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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Murdoch's way of doing business « Previous | |Next »
September 9, 2010

The phone hacking scandal at News of the World, which is owned by Murdoch's News International, refers to the great number of people---hundreds of celebrities, government officials, soccer stars---whose mobile phones were hacked by Murdoch's journalists. Hacking the phones of anyone whose personal secrets could be tabloid fodder gives us an insight into how Murdoch empire operates.

It's an old story given fresh impetus by the New York Times under pressure from Murdoch's New York-based Wall Street Journal.

As Will Hutton points out in The Guardian in the UK News International's ambition and strategy is to shrink the BBC, entrench Sky's power into a de facto monopoly, further to make itself the arbiter of British politics while using the profitability of its UK operation to support its global ambition. Murdoch, as an info capitalist, has built a self-reinforcing networks of business and political power by owning the production of information and knowledge. In Australia, as in Britain, Murdoch unabashedly uses his papers to advance a generally conservative, pro-business agenda.

The News of the World, with its roots in Britain's working class culture is a newspaper that works the time-worn formula of misbehaving celebrity kiss-and-tells and intrusive investigations. At its muck-raking best, it performs a public service in exposing crooks, cheats, hypocrites and liars--eg., the sting operation into the corruption of the Pakistan cricket team.

Andy Coulson, the prime minister's press secretary, was the deputy editor and then editor of the News of the World, the flagship Sunday tabloid of the News International stable, during the phone hacking in 2006. It was on his watch that a reporter, Clive Goodman, went to jail after admitting conspiring with a private detective, Glenn Mulcaire, to hack into the mobile phone messages of the royal family. The defence by News of the World's and News International was that the two individuals were rogues. No one else knew what was going on.

It is now being claimed that phone-hacking and other illegal reporting techniques were rife at the tabloid during 2000-2006. It also claimed that Scotland Yard's "close relationship" with the News of the World had hampered the inquiry. It also seems that in the face of continuing revelations both the previous Labour government, and now the Cameron/Grieg coalition, have been all too ready to accept police assurances that their inquiries have been as thorough as possible.

The implication is of police and politicians being deeply fearful of, and subservient to, the media, especially the Murdoch empire. News International has paid large amounts of money to get the dirt on people in public life – including in the police, the military and politics – and that it has paid huge sums (£2m and counting) to suppress the truth from coming out.

What this event suggests is that the world taking shape around us, and giving new shape to even familiar processes, institutions, movements and values, has to be increasingly understood in communicational and cultural terms. What is different from the industrial 20th century is the increasing shift of culture and communication to the centre; a shift that can be understood as a network of interconnected nodes.

Update
Murdoch's way of doing business in the UK is explored by Henry Porter and Will Hutton in The Guardian. Porter says:

British society is far from perfect: we are sometimes harsh, jeering, vulgar, indolent and lacking in compassion and it is to these traits that Murdoch's tabloid newspapers and much else in his media empire appeal. But look at Britain before Murdoch bought the News of the World and you see a nation that was a good deal less derisive. Murdoch has undoubtedly contributed to the coarsening of British society and also to an erosion of values, which now sees a society where the outrageous practices of his – and other – tabloid journalists are expected, if not quite accepted.

Hutton refers to the danger of the kind of media dominance News International is now developing in Britain. Will there be an inquiry into the activities at the News and the World and News International in relation to hacking in particular, its news-gathering techniques in general and the police's shortcomings? Or are the politicians too scared to take on Murdoch?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:57 PM | | Comments (7)
Comments

Comments

Interesting.
This commentary is paralleled at LP, with the Murdoch ramping up of Green bashing, predictably in their OZ advertorial today.
What a cancer it is, tabloid media!

Gary,
Seen this?
http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/09/09/the-australian-announces-that-it-wants-to-destroy-the-greens/
From Pure Poison

Until today, I’d never seen a national broadsheet with pretensions to fair and balanced reporting actually admit that it wasn’t just biased against a party supported by 14% of the country, it wanted to “destroy” it. But that’s just what The Australian did in its editorial today:

“Greens leader Bob Brown has accused The Australian of trying to wreck the alliance between the Greens and Labor. We wear Senator Brown’s criticism with pride. We believe he and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box. The Greens voted against Mr Rudd’s emissions trading scheme because they wanted a tougher regime, then used the lack of action on climate change to damage Labor at the election. Their flakey economics should have no place in the national debate.”

.

fred,
the next line is classic "We are particularly tired of Greens senator Christine Milne arguing that "green jobs need a real green economy to grow in". What on earth can she mean?"

They have declared war on a sustainable economy and the shift to a low carbon economy. Their reform is low taxes, infrastructure for the mining companies, open labor markets and prosperity.

People are right when they point out that The Australian is travelling into Fox News territory.

The NYT story from 1 Sept. is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/magazine/05hacking-t.html?ref=magazine&pagewanted=all

And on a completely unrelated media expose, I was delighted to watch The 7:30 Report last night discussing Prof. Ross Garnaut's chairmanship of Lihir Gold and his defense of its "environmental record" in dumping mine tailings in the ocean. I hope that nobody will show any further interest in anything Prof. Garnaut says about the environment.

gordon,
I have the impression that the New York Times is holding a lot of material back on News International---the extent to which those further up the chain of command knew what was going on re the phone hacking?

gordon,
I didn't know that Prof. Ross Garnaut was associated with BHP's Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea as a director. That changes things doesn't it, given that BHP has been much criticised for the environmental impact of the mine on the Fly River.

How does he justify that kind of destruction?

Nan,
He gets paid a lot. That justifies a lot.