It’s hard at the moment to contain my giddiness with the events of the week. I have to literally suppress excitement in order to keep in tow the details of a viral story about the Icarus-like fall of British tabloid News of the World, a tentacle of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp media empire. Here we are, days after the partial solar eclipse in Cancer in another ‘pinch me’ moment in 21st century history: Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp — the corporate father of Fox News — is in deep trouble.
News of the World’s staff illegally hacked thousands of private voice mails of ordinary people, heads of state and the royal family. It obstructed justice by deletion of millions of emails corroborating the hacking. The publication routinely bribed police and other officials to obtain access to voicemails and private medical information on the UK’s former Labour Party Prime Minister while he was still in office. Collusion may have been involved between News of the World and members of the British government — particularly British Prime Minister David Cameron — to turn the tide in an election solely for the financial gain of News Corp. How big can this monster get? Well, the story has ‘legs’, a media term meaning a news story that has momentum beyond a 24-hour news cycle. And these legs are big — very, very big — with implications reaching right into the halls of Parliament and Congress.
In America, James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, could also face the possibility of being prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act — the law designed to stamp out bad corporate behavior, which carries severe financial penalties for those found guilty. On Monday, after this series of revelations appeared over the weekend, the news day closed on an item about a group of investors from News Corp’s Board of Directors filing lawsuit in Delaware against Murdoch for running his mega-news conglomerate like “his own private fiefdom with little or no effective oversight from the board.” As of this writing today, News Corp has withdrawn its bid for BSkyB, a satellite television network, once a golden fleece for Murdoch, whose sole ownership he sought for years. He now has to deal with international political and legal scrutiny for News Corp’s actions committed over the years on behalf of their years-long attempt to purchase BSkyB.
If you’re an American and you care about politics, it’s hard to shake off a sense of disbelief hearing this news. When you’ve watched your country ride to ruin on a steady diet of lies from Murdoch’s Fox News, America’s tabloid network, news about any fall of a Murdoch operation is like hearing Dracula is dead. You need to take every bit of info with a grain of salt, and have a stake ready in your jacket just in case. News Corp news — which is really not news but opinion about information with an agenda formed around it — can make you immune to or confused by actual fact. Fox News is a corporate-owned disinformation network.
Since Fox News was launched in 1996, the year Pluto settled into Sagittarius, we’ve had a railroaded impeachment of a sitting president, a stolen election, a false flag attack in New York City leading to two wars, the emptying of the Treasury, a faux ‘revolutionary’ anti-government movement funded by millionaires, and now the attempted diminution of labor unions across the country. Fox probably had a direct hand in much of it, reporting on it in a way that fit the agenda of the neoconservative Republicans who benefited from it, and improving Fox’s bottom line in the end. With the breaking of the News of the World story, calls for accountability for Murdoch are beginning among American politicians starting with Senator Jay Rockefeller’s Senate inquiry into the situation, and they are increasing. This is significant. For the last 15 years, Fox’s impact on national politics has been such that Congress has often been too cowardly to make noise against Fox’s agenda for fear of threat by Fox News intimidation. Such was and is Mr. Murdoch’s power.
A study done a few years ago found that viewers of Fox News tended to be much less informed and less bright than those who watch CNN and PBS. This is the power of opinion disguised as news, sensation driven like a tabloid, leading us to all manner of crime: prejudice, racism, terrorism, war and torture. What Mr. Murdoch does is nothing new: ideology for and mass manipulation of an empire. It’s one of the oldest ideas in the history of empires — the creation and control of the mob. A 130-word meme, good enough to Tweet, makes for a funny joke at the office water cooler, or an entertaining elevator ride to the 22nd floor. That’s the formula. Because of these seeds of thought we breed the suspicions that degrade us: Black radical, baby killer, illegal immigrant, Muslim terrorist. This is how wars begin. As a nation used to being distracted by our news instead informed by it, we’ve allowed our country’s destruction — mostly from ignorance — from within.
News Corp’s control of the agenda in Washington has made it one of the most powerful media corporations in the world, second only to Disney, the ultimate purveyor of fantasy. In a way, they are competing for shares of the same audience. Drug dealers on a mission to distort reality. Murdoch, like a good capo in a film about the Mafia, still wants more. Look at what News Corp’s million dollar contribution to the Republican Governor’s election PAC in 2010 has produced in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Michigan this spring. Murdoch has been honest about it: he wants the same power over our government that he has had in the UK.
Because Fox News is one of the most lucrative news businesses in the country, other news channels have strived to emulate their successful news model: low-level info, appeal to the vaunted 18-24 demographic, great for entertainment, devastating for truth and justice, and horrible for the rest of the planet. But our outrage about Fox News and its type isn’t enough to kill the beast. We need a long cool look at what information we are consuming and why, because our society is addicted to the junk we’ve learned to accept as news and has been paying the price for years in blood and money. Maybe the news on News of the World is a good start, like finally waking up to your habit in a trashed-out crack house, realizing you’ve spent all your kid’s college tuition on a fix.
The First Amendment gives everyone, including Mr. Murdoch, the right to free speech, but the consequences must be weighed as to how his information has been retrieved, accessed and disseminated, because the story of what has happened with News of the World in the United Kingdom is the pond scum risen to the surface. There’s probably more at the bottom that goes westward across the Atlantic. Cleaning a sewer like News Corp and its holdings will never be enough to make it fit to hold water safe to drink. There will never be enough disinfectant to clean up tabloids, or hold news media moguls who run their news businesses like them accountable for what they do, no matter what newspaper they buy — like the Wall Street Journal — to purchase credibility. The contamination will still be there as long as there is prurience and voyeurism, people willing to exploit it, and people willing to consume it. Have we had enough? News Corp news products shouldn’t be treated as news, but entertainment, fit to wrap your used chewing gum or fish and chips; not to ruin the lives of good people, demean victims, bankrupt nations, or kill hundreds of thousands in illegal wars. Not fit enough to be news, if we can re-establish standards for what ‘news’ is.
If we are to pursue Mr. Murdoch’s enterprises for crimes against our societies here and abroad, we have to make the case a good one. The crime of demeaning and misleading nations by lies and extortion for your corporate good has to have consequences. If the story of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World debacle is to have real legs, I want those legs to grow long, powerful and fully formed, because I want Mr. Murdoch to ‘perp walk’ firmly on those legs all the way to the Hague.