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Nancy and the sinister Syrians

03 May 2013

Lending authority: Archbishop Welby in Saturday's Financial Times

Lending authority: Archbishop Welby in Saturday's Financial Times

THIS was the week when The Guardian got sucked into the Syrian civil war. A really determined effort, which is still under way as I write, was made to break into our computer systems.

Part of the purpose was to hijack Twitter accounts so that they could be used to broadcast pro-government propaganda from the so-called "Syrian Electronic Army". But to do this, the attackers seem to have started with Google accounts, which would give them access to almost anything that the victim had stored on the office system. This is rather worrying.

I can't know more, partly because I did not myself click on any of the fatal links, although I was sent at least three messages purporting to come from the victims of this hack, urging me, in turn, to click on something that appeared to be a Washington Post story, but actually led to a page on nancyspartyrentals.com.

Later iterations were just as clever. "The Guardian's twitter feed has been hacked!" they said, and gave its address - but, of course, that led to a dummy page that would steal the login and passwords you entered. In the general atmosphere of suspicion and confusion engendered by the original attack, which has led to widespread password change and re-entering, that second attempt was remarkably clever.

Nor are these things just propaganda. When the Associated Press Twitter feed was hacked a couple of days earlier, and used to send out a false report that there had been a bomb attack on the White House, stock markets quivered all round the world. Someone could have made a great deal of money in those five minutes.

Sometimes, of course, financial markets react more slowly. The Financial Times waited until Saturday to follow up, on the front page, Dr Welby's lecture from Monday on the City and the banks. This marks an interesting twist on establishment: the Archbishop becomes a spokesman for the wise men on the banking commission, lending them a moral authority that they might otherwise, somehow, lack.

"The spiritual head of the world's 77m Anglicans says morality in British business is 'in many ways much, much better than at many times at the past', citing crackdowns on insider trading, conflicts of interest and sex discrimination.

"But he adds: 'In banking, in particular, and in the City of London, a culture of entitlement has affected a number of areas - not universally by any means - in which it seemed to disconnect from what people saw as reasonable in the rest of the world'."

THIS was still a whole lot more prompt than The Sunday Telegraph's scoop on the future Bishop of Manchester, which was based on a document six weeks old, the vacancy-in-see commission's statement of needs.

Still, there was a peg, in that the Crown Nominations Commission had just met. "The panel, which met on Friday, was told that the successor to the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who retired earlier this year, should build on 'significant engagement' with 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities' in Manchester."

IN THE mean time, The Daily Telegraph picked up on a blog by Archbishop Welby's daughter, Katharine, about depression; and so did The Times and the Mail. None spoke to her directly, but that doesn't affect the case: anything that anyone publishes on a blog or on Twitter is public. The corollary of that is that no one will read anything on the internet except the people you least want to read it. So they were perfectly within their rights to pick up the blog.

First, the Telegraph (note "said" as a shorthand term for "wrote on her blog"): "Katharine Welby, 26, said she often found herself consumed by a 'black veil of nothing' and in her darkest moments could see 'no hope in the world' and cannot stop herself from crying.

"She said that while she knew that 'God will stand by me with every step', it was a 'shame that so often his people will not'. Christians who suffer from depression find themselves 'suffering quietly and in fear of what their friends would say', she said."

Never mind what their friends say: what would the Mail say? But she declined to talk to the reporter who was immediately dispatched to a conference where she was staffing a stand. What matters, if she's going to go on being open, is to understand that the Mail doesn't care whether she is the tragic victim of a dreadful condition or a whingeing piece of posh totty - so long as she is one or the other, or at least not both in the same week.

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