Blimey, It’s a Bloody Disaster

Rupert Murdoch

By Bob Gaydos

Where to begin? Is it with the charming Hugh Grant playing Hugh Grant wearing a wire in the movie version of “End of The World as Rupert Knew It“? Or with the dishy Wendi Deng (Mrs. Rupert Murdoch) playing herself in the same film and then replacing Lucy Liu in the next “Charlie’s Angels” vehicle? I must admit, I’m at sixes and sevens over this hugger-mugger that is rapidly engulfing our British cousins.

Part of me thinks it is smashing that a lot of people who have given journalism a bad name for a long time are finally getting their due. But another part of me is cheesed off to learn how widespread this abuse of power was and how apparently easy peasy it was for the Murdoch’s News International empire to entwine its tentacles in the highest reaches of British government. (Blimey, I can’t even stop writing English English instead of American Engish, I’m so narked about it.)

There really is too much happening so fast at the moment in this scandal to know where to focus. Merely having the Murdoch name at the receiving end of the word “scandal” for a change is almost beyond irony and is surly the source of much of the glee with which the rest of the journalistic world has pounced on the story.

But really, do we start with the fact that the head of Scotland Bloody Yard — the top cop in England — has resigned because a lot of people accuse him, his deputy and other police officials of covering up the phone-hacking scandal that is at the heart of the scandal?

Or how about the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron is so chummy with former editors of Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid that he hired one to be his chief press aide, regularly goes riding (horses) with another and has had 26 meetings with editors of that now-defunct newspaper in his first 15 months in office? Or the suggestion that the Murdoch media empire in Britain is so powerful, former Prime Minister Tony Blair actually gave Murdoch veto power over foreign policy initiatives.

Maybe we should look at the fact that the first Murdoch-employed reporter to admit to the phone-hacking and cop-bribing was found dead at home the other day. He was 40. Police said his death was not suspicious. They have arrested a bunch of journalists, however.

Perhaps the best place to start with this, since it appears likely to be a long-lasting story, is at the beginning. News of the World, which was the largest circulation paper in Britain, featured juicy stories about public figures — entertainers, athletes, politicians, members of the royal family — that were less concerned with fact and news relevance than with their gossip and headline value. Kind of a New York Post on steroids.

To get some of the inside information on these people, the World hacked into voice mails on their phones. Even in England, this is not legal. The list of potential hacking victims is anywhere from 400 to 4,000 names long. Hugh Grants is on that list and he has sued and he did indeed wear a wire to get evidence of the activity. Good job, Hugh.

This snooping has been going on for about six years at least and, a committee in Parliament has charged, some officers in Scotland Yard have been complicit in covering it up — in exchange for cash bribes or promise of future employment. In fact, the first detective on the case resigned and went to work for Murdoch.

As examples of how low the hackers went in their search for “news,” former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, told Parliament of the emotional pain caused when News of the World revealed details of his young son’s cystic fibrosis. And, in what is so far the most callous of all phone-hacking incidents, News of the World listened to voice mails of a murdered teen-age girl and actually deleted some of the voice mails, giving the parents false hope that their daughter was still alive. I must have missed that journalism course in college.

As I said, this is just beginning and the story gets better every day. Heck, I almost forget to mention that a British comedian smacked Murdoch in the face with a shaving cream pie while he was testifying before Parliament. Gotta love that subtle British humor. Murdoch said the day he closed the News of the World was the “most humble” day of his life. He apologized, but he did not take responsibility for any of the actions of his top editors. Neither did his son. Meanwhile, Murdoch’s prize paper in the United States, the Wall Street Journal, ran an editorial supporting the boss, saying, “It is up to British authorities to enforce their laws.”

Rubbish.

This is a trial of the power of the press and the ability of news media to remain independent and objective and to report the news honestly, regardless of who is at the center of it. That has not been a hallmark of many Murdoch holdings. There are bound to be changes in British law regarding ownership of media outlets (Murdoch has nearly 40 percent of British newspaper and TV news stations). And it will be fascinating to see how his holdings on this side of the pond respond. This has really bollixed up their agenda.

Bob@zestoforange.com.

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2 Responses to “Blimey, It’s a Bloody Disaster”

  1. Mike Sweeney Says:

    Murdoch certainly was sorry, sorry he got caught.

  2. LeeAgain Says:

    Glad you specified “horses.” For some reason, it reminds me of an AP wire photo we received in the newsroom one day. The photo pictured only two subjects: Queen Elizabeth and a race horse. The caption read “Queen Elizabeth, left, and ….”

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