Monday, July 18, 2011 6:02 AM
The rapid and dramatic unraveling of British Government-Media/Police, aka Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., is the summer's surprise as revelations related to complicity in the "industrial strength" phone hacking scandal have dizzily downed or outed key and lofty Murdoch executives, Conservative Party officials, and British police officials, including the head of Scotland Yard who, claiming no wrongdoing, has just elected to resign as allegations of police-News Corp-politics cronyism and corruption swirl. There is no doubt glee on the Left over the Murdoch meltdown, but that may actually be eclipsed by the glee of pricey public relations firms whose services have been snapped up by News Corp. now in major damage-control mode.
And what does it all mean? I did a radio interview with Jerry Doyle on Friday to discuss the silence on this issue on the Right in the US, where Murdoch, of course, through Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the Weekly Standard, and more has become practically the sole support of conservative(ish) voices in journalism and punditry, certainly outside talk radio. How can that fact not have something to do with the silence? Paychecks influence. Hope of a paycheck someday influences, too. As a longtime critic of News Corp., of its truncated presentation of issues ranging from the origins of the housing bubble crisis (coverage truncated by Karl Rove?) to Islamization (non-converage resulting from No. 2 stockholder Prince Talal?), I think the lesson here is the frailty of the behemoth. Conservatives' growing dependency upon a singular personality or family for a platform always carried great risks, which we see realized in revelations of corruption and cronyism rhat demonstrate News Corp to be an insatiably, ruthlessly power-hungry actor, more than anything resembling a journalistic one.
Fallout in the US? Unclear. Meanwhile, FT reports (links from original):
News Corp is facing heightened legal risks in its home US market over the phone hacking and police bribery scandal after the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, but legal analysts believe US authorities are unlikely to take rapid action against the company.
The debate on the chances of the largely British scandal affecting News Corp’s US directors or businesses remained split along party political lines on Sunday.
The “startling” UK allegations raised questions about whether News Corp had violated the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Senate majority whip Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, told NBC’s Meet the Press. He called for congressional hearings and said the Federal Bureau of Investigation needed to “follow through” with an investigation it opened last week.
On the same programme, however, Jim DeMint, the Republican senator from South Carolina, said Congress had more pressing tasks, as it wrestles with the question of whether to raise the national debt ceiling, an issue that has eclipsed phone hacking in the US media.
“We need to let law enforcement work here,” he said: “We need to handle our own business for a change.”
The politics here are palpable. Obviously, the US Left wants to bring Fox down, particularly in the upcoming presidential election cycle; obviously, the US Right wants to leave Fox alone. The danger -- or, to Democrats, the point -- in Congressional hearings is creating the political equivalent of the Casey Anthony case: 24/7 Congressional hooplah over something that is not the people's most pressing business but bludgeons or diminishes the Right's biggest brand.
When it comes to Congressional responsibilities, however, questions about Murdoch the Media Empire pale next to never-asked questions about ISAF the COIN Empire, an ongoing enterprise that's draining our treasury and harming constituents in ways that touch at our national well-being. Such is the gist of an essay that appeared in the London Telegraph over the weekend: "The real scandal is not hacking but Helmand." Both events are scandals, of course. But Murdoch tunnel vision mustn't block our focus on bona fide life and death issues, in this British example, the gross irresponsibility at the top in the deployment of ill-equipped and ill-used British troops to Helmand Province. This is the subject of a new, 75-page report by the Parliamentary Defense Committee. We sure could use a Congressional Defense Committee report on same.
Funny how in the US, conservatives manage to avoid focusing on either scandal.