November 16, 2011
What the Murdoch scandal reveals about oligarchic power
The waters roiled by the Murdoch scandal keep slowly rising higher. Now that the veil that covered the closely knit and secretive workings between government, business, and the media is unraveling, we are getting to see how the oligarchy operates (at least in the UK) in raw, unfiltered detail.
First up, The Guardian reports on how the parent company News International (NI) put pressure on successive British governments to get its way. It ranged from the more usual practices (such as wining and dining and otherwise pampering government officials) to placing their people in government and the police, and in turn hiring people from those organizations into its own ranks (thus creating a tight network of loyalists all committed to serving NI's interests), to crude threats to punish politicians if the soft touch did not work. Opposing lawyers, other media outlets, indeed anyone who stood in the way of what NI wanted, were threatened with ruin. The report of their naked thuggery reads like something out of a gangster film, with Murdoch and son playing the roles of Vito and Sonny Corleone.
It has also been revealed that the publisher of the Wall Street Journal's European edition had made a deal with a company to buy copies of its own paper in order to boost its circulation figures. He has resigned. It has also been revealed that NI had hired investigators to spy on hacking victims' lawyers and their families, including their children. This caused member of parliament Tom Watson (himself the target of the Murdoch goons) to go ballistic and accuse James Murdoch of acting like a Mafia boss and the BBC of covering up for them. The mob references keep piling up.
Rupert Murdoch's son and heir apparent James has been shifty and evasive under questioning, repeatedly denying any knowledge of the serious abuses committed by those working for him. As the story unfolds, you will hear a lot about something called the 'For Neville' email because it is seen as directly harmful to James Murdoch and threatens the entire empire. The Guardian explains the significance of the email. In connection with it, two former News of the World executives have issued a statement that implies that James Murdoch has been lying to the police and parliament. Rupert Murdoch has already sacrificed two of his key cronies (Les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks) to protect himself and his tottering empire. Will Papa Murdoch now sacrifice his own son too?
The uproar has caused some British conservatives to think twice about their allegiances. Now that the Murdoch enterprise is in the crosshairs, all those politicians who were once anxious to cozy up to him in return for favorable coverage are trying to create some space. Prime minister David Cameron keeps increasing the distance between himself and his former buddies at News Corp as other heads continue to roll.
Incidentally, if you do not want to soil your mind by reading Murdoch-produced information, there are now plug-ins for some browsers that warn you if you have entered a Murdoch-controlled website.