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

those feral beasts « Previous | |Next »
June 3, 2012

Geoffrey Wheatcroft in What Rupert Hath Wrought! in the New York Review of Books asks an important good question with respect to the phone hacking scandal in the UK:

Why did the News of the World editors and the News International executives persist in a denial they knew to be false when it was obvious that, the longer they persisted, the more damaging the effect would be if the truth emerged?

The denial took the form of the rogue reporter argument. Wheatcroft's answer is interesting:
The answer must be that long experience had conditioned them to think that News International enjoyed special immunity, conferred by politicians and also by the police, and that they could get away with it. After all, they had got away with everything else for so long, thanks to Murdoch’s aura of invincibility and the way that successive governments had been hypnotized by him.

Wheatcroft says that behind this is the great awe, or plain fear, that Murdoch inspires. Politicians (wrongly) believe that newspapers do in fact decide the results of elections, and that it is this belief that empowers Murdoch. This scenario has shaped national life of the UK for a generation.

Hence the politicians in the UK and Australia have thought that they could be elected, and then govern, only with Murdoch's consent. Consequently, the argument runs, if Murdoch has enjoyed the kind of political sway he has, then the reason lies with the democratically elected leaders who have sucked up to him.

This argument---it is one Rupert Murdoch himself presented at the Leveson Inquiry--- downplays the real political power that Murdoch has and uses because of his extensive media empire. The phone hacking affair indicates the reach of that power into both inner circle of the government of the day and the police. That exercise of power to influence policy and buy the police, plus the fear that the politicians would be forever undermined by a hostile media, is why the politicians suck up to the feral beasts.

Therein lies the problem with the media in liberal democracy. It goes beyond the debasement of media standards by the Murdoch press, and it is a source for the desire by many to see the fall of the Murdoch media hegemony in Australia.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:48 PM | | Comments (5)


It is well known that the old business model for Australian print newspapers---the News Limited and Fairfax Media duopoly that controls 90% of Australia’s metro press---is in decline. Advertising is going online and most metro print circulations have been in decline since the early 1990s.

I've given up the newspaper buying habit and the leisurely daily read over morning coffee.

The Murdoch Press stands for unrestrained power that aims to create cold fear amongst the political class. So the politicians suck up to Murdoch.

The feral beasts continue to defend the current system of voluntary self-regulation and to oppose its replacement by a mandatory one.

This was proposed by the Finkelstein report to improve accountability of the media, given the high degree of concentration of the media in a few hands.

The media, especially the Murdoch Press, are outraged. They have defined the media academics as the enemy and have engaged in attack journalism.

it is the institutional power of the media and its abuse that is the problem.

The political media is not concerned about the trend towards style over substance or personality over policy by the media.