Hutchence wrote this song with band members Andrew Farriss and Garry William Beers. In a 2020 Songfacts interview with Farriss
, he talked about the phrase "listen like thieves" and the meaning behind the lyrics. "Michael put that string of words together," he said. "Someone said to me recently that it sounds like a British poet from back in the 19th century. But that particular string of words is not a modern vernacular."
Farriss added: "I think it's a very clever phrase to use for a song because through the generations there has been a constant struggle within most cultures to feel like you're controlling your own destiny within the government. I think that was part of what Michael's lyric was: The idea that the media haven't been great watchdogs, and that it is important that there are people who champion the truth. I think that's really what he was getting at."