Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The Love of Scandal
The television coverage of the British Parliament’s inquiry of the Murdoch’s, father and son, Rupert and James, was wall-to-wall on every news channel including Fox News, part of the Murdoch media empire. As an American, I found myself straining to understand what many of the MPs were saying as their accent often rendered them unintelligible to my ear.
The Murdoch’s were most sincerely and contritely saddened by the behavior of some News of the World reporters and editors, but I doubt they were too surprised by it, nor were the British who read the now defunct trashy tabloid. Some of the reporters had hacked into the phones of people, violating their privacy in hopes of a scoop. The editors in charge pretended not to know.
In sum, it was sordid behavior by a handful of people who had lost sight of what passes for journalistic standards. Scotland Yard had largely ignored the crimes. Top crime fighters dutifully resigned their positions. The whole mess was so incestuous, one would have to be quite blasé to ignore it.
Heads rolled. People were fired, quit their positions, and one, a reporter who blew the whistle, died though he was said to have been ill. Suicide cannot be ruled out. The police arrested an editor or two, but unless it can be proved that they were accessories to the crime, not much may come of that.
The Brits, however, love a good scandal and who doesn’t?
Americans were recently treated to former Representative Anthony Weiner’s antics and are currently obsessing over the acquittal of Casey Anthony, alleged to have killed her child and tossing the remains in a nearby swamp. While the nation heads over the financial cliff into default and bankruptcy, the last scraps of the Anthony story are still being picked over by the news and popular culture jackals. Bill Clinton's Oval Office misconduct with an intern provided months of entertainment and political theatre.
From Oscar Wilde, a famed Irish writer of the 1880s and 90s who was sent to Reading Goal for “gross indecency” to the 1963 affair of John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, who was sexually linked to Christine Keeler, the reputed mistress of a Russian spy, to Princess Diana who divorced Prince Charles and later died tragically in an auto accident, the Brits are no slouches when it comes to scandal.
I do my best to keep abreast of what is going on in Great Britain because they are the closest thing to a rational and dependable ally we have, save for the Canadians who always stick with us through thick and thin, despite being largely ignored.
One of my favorite bloggers goes by the nom de plume of Archbishop Cranmer, a pseudonym taken from the actual archbishop who was burned at the stake in 1556. Normally he comments on things theological and ecclesiastical in England, but his comments on the Murdoch’s stuck a note of rationality devoid from most coverage.
“But it’s all a bit of a show,” said Cranmer. “Rupert Murdoch owns three (non-profitable) newspapers and a minority share in BSkyB, the output of which is regulated by Ofcom. In what sense is this an ‘empire’ which exerts ‘too much power over British public life’?”
“It is about the relationship of Parliament and the media, politicians and journalists, and prime ministers and proprietors. It is about the balance between power and scrutiny, influence and manipulation. Ultimately, it is about the right to express an opinion, because if the end result is statutory regulation of the press, another liberty will have been sacrificed to the lust of the state.”
That’s worth repeating, “another liberty will have been sacrificed to the lust of the state.” We are seeing and experiencing a lot of that in America where hardly any activity of our lives, from the cars we drive, the food we eat, the light bulbs we may purchase, and the health insurance we don’t want to purchase is grinding American liberty to dust.
Rupert Murdoch is not just an Australian, British, and a naturalized American phenomenon, a media genius with a talent for acquisition that includes The Wall Street Journal. Fox News has become the go-to television channel that is indeed, “fair and balanced”, presenting a cacophony of liberal-to-conservative analysis that is often a bedlam of viewpoints.
As this has been occurring, other U.S. newspapers have been losing circulation and revenue, laying off editors and reporters, publishing thin editions of mostly syndicated gloss, and, as often as not, closing their doors. Too many have debased themselves with their liberal slanting of news and are now useful only for their obituary and sports sections.
Let us, therefore, keep an eye on the British journalism scandal to see how their politicians use it for their own gain and hope that their avaricious American counterparts do not take any lessons from it.
© Alan Caruba, 2011