Monday, July 18, 2011

Bad To Worse

A couple of important things to keep in mind as the News Corp scandal continues to unfold in Great Britain, especially when it comes to the arrogant-as-hell declarations by some media outlets that the whole thing is much ado about nothing:

1. In much the same way that the term "global warming" is an innocuous, relatively fuzzy-sounding euphemism that belies the enormity of what it's describing, "phone-hacking scandal," while a convenient, press-ready term, doesn't in any way convey the sinister nature of what News International did and is accused of doing. What we're talking about here is widespread and seemingly endemic criminal behavior, from the hacking of a murdered girl's voicemail account -- an intrusion which, when noticed, gave the girl's family hope that she may still be alive somewhere -- as well as the illegal accessing of the banking and medical records of private citizens and government officials, to police bribery, concealing information from Parliament and the payment of money to victims of its activities in an organized attempt to keep them quiet. What's more, there's a very good chance that the News of the World -- which after almost 170 years of publication was shut down in response to the scandal -- was just the tip of the iceberg and that at least one other News International paper was involved in similar crimes. Ten people have been arrested in connection with the scandal so far, including former News International CEO and hand-picked Rupert Murdoch confidante Rebekah Brooks; Britain's two top cops at the Met have resigned; and Prime Minister David Cameron has cut short a trip to South Africa to return to London and call for a special session of Parliament.

2. Since this whole thing exploded, I've maintained that it's the very corporate culture that Murdoch fosters and allows for that led to this mess. In yesterday's New York Times, media writer David Carr echoes that sentiment:

"The News Corporation may be hoping that it can get back to business now that some of the responsible parties have been held to account -- and that people will see the incident as an aberrant byproduct of the world of British tabloids. But that seems like a stretch. The damage is likely to continue to mount, perhaps because the underlying pathology is hardly restricted to those who have taken the fall."

Carr then goes on to delve into the case of News America -- that's America, as in here on our soil -- a News Corp company that's chosen to surreptitiously pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in the hope of making accusations of grossly unfair business practices go away. Among the claims against News America: that it hacked into the password-protected computer system of a competitor. Once again, what's happening in the U.K. almost certainly isn't an aberration, it's just the way Murdoch's people do business: however the hell they want.

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