Sunday, 10 July 2011

No More News of the World - How an Empire Slays the Weak to Save Itself

Today is the final run for News of the World after the worst week of it's 168 year existence. Scandal may have been their speciality but when they were put into the headlights they suddenly experienced the kind of hounding and condemnation the paper itself had laid at many people's doors. But a lot of innocent (if not necessarily honest) journalists and support staff have lost their jobs and now must join the 2.43 million unemployed in Britain. Was justice done? Or is this just an attempt by an empire builder to protect his creation. I think you can likely guess what my opinion is...

When the news broke about the extent of the phone hacking on Monday, that NOTW had been hacking Millie Dowler's phone after her "disappearance" and had not only listened in on her voicemails but had deleted them to make room for more, the reaction was, quite rightly, of disgust all round. By the end of the week this seemed small in comparison to the accusations of bribes and cover ups, along with the alleged hacking of phones of dead soldier's families, 7/7 victims and the parents of the girls killed in 2002 by Ian Huntley, among others. Celebrities were clearly the tip of the iceberg.  The scandal of the NOTW is not limited to just the paper, but to the system of government and police itself, as it seems that efforts were made to not investigate these claims earlier, even though they were known or suspected. Even the Prime Minister himself is incredibly tainted by this, with his connection to Andy Coulson (his previous spin doctor and personal friend) and his and his wife's close friendship with Rebekah Brooks.

Britain's been here before; the revelations of the extent of MPs expenses and how they exploited the system for their own gain rocked the media and the public. But not a lot actually came of it. A few MPs were charged, some sentenced, but overall the only major change was that we became more vigilant of what MPs use their expenses for, and for the expenses themselves to be limited (a bit). This time though the scandal has hit something far deeper, and though public anger was loud and obvious about the expenses scandal, this time it's positively vitriolic. Which is ironic as "the public" have their own part to play in this mess. Anyone who has bought a paper for the revelations about celebrities private lives has had a role in this. The public demand for more details, more sauce, more, well, scandal is why papers had to find a way to give them what they wanted. It in no way detracts from the heinous actions of the NOTW, but I'd hope that those who buy tabloids and gossip magazines consider this when they make their purchase. I have zero expectation that they will but I can hope all the same. (I was amused to see people on the London Underground this week, reading The Sun about the scandal - I wondered how many realise they're giving money to the same people who were behind the hacking in the first place.)

Imagine him with a black cloak on, hood over his head and he really does look like Emperor Palpatine. 
Closing the NOTW was a clever and callous move on Rupert Murdoch's part. He has attempted to cut away the poison that threatened to infect the rest of News International, even the whole of News Corp itself. But I doubt it will be enough (at least I bloody well hope not) as this goes far beyond one single paper. This reflects on a culture that must permeate the empire, not to mention the fact that those who have the most responsibility for all this, Brooks and James Murdoch, are still in their jobs, and still earning their huge bucks. Another purpose of the closure of NOTW is likely to save Murdoch Jr. as you can bet that Brooks will not allow herself to be the scapegoat in this. She's been involved with the Murdoch family long enough to have any number of skeletons she could pull out the closet, especially in connection to James Murdoch. Rupert will do whatever it takes to save his son - though I wonder, if it becomes a choice between his son and his empire, if James would be in such a strong position.

The Emperor and the Emperor's Hand. (Star Wars reference, not a sex thing.  Sicko)
The staff of NOTW will now be looking for new jobs, and you can bet that many will struggle to work again in journalism with NOTW on their CVs. They're the real scapegoats in this, and I hope they all sue for unfair dismissal. However my sympathy only goes so far; everyone knows what kind of paper NOTW is/was, and choosing to work there is a sign of where your morals and ethics lie. I hated the paper so I'm not sad to see it go. But the notion that an entire workforce are pushed out of their jobs to save a small number of corrupt heads at the top - that I can never support. So here's to you NOTW staff, I wish you well in your futures, and hope that maybe next time you'll get an employee that will work as much for you as you do for them.

Lastly, I want to put a request out there, one I want anyone who agrees that Murdoch Sr., Murdoch Jr. and Brooks should be held to account and should not continue to be successful in light of what they are implicated in. Don't buy any product from News International or News Corp. Not because everyone who works for them is evil and not even because the services deserve or should be shut down. But because the only language Murdoch Sr. understands is money. If he starts losing money left and right over this he may stop protecting those around him who do not deserve to be protected. This isn't even about phone hacking anymore; it's about corrupting the democratic process, looking the other way while basic rights are ignored and flaunted, and thinking you're too big/important to be held to the same standards as everyone else. And it may also limit his power and influence, which has obviously gone on for far too long.


  1. Yes. I agree ... I think there was some line from a (normally) disagreeable man who said "we get the press we deserve"; and to some extent that is right - it's the fact that salacious gossip sells, that drove/drives the NOTW and its like to these tactics. Stop buying; stop driving the demand, and the economics stop the actions.

    One of my major concerns with democracy is simply that there appears to be no "wisdom of crowds"; when the most popular newspaper is the Sun/NOTW, do you want those people to make decisions regarding the future of the country? Let the country be led by the most wise; not by the most popular, for popularity in itself does not bequeath wisdom (ask Mr Giggs about that).

    I was tempted to buy the final copy, if only to look for hidden messages from the writers, but resisted thankfully - any penny spent, is a penny earned by Murdoch. And as you say, money is the loudest voice in his ear.

    I liken the actions to those of the bank execs over the past few years. A bank collapses due to their injudicious actions, and all that really happens is innocent people lose their jobs or their homes. Those responsible move to new jobs in similar positions, on similar salaries, possibly with handsome pay-offs (watch 'Inside Job').

    I hope for strong actions; for criminal charges; for stiff sentences; for a statement to be made. Yet it wasn't over the banking collapse. If hasn't been over MP's expenses. Will it be now?

  2. Exactly Mike, and I too would love to see some justice done over this, but also doubt it will be nearly as much as is needed. As for the democracy thing, I think Winston Churchill said it best with "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."