by Michael House
There are so many horrors to write about that it is difficult to know where to start. Should I go with the US debt crisis and the Tea Party nutters who want to ruin the economy in order to get Obama? Or the homunculus by the name of Glenn Beck (who is apparently too deranged even for Fox News), who compared the victims of the massacre of kids at a summer camp in Norway to Hitler Youth? Or the Greek civil servants who expect Europeans to pay for their pensions when they retire at 50? Or the mass-murderer Bashar Assad of Syria, truly a chip off the old block? Or David Cameron’s attempts to make the poor pay for the banking crisis in UK?
Since I haven’t written much recently, I shall write about some good news: the only piece of good news I’ve seen in the last month.
The baneful influence of the Murdoch empire on Britain has begun to be broken. Murdoch has done more to debase the quality of cultural life in this country than anyone in the last 50 years. His newspapers pander to the nastiest side of human nature. His editors are happy to destroy lives in order to make profits—just like drug dealers. The Sun exploits and humiliates women. The News of the World, now happily defunct, splashed the bedroom secrets of the famous and the not-so-famous over its pages, however many people were hurt in the process. Family break-ups, even suicides, sometimes followed a NoW “scoop.” These newspapers validated and legitimized an ugly prurience among their readership. Instead of promoting the best instincts in humankind, they reinforced the worst.
Politicians of all stripes were terrified of Murdoch and his tabloids. After one election, a headline read: “It was The Sun wot [sic] won it.” (The boasting, the brutality and the vulgarization of the language were typical. A Black boxer with mental health problems was headlined as “Bonkers Bruno.”) So, the unwritten rule in British politics was “what Rupert wants, Rupert gets.”
War criminal Tony Blair was firmly lodged in the Murdoch fundiment. And even after The Sun illicitly published details of the cystic fibrosis of Premier Gordon Brown’s four-month-old son, Fraser, Brown still felt he had to suck up to the Murdoch gang, only desisting after Murdoch’s papers switched their support to smarmy PR man David Cameron of the Conservatives.
So, the revelations about NoW employees hacking the phone of a missing teenager, later found murdered, deleting voice-messages so there was space for more messages to be left and hacked, disrupting the police investigation and creating false hope for the grieving parents, were like the breaking of a spell. The Wicked Witch of Narnia no longer held the country in a state of Eternal Winter. So appalled was public opinion, that previously subservient politicians decided to be appalled as well. Murdoch was attacked from all parts of the politican spectrum. The brave and lonely campaign of Nick Davies, investigative journalist of The ‘Guardian newspaper, finally bore fruit.
And the drip of revelations became a flood. A massive police cover-up of NoW phone hacking was exposed. It became clear that the police habitually leaked confidential information to the NoW in return for bribes. (No wonder the police didn’t want to investigate properly.) James Murdoch authorized huge pay-outs to hacking victims who sued the NoW, to keep the cases out of court and (allegedly) to keep the evidence of mass-hacking confidential so News International could maintain their pretense that a couple of rogue employees were to blame.
Also revealed was a three-way conspiracy of secret, co-operative back-scratching, involving politicians, journalists and the police.
David Cameron appointed the ex-editor who (allegedly) presided over the phone hacking, as his press spokesman. The latter has since been arrested. Senior ex-police officers went onto the payroll of News International. The scandal has claimed the resignations of the London Police Commissoner, two of his senior lieutenants and Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, former editor of The Sun and the NoW (and close friend of David Cameron.) She was recently arrested.
Other hackees included the parents of two murdered schoolgirls, the mother of the victim of a paedophile murder, relatives of the 7/7 London bombings victims, and relatives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
Some good has come out of this.
A spotlight has shone on sinister, undemocratic power-centers in Britain. The stranglehold of Murdoch on print and broadcast media in the UK, acquiesced in by successive governments, has begun to be broken.
Murdoch has been forced to abandon his attempts to control BSkyB, which was about to be nodded through by the Tories before the scandal broke. Murdoch already owns 39 percent of BSkyB. Under British law, he may only hold a broadcasting license if he is considered a “fit and proper person” as defined in the Broadcasting Acts. That is now in question.
The News of the World is no more. And the squalid methods of the tabloid press have attracted widespread revulsion.
My newsagent tells me of a considerable fall in the sales of Murdoch’s remaining papers, The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sun.
Let us hope that FBI enquiries yield similar results in the US. Then, perhaps, The Dirty Digger will slither back to Australia with his tail between his legs.