The Culture of Lawlessness in Rupert Murdoch’s Newsrooms
The next time you find yourself screaming at a seemingly brain dead pundit who is letting the conservative on the panel natter away the hour by hammering out his talking points with no push back, think on what it means and who is scratching whose back here. It may not be simple stupidity or greed or even laziness that you’re witnessing.
When you think of Rupert Murdoch, you probably think of Fox News, the propaganda arm of the GOP. You are either scowling in contempt right now or feeling a surge of Poujadist pride, but either way, you know the man has power in American and you know he uses it to further the conservative agenda in ways which are underhanded and lacking in transparency and most definitely belie his “Fair and Balanced” slogan.
Just this year, we had the scandal of learning that Murdoch’s News Corp gave millions to RGA, while giving nothing to the Democrats. We learn that Republican Presidential candidates have been on Fox 269 times versus 6 times combined total on other networks! This is utter insanity. But believe it or not, Murdoch can get much worse.
Remember in 2006 when a News of the World (Murdoch paper) reporter hacked into one of the Prince’s cell phones and printed his voice mails for the world to read? Scotland Yard got involved and News of the World’s PI had tons more high profile victims on his phone hacking list, but ultimately Murdoch was able to play duck and dodge and remain fairly unscathed. Aside from a News of the World reporter and a private investigator going to jail for hacking the phones of royal family aides in 2007, and then in 2009 News of the World paid out some 1.6 million dollars to settle hacking cases, the scandal seemed well contained.
Scotland Yard’s evidence indicated that hundreds of celebrities, government officials, soccer stars, etc had been targets of Murdoch’s News of the World cell phone hackers. And those folks just found out they’ve been the victim of Murdoch’s henchmen hackers.
The New York Times magazine reported:
“As of this summer, five people have filed lawsuits accusing News Group Newspapers, a division of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire that includes News of the World, of breaking into their voice mail. Additional cases are being prepared, including one seeking a judicial review of Scotland Yard’s handling of the investigation. The litigation is beginning to expose just how far the hacking went, something that Scotland Yard did not do. In fact, an examination based on police records, court documents and interviews with investigators and reporters shows that Britain’s revered police agency failed to pursue leads suggesting that one of the country’s most powerful newspapers was routinely listening in on its citizens.
“To start exposing widespread tawdry practices in that newsroom was a heavy stone that they didn’t want to try to lift.” Several investigators said in interviews that Scotland Yard was reluctant to conduct a wider inquiry in part because of its close relationship with News of the World. Police officials have defended their investigation, noting that their duties did not extend to monitoring the media.””
Please don’t concern yourself with the notion that the police and Scotland Yard looked the other way as Murdoch hacked into phones of private citizens and the Royal Family. Surely this is all an innocent misunderstanding and has no bearing on us, even though Murdoch uses his London papers (The Times of London, The Sun and The Sunday Times) to push the conservative (Tory), pro-business line, as he does HERE with papers and Fox News channel. And don’t worry about the manner in which the British papers ignored the scandal, because it’s not as if our own media are lazy or beholden to corporations.
Jack Shafer wrote in Slate:
“A lot of the ugliness has to do with the fact that Andy Coulson, the top editor at the News of the World in 2006 — he ultimately resigned but claimed ignorance of the phone hacking — ended up on the payroll of the Conservative Party. And he’s now the top communications aide to British Prime Minister David Cameron.”
But….but…did he know? Did Coulson know?
The Times says yes:
“Andy Coulson, the top editor at the time, had imposed a hypercompetitive ethos, even by tabloid standards. One former reporter called it a “do whatever it takes” mentality. The reporter was one of two people who said Coulson was present during discussions about phone hacking. Coulson ultimately resigned but denied any knowledge of hacking….
In February, the parliamentary committee issued a scathing report that accused News of the World executives of “deliberate obfuscation.” The report created a stir yet did not lead to a judicial inquiry. And Scotland Yard had chosen to notify only a fraction of the hundreds of people whose messages may have been illegally accessed — effectively shielding News of the World from a barrage of civil lawsuits…”
So Scotland Yard was protecting Murdoch’s paper. Feeling better yet? I didn’t think so.
I’m not comforted that Murdoch is facing a landslide of litigation, along with tens of millions of pounds in damages and legal fees.
Murdoch’s war chest can easily handle paying off these many claims. What he stands to lose is the thin veneer of respectability and impartiality he has been handily exploiting in a rather successful attempt at controlling the American political game. It was Murdoch’s network, after all, who first called Florida for Bush on the word of a Bush cousin, before the votes were counted. But so what?
His image should have been tarnished here when he sued for the right to lie and call it news. This is being called Murdoch’s Watergate. If that’s so, will he face jail? Will Fox “News” go on selling propaganda under the Orwellian title of news?
Recall, patriots, what happened to the teenage boy who hacked into Sarah Palin’s email and never even published humiliating things about her, save for a few innocuous documents (no, I’m not defending a hacker – just making a point about degree of damage and humiliation). Yeah, he’s facing jail. Palin calls him a “political operative”. Are the rules different for Murdoch and his henchmen?
What are we to call someone who hacked into the cell phones of the royal family, cozied up to the conservative Tories while using the considerable influence of his papers to push their agenda and then installed his people (who appear to have been involved in spying on British citizens) in the Tory administration? Do we let this person continue to operate a “news” outlet here which has been steering ever closer to the line of inciting violence, anarchy and treason against a Democratic president and elected officials?
Yeah, kinda makes you glad old Rupie isn’t pulling that stuff here. Or is he?
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.