Small victories: battling the Hydra

Heracles had the misfortune of being born the bastard son of a god with a terrible marriage. The scorned wife, Hera, hated the boy, and hated the man he became, and strived to make his life a special kind of suffering. Life was a losing battle for Heracles, plagued by a series of unbeatable foes.

He found himself, one day, striving to kill the unkillable. The Hydra. Many-headed, it dwelt in a foul swamp and bled poison. Heracles went for the obvious solution: he took a sickle and chopped one head off the beast. Its head landed with a satisfying thump. This will be easy, Heracles thought. One of my twelve labours over before tea-time. He kicked the head aside.

When he looked up again, he realised the magnitude of his task. Two heads had grown back where moments before there had been nothing but a bleeding, fizzing stump.

Fuck, thought Heracles.

Heracles was nothing if not persistent, though. He happened, with a little help from his nephew and wise Athene, upon a solution: kill it with fire.

Each head was hacked off, and the neck cauterised with flame.

The unkillable was slain. Heracles prevailed.

Today, we have beheaded the Hydra: the News of the World, the vile, filthy rag, has closed down. It was, as I had hoped only hours ago, slain by its own rhetoric.

It is only one head of the beast, though, and this head will grow back twofold. As the News of the World dies, another member of Murdoch’s empire will ascend. Murdoch now owns less of the UK media than before, so it becomes more likely that he will be able to finalise his purchase of BSkyB, filling our televisions with yet more of his tawdry, spiteful pap. Another Murdoch Sunday paper will spring up: the Sunday Sun, perhaps, or the Sun on Sunday, or even, given the tabloid’s love for terrible puns, simply the SUNday. It will rise up unless we cauterise the stump.

Even then, it is still a many-headed beast. There is the rest of Murdoch’s empire to take on. And beside those heads, there is that of the Daily Mail, hissing poison and hate. Next to the tabloids sit the broadsheets, chattering vitriol, appearing composed.

And it is more than just the media, this beast. What of the police, with whom money exchanged hands in the News of the World scandal? What of the government, who enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the gutter press?

Most importantly, what of the system, of which these scandals are merely symptoms? Rags like the News of the World would never exist in a world without grasping, greedy capitalism, or misogyny, or racism, or rampant, intrusive voyeurism. These heads need chopping off and purging with fire.

Today we have witnessed something a tiny victory. It may not even be a victory without more of a fight.

Like Heracles, we must keep burning and hacking. He persisted. He had a happy ending. If we keep fighting, so might we.

6 thoughts on “Small victories: battling the Hydra”

  1. But of course the story did not end there. Heracles dipped some of his arrows in the Hydra’s blood and later used one of the arrows to kill the centaur Nessus who had tried to rape Heracles wife Deianara. Dying in agony, Nessus told Deianara to preserve some of his tainted blood and use it as a love charm if Heracles ever left her. She wove a shirt and soaked it in the blood – which killed Heracles in horrible pain.

    I think that an elaborate set of analogies may yet be woven from all this – let’s hope we take the lesson not to use the master’s tools to take down the master’s house.

    1. I never knew that part of the story–I mostly learned the Greek myths from children’s books. There’s certainly a lot more to learn in that story!

  2. “Rags like the News of the World would never exist in a world without grasping, greedy capitalism, or misogyny, or racism, or rampant, intrusive voyeurism. These heads need chopping off and purging with fire.”

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