Been away. Such is the nature of deadlines staring you in the face that I didn’t get to blog my BBC Radio 4 programme, Found In Translation which went out on 9th July. A novel premise torpedoed by idiot editing which cut out all the jokes and reversed the point of the programme: namely that the Chinese have a rich sense of humour going back thousands of years.
Anyhow. Murdoch. Woo! If rumours are correct and there’s actual real life proof that 9/11 victims were hacked by New Corpse on top of everything else, then the Evil Empire is toast. Hacking Jude Law when he was in the US draws News Corpse into the American legal purview where the coals are being heated in an astonishing reversal of fortune, just as the company was about to score its greatest victory to date: buying the whole of BSkyB.
In this continuing fever dream of a movie writer lying comatose somewhere in Hollywood, Rupert will fight to the death in Tuesday’s Thunderdome. [See update below: chief griller has links to News International.] We’ll all be glued to the telly watching him squirm. Or plead the Fifth, or whatever is the Brit equivalent. (Something like, my lips are sealed while the subject is sub judice, la, la, la, can’t hear you.)
Where to begin? First Rebekah Brooks agrees to give evidence, then she ‘resigns’, and today, she’s been arrested. One can only fear for her physical safety if this keeps up, her immortal soul being sold long ago. She loves kids so much that she’ll whip up anti-paedophilia mobs while her journalists are not only hacking a murdered girl’s mobile, but actually erasing messages and impeding the investigation. Then there are the dead soldiers’ families, Jean Charles de Menezes, the Soham girls …
Our leaders seemed to have lost the long spoon when supping with Rupert and his cosy nostra. Among the unholy trinity of press, police and politicians embroiled in this affair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has some nifty explaining to do, following revelations that he enjoyed a stay worth £12K at Champneys health club, whose PR consultant was former News of the World boss Neil Wallis who Sir Paul had already employed as PR to the Met. The same Met that refused to reopen the inquiry into phone-hacking (Yates: “It wasn’t a ‘review'”), assured everyone it was just the work of a few rogue reporters, and who neglected to inform possible victims of their status. [Update 7.55pm: Stephenson resigns.]
A regiment of politicians are having to live down the embarrassment of photos taken enjoying News International largesse. Such was the power the Wapping Mafiosi held over our democratic institutions that, having been reduced to tears by Rebekah’s bullying phone call gloatingly informing him that they knew about his son’s cystic fibrosis, Gordon Brown still had to attend her wedding.
When Murdoch whistled, Prime Minister Tony Blair fetched up at some do halfway around the world with his entourage, all on wake-up pills, in order to indulge the king-maker. To receive his wisdom? Or be given orders? How many times did Rupe visit the PM for a chat at Downing Street? ALL the PMs ever since Margaret Thatcher added him to her list of pet gargoyles such as the charming General Pinochet (likes: slitting open the bellies of trade unionists and throwing them from aeroplanes so their innards are ripped out).
Apart from being horse-riding chums with Rebekah, David Cameron took free flights from Murdoch’s son-in-law, Matthew Freud. And only weeks after Andy Coulson resigned, Diamond Dave was still accommodating him at Chequers.
That one man could acquire over a third of the British media beggars belief in a grown-up democracy. That it could have gone on for so long is nothing short of a scandal.
Only Ed Miliband is having a good war. Hopefully, he’ll learn from this success and will extend the fight to the Tories over their vicious class-based cuts. Vince Cable, whose buffoonery and appalling judgement nearly let the BSkyB deal go through, is jumping up and down yelling, “I was first.” Actually, I think that accolade goes to the heroic Tom Watson MP, who risked the vengeful wrath of the Murdoch empire to stand up for what’s right.
Oh, and Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant. How come our slebs are making all the running in the courage stakes? Who’d have thought that Grant would be more impressive in real life than in the movies? Something wrong, surely?
Then there’s the legal establishment. Harbottle and Lewis may have had a conflict of interest when they advised Prince William over his alleged phone hacking, “Move along. Nuthin to see”, as they were also gimping for Murdoch.
Last night I watched the 2004 movie, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War On Journalism, and I thoroughly recommend you obtain a copy. I knew that Fox News were dragged into court to win the right not to tell the truth because, by their own admission, they are not a news channel, but “entertainment”, but who knew the degree to which those untruths were spun? Seems their trademark “Fair and Balanced” is only a slogan, not a description or even a pledge.
Take Jeremy Glick, whose father died in 9/11. He went on Fox News to make his point: that in the 1980s it was Bush Sr who financed and empowered the Mujahaddin who were to morph into the school of Islamist fundamentalism who carried out the 2001 attacks. This argument was transformed by the bellicose Bill O’Reilly into the lie that Glick had accused Dubbya Bush of masterminding the attacks. From fair evidence-based criticism to a lunatic conspiracy nut-job. See what they did there? Great if you do, because there’s a whole swathe of Americans who get their information from Fox News and who don’t see it.
This is the company that pressed for commitment to war in Iraq despite the murderers of 9/11 having no connection with Saddam’s regime. Who gave birth to the “birthers”: proper nut-jobs who deny Barack Obama’s US citizenship despite all the evidence. They used footage from different events to inflate Tea Party gatherings and a Sarah Palin book-signing. They fabricate or crop quotes to change meaning.
In Britain, News International has been a hugely corrupting influence, holding police, politicians and royalty to ransom using the tools of blackmail, character assassination and favours. In broadcasting, Sky News has yet to go down the Fox route but the only way to ensure it doesn’t in future is to clip Murdoch’s wings now. I feel sorry for all the innocent workers who lost their jobs when the News Of The World was folded, but Rebekah was right in that the brand is now toxic as opposed to merely seriously unpleasant. No-one wants to touch it. I appeared on Sky as a guest last year, but I’d be loathe to repeat the experience in the light of what’s emerged.
I’m with Ed Miliband on this one: break up Murdoch’s empire.
“I think it’s unhealthy because that amount of power in one person’s hands has clearly led to abuses of power within his organisation. If you want to minimise the abuses of power then that kind of concentration of power is frankly quite dangerous.”
However, don’t be too sure that the monster’s dead in the last reel. With so many venal wusses in power, there may yet be a sequel. Staked and dusted? Not quite yet, unfortunately.
UPDATE: Sunday 17th July 2011. MP John Whittingdale, who will chair Tuesday’s inquiry, has links to New International figures.
He has also said he has dined with Mrs Brooks and met Elisabeth Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s daughter, but denied that they were friends. The Conservative chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport committee is also Facebook friends with Mr Hinton, who he has known for 10 years, and Rebekah Brooks. He is the only MP on either of their friend’s lists.
UPDATE 7.55pm: Sir Paul Stephenson resigns. Ha! Sky News gets there first.
UPDATE 3: Thanks to my friend Adi who sent me this link to a Reuters report on the climate of fear at the News Of The World and why it was impossible for the editors not to know a) the genesis of the stories, and b) where the money was going. “That is what we do — we go out and destroy other people’s lives.”
UPDATE 4: Monday 18th July. More thanks, to News Corp for adding to the gaiety of the nation and to Charlie Brooker for nailing it.
How The Guardian broke the story here.
How Rupert tried to bury bad news in the US.
Anna’s food blog here: