Saturday, 16 July 2011


I wish that were my own coinage, but alas, it is not. However, it does convey the dimensions of the U.K. scandal gobbling up the poisonous Murdochian squid at the heart of British journalism if indeed that term still applies in this case.

We’ve been unaware of the rumblings across the pond about this scandal for the last several years, and it’s easy to see why we didn’t grasp its implications. After all, chasing after celebrities and engaging in all sorts of skullduggery to get a photo of Sarah Ferguson sucking the toes of her boyfriend while inconveniently married to a Windsor prince was considered fair game, rather nasty and all that, but the price of fame and fortune to those basking in them. We were more dismayed at the viciously partisan tactics employed by Murdoch’s American arm, Fox News.

But the thing crystallized when word leaked out that the Murdoch tabloids had hacked into the phone messages of a disappeared teenaged girl who eventually turned up dead, not merely violating her privacy but even—by erasing messages to make room for more headline-generating data—giving her grieving parents false hopes.

Murdoch had to personally beg the dead girl’s parents’ forgiveness—but it was too late. It was now clear, as one wag put that, that Murdoch’s form of yellow journalism hadn’t just crossed the line but erased it.

Now we’re hearing about the incestuous coziness between Murdoch’s chief lieutenants and the entire British political class, something akin to the Fox-Rove-GOP axis here at home. (All that’s left to round that out would be former one-term president Barack Obama then hiring on as the network’s ‘liberal’ commentator in 2013 in exchange for several millions a year—don’t scoff.)

But this scandal has plenty of staying power. We still don’t know all the facts, and they can only get grubbier. The FBI is trying to see whether Fox/Murdoch minions tried to hack 9/11 victims’ telephones, and the financial regulators should be asking some pointed questions as well, such as, Kindly detail how your company’s accountants posted payments from News International to British police officers, payments often known as ‘bribes’ or ‘payoffs’. Please take your time and answer fully given that false statements are punishable under federal statutes.

Like all Masters of the Universe, Murdoch badly misread the scope of this debacle and thought he could use his usual combination of threats and succulent emoluments to get his way. Instead, his bid for a U.K. satellite company not only collapsed after a unanimous vote in Parliament, he’s undoubtedly going to have to give up his remaining minority stake. His son James went from heir-apparent to next up on the guillotine. Murdoch himself may be lucky to escape an orange jumpsuit. In any case I expect to see the entire NI operation under brand-new management, or ownership, soon.

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