The Murdochs are back in town, like a recurring
outbreak of a particularly unpleasant virus.
Rupert may be, as his apologists like to claim, a
misunderstood man, but in the worlds of media and of politics he and his family
contrive to infect everything they touch, everywhere they go.
Low-brow Murdoch tabloids merrily peddle cheesy
celebrity-obsessed rubbish. One of them,
the late unlamented News of the World, hacked the telephones of helpless
crime victims as well as those of pathetic show business wannabees. In the murky world of the Murdochs anything
goes so long as it sells papers.
There always seems to be political dimension to
Murdoch’s activities, though it’s usually driven more by expedience than by principle. In Britain, the Sun newspaper for years supported the Labour Party. In the United States
the Murdoch-owned Fox television news network shamelessly skews the news to a
pernicious right-wing agenda.
Quality is rarely an abiding concern. Our own television airwaves are now dominated
by Murdoch’s Sky News, which along with BSkyB uses a privileged franchise to extract
ever-rising fees from viewers while inflicting ever-descending level of programming.
This week, testifying at the Leveson Enquiry, Rupert
and his semi-articulate, ethically vacuous son James, will drag Britain down
further into the mire. Having already
degraded Fleet Street and Scotland Yard, they will now go to work on demeaning
ministers of the crown, perhaps even the first minister.
Sadly, the blame can’t be entirely apportioned to the
Murdochs; it takes two to engage in a seduction. But if the seducer is preying on weakness,
the target becomes less a participant than a victim. This hardly explains, let alone excuses, the
ridiculous performances in the recent parliamentary hearings of senior officers
from the Yard. Top ranking coppers ought
to be regarded by definition as worldly men, figures of stern mien and acute
perception. But not one expressed shame
over the dodgy payments for information, or expressed the slightest regret
about the whole malodorous relationship between police and press. Not one saw it as a duty to intervene, even
at the risk of his job. Coppers are
supposed to intervene when they detect something dodgy going on. The trouble was that they themselves were willing
accessories, in the muck right up to their tacky epaulettes, lured by a bit of easy
money, an expensive dinner or two and, above all, the proximity to power.
Now comes the turn of high-level representatives of
All of them – editors, policemen, ministers and civil
servants – have succumbed, like victims of the vampire, to a thrall that they
know must eventually kill them but are rendered powerless to resist.
This week the Murdochs will wreak more embarrassing havoc
with Britain’s ruling
establishment, before scuttling back to their fortress in New York.
We can only hope that the fortress is under
siege. In that regard our only hope for
salvation may lie with the shareholders of News International. They’ve already set James on the blessed path
to oblivion. Let’s hope they now move
higher up the family tree.
I’m not holding my breath – except to avoid
inhaling the stink.