Friday, July 08, 2011

End of the News of The World and The Beginning of Cameron's Watergate

So, shutters down at the News of The World, and welcome, probably, to Sun on Sunday. It is not just the saddest moment of British journalism, a trade that sustained the world's oldest surviving democracy and helped, I shall argue, to make the case for free speech all over the world. It is an epiphany about what happens when a trade, a profession loses its purpose, and becomes a tool of production of profit and power. Lessons have to be learned, not just by the Murdoch mafia and their cronies, but by the man on the street perhaps: That the freedoms we take for granted are hard-earned and must be protected every day, and such.

But, first the bad news. News of the World paints an astonishing picture of a business at its worst, when responsibility was thrown out of the window in pursuit of profit and power, and little people, sadly and cynically engaged in keeping their jobs, carried out heinous crimes, no less serious and offensive than sex abuses and murders they reported, at the behest of their bosses. And, there is more: It sat cozy with an obliging political patron, who owed his power to the wheeling and dealings of the Murdoch clan, who hired, who else, the main architect of the criminal gang that tried to control our lives by hacking into our most private sensitivities, to run his own empire of spin.

When the news of misdeeds broke years ago, suddenly no one knew nothing. Indeed, everyone was involved: The political bosses, the corrupt policemen, and the international media mafiosi tried everything they could to suppress the story. And, in a stellar example of journalism, and as an exception, as most professions fail to self-scrutinize, some parts of British media, notably Guardian, pressed on. Indeed, one can be cynical and point out that they are part of big media too, and this is just commercial competition, but so be it then: They saved us from staring at the abyss by calling the scandal. And, because of their persistence, horrific details of phone-hacking, bribery, bad dealings came out.

But, as it looks now, nothing will actually change. Murdoch empire will keep going. They have closed News of The World and now they will start destroying the records. They would keep going in another name - Sunday Sun - a technique they may have learned from the Pakistani terror gangs. Everyone will keep their jobs, except the little people. The Prime Minister, who implicated himself by making plain how dependent he was on the Murdoch media by hiring Andy Coulson as his media czar, will continue to preach responsibility to the British public and the rest of the world. Give it a few days and the public will forget, the same message Richard Nixon banked on: Indeed, we are firmly back in the Watergate territory.

If you are disbelieving, don't. It is the way things are. The great weakness of democracies is that public memory is fragile and manipulable, and people like Rupert Murdoch has used this cynically to build the business empire that he managed to build. In business activities and political interference which would have impressed the Borgias, he built this global empire to dumb down the English-speaking people (more or less) around the world and create a dumbed down political culture to go with it. You can buy into his empire, watch his fare on TV in the evenings and spend the rest of the day talking about it. You can vote for his politicians, and keep your sex life going on the back of his daily staple of Page 3 girls and sordid stories. To achieve this, there will be people, exactly like you, who will be bought over, body and soul, to hack into people's phones and lives, and pay them off if something goes wrong; to bribe politicians and police officers, destroy the reputation of anyone who wishes to cross them. And, in a stunning display of hypocrisy, you can decree free speech to stay out of your office premises, and truth from the lives of your owners and family.

The only question in my mind now is how far the scandal will go and where it can possibly reach. David Cameron did well to suppress this about a year back, but it seems to be going out of control. Usually a confident man, he is fumbling a little for he is indeed cozy to the Murdoch hierarchy, and at the least, its main beneficiary. For all his skills, this may be his Watergate moment.

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