Murdoch’s knife in the heart of journalism
By Saul Landau
Rupert Murdoch finally got his you know what caught in the proverbial ringer – for his employees’ hacking, not for contributing to the prolonged murder of English-language journalism. Wars, revolutions, famines and disasters occurred and Murdoch’s “journalists” juxtaposed lurid “blood” photos with half naked “Zoozoos” who divorced “Googoos” to wed “HooHahs.” Stories on poverty, unemployment and foreclosures get dwarfed by reports of Lindsay and Britney making X-rated videos before going into rehab. And millions bought his newspapers and watched – and rely on – his TV “news.”
In the name of freedom of the press Rupert’s Fox News and commentators spew verbal venom on notions that smack of socialist, pink or liberal thought – like taxing billionaires and regulating their corporate and banking behavior. Indeed, the Foxers promote billionaires not paying taxes as an example of virtue and freedom. “You don’t want your government squandering taxpayers’ money.” Sure, imagine life without cops, firemen, schools, road repair service, etc.
Murdoch’s New York Post and The Sun sell vicarious thrills – reading about celebrity sex and drug adventures, which imply it’s better and less risky than having your own adventures. Murdoch sold sex as news to make money and gain political influence. He succeeded.
He taught his staff to define a “breaking story” as any personal idiosyncrasy of a famous person – especially regarding unconventional use of reproductive organs (including toes) – or intake of taboo substances.
The Australian-born tycoon discovered that Protestant England’s repressive cultures, exported to some of its former colonies like America, make for great markets for the sale of sex news as a commodity.
Behind Murdoch’s gaudy publishing aesthetic, however, lies a drab political and economic imperative: destroy any form of regulation on capital. To achieve that end and expand his monster-size publishing and broadcasting empire, Murdoch courted, extorted and intimidated the powerful, while supporting their “patriotic” wars.
Fox and its British sisters perpetrated the fiction that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD and ties to Al-Qaeda. They never atoned for that journalistic sin. They even hired the disgraced New York Times “rogue” reporter Judy Miller, who promoted that crap and got it past her editors on the Establishment newspaper’s front page.
Several Members of Congress have asked authorities to investigate if News of the World had also hacked U.S. citizens, relatives of 9/11 victims. But have journalists inquired if Murdoch’s Fox operation copied its British sister? After all, Murdoch “news” outlets share the gossip-smear-ridicule-sneer ethos the tycoon has cultivated in his lust for media power and profits. He has surpassed William Randolph Hearst – “Get me the photos and I’ll get you the war,” Hearst’s 1898 dictum to help start the Spanish-American War – in practicing yellow journalism. The hacking scandal may have finally given corruption, itself, a bad name.
The investigation has just begun, but already his employees’ antics threaten to dwarf even the Watergate scandal. Nixon as President ordered crimes. Murdoch can’t even invoke the two holy words, “national security,” as a pretext for the crimes of his News of the World “journalists” and editors.
Murdoch’s supposed journalists hacked thousands of private phone messages, including apparently those of Prime Minister Cameron, actor Hugh Grant and Prince William – and quite possibly the Queen (did she get her toes sucked by someone other than her husband?). The intimate lives of murder victims and their families and the relatives of dead soldiers also became hacking fodder for “stories.”
Reporters have begun to ask the Watergate questions – not of the dead Nixon, but of the 80-year-old Murdoch. What did he know and when did he know it? Yawn. He created the perfect atmosphere for criminal activities and called it “freedom of the press.” Sell papers, get political influence, buy or extort protection from the cops – hey, go for it!
What really worries Murdoch, apparently, is not the damage his employees’ methods have cost on people’s lives, his undermining of public trust, his manipulation of popular taste from the banal to the gross; rather, he frets over the real possibility that this indignity will cost him a major and very lucrative business acquisition – the Sky Satellite (BSkyB) communications contract.
The non-Murdoch press inundates its readers, viewers and listeners with stories about the $13.6 billion deal, as if by knowing the amount of money the wily geezer was going to invest in order to make more, we would somehow function better as citizens. Indeed, the public watches the Murdoch drama as another scandal, rather than as another example of institutional dysfunction. Nations default, banks and major investment companies go belly up without warning, and governments bicker over debt ceilings while millions fruitlessly seek jobs, teachers and cops get laid off, and health and other services deteriorate.
Meanwhile, as cable TV induced the 24/7 news programs, tailor-made for Murdoch’s outlets. The public got inundated with gossip and meaningless reports of Libyan rebels gaining, losing, freeing, looting – without ever informing us of the identity of these rebels “we” support. Like the dubious and mysterious “insurgents” and “militants” in the Middle East our “good guys” become fogged in mushy language. Only the stark details of celebrity gossip get luridly reported in detail.
It’s getting hotter, rivers keep rising, tsunamis threaten while government officials bicker over budgets and the media feasts on Murdoch’s boo boo.
Something is rotten – and not only in Denmark. But English parents enraged over the revelation of private material from a dead girl’s phone rose up and instigated the attack on the smarmy Murdoch Empire. Let us push for similar action on other needy fronts as well.
Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP plays Sept. 21 at 6 and 8 PM at the Guild Theater, Albuquerque NM