What Do You Do With A Busted Rupert?

What do you do with a busted Murdoch
What do you do with a busted Murdoch
What do you do with a busted Murdoch
Earl-aye in the mor-nin?

YouTube video here

Astonishing as it is to believe, Rupert Murdoch’s organization finally managed to commit an act of sleaze so egregious that it even offended public morality. Ironic, that.

You already know the tale: after a long, burgeoning scandal in England, the News of the World scandal finally upset the general public, and the breast-beating from Big Ben can be heard thumping all the way to this far Pacific Coast. Rather than merely hacking the telephones of celebrities and politicians (which does not offend the public sentiment, even as the selfsame public ofttimes empathizes with the wealthy on taxation and how put upon they are), News of the World hacked the phones of dead soldiers and their families, eventual-murder missing-persons victims and their families, and the families of victims of the London terrorist attacks.

FINALLY —  after years of sleaze buttered with fine patina of faux-moralizing (“Hot Teachers!”) as an excuse to cover sleaze, patriotism (INSERT COUNTRY NAME HERE), and, in England, the invention of the topless “Page 3 Girl” as a way of selling lowbrow newspapers — SOMETHING offended the public.

But I don’t want to talk about that. What I want to focus on is the staggeringly WEIRD announcement this morning that, after 168 years, News of The World would be closed on Sunday. Quoth the New York Times (schadenfreude mine, not theirs):

LONDON — The media titan Rupert Murdoch abandoned his defiance of popular and Parliamentary pressure on Thursday, sacrificing the mass-circulation British tabloid News of the World in a bid to protect his News Corporation empire from fallout from the deepening phone hacking scandal.

The announcement came from Mr. Murdoch’s son and likely heir apparent, James, in a broad and apologetic statement delivered so suddenly that The News of the World was still advertising a subscription deal on its Web site.

“Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued,” he said, admitting that the paper and its British parent, News International, had “failed to get to the bottom of repeated wrongdoing that occurred without conscience or legitimate purpose,” despite a police investigation in 2006 that sent two men to jail….

After the obligatory lawyered “accepting guilt for not having been involved in this terrible thing,” it was as sincere a statement of guilt and complicity as has ever been made by a billionaire in trouble.

Way hey and up she rises
Way hey and up she rises
Way hey and up she rises
Earl-aye in the mor-nin!

If this wasn’t huge, such a drastic step would have never been taken.

CATO board of Directors 1999

The only parallel I can recall is British General Cornwallis’ intentional and disastrous order to fire artillery at a battlefield in which his own troops were engaged. (The final result was the beginning of the end for Cornwallis in America.)

It bespeaks a callousness akin to the famous Surrenderer-to-George-Washington.

And the military comparison is apt: Murdoch has pursued his entire career as a war, waged against … someone.

Consider the imperial callousness of that act: the News of the World, as with any institution, has a kind of life of its own, has a history and a richness that the mere crass commerce of snapping up the company doesn’t fully appreciate. And, consider the lives spent at the newspaper, and all the innocents — who have done their jobs, and held positions and trusts whose existence predates the Coming of Rupert by at least a century — who will be punished, made jobless, ordered to clean out their desks through no fault of their own, but as the reflexive reaction of a plutocrat attempting to cut off the chain of complicity at the newspaper room itself.

It is considering your fellow human beings as gnats, or, at best, as bees to cultivate for their honey. Newspaper readers to be harvested for their quarters or shillings or francs or euros, each and every day.

But it’s not humane. Rather, it’s actually inhuman.

Put him in the bilge and make him drink it
Put him in the bilge and make him drink it
Put him in the bilge and make him drink it
Earl-aye in the mor-nin! [HERE]

Murdoch has lived on human sentiment for his entire career. His operations — following a failed attempt at high-mindedness  — have been characterized by that Page 3 Girl model:

Public “morality” and decency suggests that naked women are only to be ‘appreciated’ in private. But men wants to see them titties, ergo, the slimmest nod to public morals by using Page 1 as the fig leaf, and thence them titties.


Because it sells papers.

A history of Page 3 Girls is here (Wikipedia)

Selling papers is Murdoch’s philosophy, and his history of pandering to what the masses want, without caring what they might need has imprinted a generation of journalists, all across the globe. And, this is an interesting case, because it begins to get at the very real, very pressing issue of when companies become immune to national sovereignty, or very nearly so. Even moreso: when a foreign media entity controls a substantial portion of the commercial press in YOUR country, without any inherent interest IN that country: Murdoch could probably flush his entire British media operation and refocus on his American and Australian holdings and his world holdings.

Does Murdoch need Britain? Does Britain need Murdoch? Can he successfully thumb his nose at them and root through their garbage for the most intimate and embarrassing information … to sell more papers?

And why did his people at the News of the World do what they did … for years?

Because it sells papers.

British Prime Minister Cameron with News of the World Editor Rebekah Brooks

Now, with scandal looming, to give credence to the predictable “defense” that “I didn’t know!” the entire newspaper is closed down. An internal investigation is announced. Crocodile tears are shed.

And a billionaire newspaperman turns his back on millions of dollars and millions of newspapers. Not something you see often in the wild.

But actions speak louder than words.

Rebekah Brooks and boss, Murdoch

Interesting actions.

What do you do with a busted Murdoch?


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UPDATE 5:49 PM PDT: CNN has a pretty good quick video recap on the whole scandal here.

Or, you can download the flash file directly by clicking here.

A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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