hitting the floor when Paul McMullan testified at the Leveson Inquiry. He was shameless, relentless, unstoppable. He said how much he enjoyed chasing Princess Diana. He defended the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone because "we were doing our best to find the little girl". He poured scorn on Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Sienna Miller, for "doing well in their careers by banging on about their privacy".
Viewers watched this walking embodiment of tabloid scummery not just admit illegal behaviour and confess to his disgraceful misdeeds, but seeming to revel in them. As he described how he and an associate entrapped a priest by dressing up as rent boys and scarpering through a nunnery, as he explained how he got a £750 bonus for "ripping off" the source of a story about Robert De Niro in a bubble-bath with two girls, as stories tumbled from his lips, we listened in horror to the truth about tabloids, delivered as a flood of rascally anecdotes.
The Twitterati hated him. When McMullan delivered his climactic observation that "privacy is for paedos – fundamentally, no one else needs it", you could hear a collective gasp. "Good God," tweeted Graham Linehan, who co-wrote Father Ted. "The man is a different species."
I've been saying something similar for half my life. No, no, I've explained to parents, to prospective fathers-in-law, to suspicious bien-pensant girlfriends, I'm a journalist, but not that kind of journalist. I write book reviews, and articles on cars, cravats and California. I don't shove my foot in people's closing front doors, or nick photos of their dead kid off the sideboard, or take a teddy to chuck into wreckage on the M3 because it makes a better photograph. That journalism is a cliché, I said, along with scoops, hipflasks and cigar-chewing editors.
But I'm impressed by one thing about McMullan. He showed that some newspapers will indeed do absolutely anything, and go to any lengths, to sell papers and make money. "That's how tabloid hacks get stories," he effectively told the inquiry. "So what?" He was like the snake in Eden coiling around the Tree of Knowledge and saying, "Yeah, I did it. But basically, she was asking for it." I don't admire him, or his infamous views on privacy. But when I listen to the News International cabal proclaiming their innocence, and I listen to McMullan, I know who's telling the truth.
Cain's cheesy toppings
It's hard to keep a straight face over the Herman Cain saga. A fifth woman has now claimed she had an inappropriate relationship with the former pizza chain executive turned presidential wannabe. Ginger White claimed that their love was an American Hot for 13 years, but became a Sloppy Giuseppe eight months ago, when he broke it off like a piece of Stuffed Crust, and she went a bit Vesuvio.
She's no longer the La Reine of his heart, any more than were the other four women who claimed that he offered them a poke in the Giardiniera. Cain is now consulting his staff about whether he can stay in the race. I mean, how far off is the White House vote? Just Quattro Stagioni.