23 July 2011 — Mathaba
Famed journalist George Seldes (1890 – 1995) condemned press prostitutes in books like ‘Lords of the Press,’ denouncing their corruption, suppression of truth, and news censorship before television reached large audiences, saying:
‘The most sacred cow of the press is the press itself – the most powerful force against the general welfare of the majority of the people.’
Australian journalist Bruce Page authored a book on Murdoch titled, ‘The Murdoch Archipelago,’ calling him:
‘one of the world’s leading villains (and) global pirate(s),’ rampaging the mediasphere, telling world leaders what he expects from them and what he’ll offer in return. It’s ‘let’s make a deal,’ Murdoch-style that’s uncompromisingly hardball, some on the receiving end calling it an offer they can’t refuse.’
On air and in print, his operations support allies and beat up on adversaries, enough at times to affect political outcomes his way, especially in Britain and his native Australia, but also helping hard-right US candidates.
For mass audiences, he specializes in sensationalist pseudo-journalism, distorting the truth, at the same time juicing-up reports on murder, mayhem, mishaps, celebrity gossip and soft porn for audiences that love it.
He’s so beyond respectability, in fact, that former Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932 – 1997) once said ‘no self-respecting fish would (want to) be wrapped in a Murdoch paper….His goal (isn’t) journalism, (it’s) vast power, political power,’ and, of course, bottom line priorities. If ideologically acceptable and sells, he’ll feature it and has for decades.
From his early beginnings to his current unrivaled media world status (unless scandal now brings him down), he’s wielded unchallenged power ruthlessly as a world class predator, using deception, chicanery, arrogance, artfulness, charm, cunning, sheer muscle, will, intimidation, poisonous influence and toadying to get his way by bullying people to prevail.
Bereft of ethics, his media empire includes a bordello of print and broadcast outlets. In his book titled, ‘The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch,’ Michael Wolff called him a monarch, gangster and con man, interested only in power, control and profits.
Given his history, clout, connections, manipulativeness, and hardball style, a fitting headline in the wake of the News of the World (NOTW) scandal would be Murdoch comes a cropper.
If only true, bringing down the world’s leading media villain, purveyor of sleaze, and power hungry news baron – clawing, exploiting, and hacking his way to notoriety and fortune.
In fact, however this affects him going forward (at age 80), expect his media empire to survive like caught-in-the-act Wall Street bandits – stealing billions, penalized millions, a few insiders at times going down, then back to business grabbing more.
So far, however, a bumpy ride followed London Guardian writers Nick Davies and Amelia Hill breaking the story, headlining on July 4, ‘Missing Milly Dowler’s voicemail was hacked by News of the World,’ saying:
Murdoch’s UK tabloid ‘illegally targeted (her) and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance, an investigation by the Guardian has established.’
After that it was all downhill, evidence showing Murdoch’s NOTW (place code around the abbreviation) hacked into phones and electronically spied on prime ministers, other politicians, celebrities, royal aides, Prince William, perhaps the queen, and innocent victims like Milly Dowler.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Peter Hart said he ‘may have hoped that….clos(ing) down News of the World’ would make the story ‘go away, but (it’s) getting bigger by the day if not by the hour.’
Even prime ministers aren’t immune, according to London Independent writers Oliver Wright and Nigel Morris, headlining on July 16, ‘Revealed: Cameron’s 26 meetings in 15 months with Murdoch chiefs,’ saying:
Since becoming UK prime minister, David Cameron met with Murdoch ‘executives no fewer than 26 (times) in just over a year….’ In fact, Rebekah Brooks, News International’s chief executive and former NOTW (fix as above) editor ‘is the only person (Cameron) invited twice to Chequers (UK prime ministers’ private country house since 1921), a privilege not extended even to the most senior’ cabinet members.
Eight months ago, Murdoch’s son James (his heir apparent as News Corp. chairman and CEO) was also a Chequers guest, as well as NOTW (fix as above) editor Andy Coulson, arrested this week ‘in connection with police corruption and phone hacking….’
Moreover, documents revealed that News International executives and editors had 15 private meetings with Cameron since May, showing the grip Murdoch has on British politics, able to make or break aspirants in print or on air. In fact, veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner calls him ‘a cancer on the body politic’ because of his influence on electoral outcomes.
According to former Times of London editor/Murdoch employee Simon Jenkins:
‘There’s no doubt it’s been hugely damaging to’ his UK interests. However, rivals like The Guardian, BBC, and other news organizations exploited it out of proportion, hoping to capitalize advantageously. So did Carl Bernstein (of Woodward and Bernstein fame), calling the scandal another Watergate.’
At the same time, Conservative MPs like Zac Goldsmith said, ‘(p)oliticians have suddently started to distance themselves from Murdoch….Other times (members) of both major parties craved his attention in the most groveling fashion.’
That despite knowledge of prior illegal hacking. Examples include:
— In March 2002, hacking Milly Dowler and her family’s voicemail.
— In November 2005, NOTW (fix as above and in all other instances so that a mouse-over shows what the abbreviation means) writing about Prince William injuring his knee, prompting royal officials to suspect voice mail hacking.
— In November 2007, NOTW royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire convicted of phone mail hacking and jailed. NOTW’s editor claimed no knowledge but resigned.
— In June 2008, News Corp. pays soccer executive Gordon Taylor 700,000 pounds to settle charges of phone hacking.
— In March 2010, NOTW paid a celebrity PR agent over one million pounds to drop his lawsuit.
— In September 2010, former NOTW journalist Sean Hoare alleged that phone hacking was common practice, encouraged by former editor Andy Coulson.
— On January 21, 2011, Coulson resigned as David Cameron’s spokesman over allegations of phone hacking.
— On April 5, 2011, NOTW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and former editor Ian Edmondson were arrested on suspicion of hacking voice mail messages.
— On April 10, NOTW formally apologized for voice mail hacking from 2004 – 2006. It also agreed to compensate victims.
— On April 14, senior NOTW journalist James Weatherup is arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to hack communications.
— On June 7, NOTW paid actress Sienna Miller 100,000 pounds in damages and legal fees.
— On June 23, freelance journalist Terenia Taras was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking.
— On July 4, Milly Dowler’s hacking story broke.
— On July 7, News International announces that NOTW will cease publishing after July 10.
— On July 8, Coulson is arrested. Former royal editor Clive Goodman is again arrested on corruption allegations.
— On July 11, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accuses News International newspapers of illegally obtaining private information about him.
— On July 12, UK lawmakers summon Rupert and James Murdoch, as well as Rebekah Brooks to testify before Parliament.
— On July 13, News Corp. withdraws its takeover bid for UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB. In addition, Prime Minister Cameron announces a wide-ranging public inquiry into the scandal.
— On July 14, the FBI launches an investigation into whether News Corp. may have hacked into phones of 9/11 victims after members of Congress requested it.
— On July 15, Brooks resigns as News International CEO. In addition, Dow Jones head Les Hinton resigns.
— On July 15, New York Times writer Don Van Natta Jr. headlined, ‘Stain From Tabloids Rubs Off on a Cozy Scotland Yard,’ saying:
The Times learned that former NOTW editor Neil Wallis ‘report(ed) back to News International while he was working for the police on the hacking case. Executives and others at the company also enjoyed close social ties to Scotland Yard’s top officials.’
‘Since the hacking scandal began in 2006,’ Metropolitan Police Service assistant commissioner John Yates and other police officials ‘regularly dined with editors from News International papers, records show. Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, met for lunch or dinner 18 times with company executives and editors during the investigation,’ including eight times with Wallis while employed by NOTW.
On July 15, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed the FBI investigation, saying:
‘There have been serious allegations raised….There have been members of Congress….who have asked us to investigate (and) we are progressing in that regard, using the appropriate federal agencies in the United States.’
What’ll come of it isn’t known. Watergate didn’t topple Nixon. Harming powerful interests did, so it remains to be seen if Murdoch committed similar transgressions. If so, retirement at age 80 may follow, but not the demise of News Corp. and its flagship Fox News operation, a cash cow New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman believes will be more valuable than ever.
That depends, of course, on what, if any, wrongdoing FBI investigations disclose and whether or not prosecutions follow.
For sure Murdoch sustained a body blow. Calling it coup de grace strength, however, exaggerates how News Corp will be affected. It likely will survive long after its aging head steps down, but imagine a Murdoch-free media landscape. Then imagine freedom from all managed and junk food news. Tune out and make it happen.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org