July 07, 2011
News Corp scandal
There is a huge scandal blowing up in the UK involving News Corp, the media empire of Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox Entertainment, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post in the US and several of the biggest newspapers in Britain, including the Sun and News of the World. The Guardian has been providing exhaustive coverage of this story in the UK but it has not caught fire here. In the June issue of Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison provides some background to the whole sordid affair.
Murdoch's media outlets have been implicated in the widespread hacking of the phones of people. It started with the phones of celebrities and they used the information thus gained to essentially blackmail them, not for money but in exchange for the kinds of exclusive celebrity gossip stories that are the trademark of their tabloids. But they also hacked into the voicemails of politicians, crimes victims' families, families of dead soldiers, and the victims of terror attacks and it is these revelations that have really sparked outrage. Furthermore, these sleazy people had a close symbiotic relationship with the highest levels of people in the government and the police, whereby they provided favorable coverage in exchange for protection for their illegal activities.
What pushed the story over the edge was that they had hacked into the voicemails on the cell phone of a 13-year old girl Milly Dowler who went missing in 2002 and was found murdered about six months later. But when her mailbox filled up, mostly with friends and family pleading with her to contact them, the snoopers deleted some messages to allow new messages, cruelly raising the hopes of the family and police that the girl was alive and monitoring her voice mail.
Readers of this blog know that I do not hold the traditional media in high esteem but even by those low standards, Murdoch's operations represent the absolute dregs. Unprincipled, sleazy, and corrupt are the words that jump to mind when Murdoch's name is associated with anything. So far there have been no allegations that Murdoch's American operations have engaged in similar actions but given the close ties between the UK and US operations I would not be in the least surprised if it had happened.