Tag Archives: Rupert Murdoch

Never Buy The S*n

I have been reading and enjoying Steven Baxter’s excellent ‘Musings Of A Monkey’ this weekend. In a chapter he describes as hastily cobbled together, but which I would call a very astute summary of the phone hacking scandal of Summer 2011, he makes the point that the subsequent closing of the News of the World so celebrated at the time was only:

speeding up the merger between the weekly and Sunday operations.

At the time the idea was officially scoffed at, but what a difference a few months makes and now the new S*n on Sunday should be in Britain’s newsagents ready for when they open in a couple of hours. Today also sees Liverpool take on Cardiff City in the Carling Cup Final at Wembley.

Regular readers of ten minutes hate may remember this post and this one, detailing the ongoing campaign by Liverpool fans to boycott the newspaper for the lies it told – under a banner headline declaring them to be ‘THE TRUTH’ – about the Hillsborough Disaster.  Full details of the paper’s lies and the fan’s campaign are available here.

Today, any day, but especially on this day: Liverpool fans ask you to remember the 96 families still seeking to know the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. Regardless of the team you support, whether you will be rooting for the Reds or the Bluebirds, don’t put money in Murdoch’s pockets.

As Billy Bragg tells it:

Tabloids making millions betting bullshit baffles brains
And they cynically hold up their hands if anyone complains
And just say “Well, we’re just giving the people what they want”
Well they’re crying out for justice, people crying out for justice

Allow your brain to remain unbaffled by bullshit.

Never buy the S*n.

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The tip of the iceberg

The News International scandal is just the tip of the iceberg of unelected oligarchies and corporate power in Britain’s democracy, according to a new report by David Beetham of the LSE, arguing that:

it serves to distract attention, as the MPs’ expenses affair did, from the ongoing embrace of the corporate world by politicians, of which their toadying to Murdoch has been such an egregious example.

Meanwhile, using a piece of legislation for other than the intended purpose, the Met is seeking to force the  Guardian to produce its source for the Milly Dowler phone hacking story by way of the Official Secrets Act.  Precedent seems to suggest that they won’t get very far in this course of action, but it is an unnecessary, not to mention expensive, battle for the Guardian to face.  Especially at a time when they have been picking up almost universal plaudits for pursuing the story in the face of so much hostility.

After a summer of revelations, it looks like this one has got much further to run yet.

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Phone hacking: the end of the beginning?

Having spent the weekend taking journalism’s weak pulse, it would be remiss not to at least glance at the chart of  the biggest media story of my lifetime.  Especially since yesterday saw further revelations from the parliamentary select committee and the preliminary inquiry hearing into phone-hacking by UK newspapers.  Again, I offer my apologies to everyone who reached saturation point with the whole affair long ago.

That seems to be a fairly natural reaction, as at more than one point this summer, it seemed the revelations were coming too quickly to grasp.  Yet things started slowly, as they often do, with actor Sienna Miller receiving a payout in the case she had brought against News Group, publishers of The Sun and The News of the World (NOTW), over claims they had hacked into her mobile phone’s voicemail messages.  As part of the settlement they admitted unconditional liability.

And there it might have rested, one more tale of how vile the British newspapers can be to those they consider fair game because they are deemed to have courted fame for one reason or another.  Interest might certainly have waned, were it not for continuing disclosures of the hacking of phones belonging to murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of service personnel killed in Afghanistan and even those who surely, they didn’t need to hack at all.

The NOTW defence that these practices were limited to one rogue reporter, Clive Goodman, jailed for hacking the phones of Buckingham Palace staff, were never particularly convincing.  As occurred to many, what editor would be so un-curious as to the sources of such rival-busting scoops?  That argument was further blown full of holes by a Guardian story detailing payouts of over £1m to settle three cases that threatened to reveal how widespread phone hacking was.  As the Guardian very delicately pointed out:

The evidence also poses difficult questions for:

• Conservative leader David Cameron’s director of communications, Andy Coulson, who was deputy editor and then editor of the News of the World when, the suppressed evidence shows, journalists for whom he was responsible were engaging in hundreds of apparently illegal acts.

• Murdoch executives who, albeit in good faith, misled a parliamentary select committee, the Press Complaints Commission and the public.

• The Metropolitan police, which did not alert all those whose phones were targeted, and the Crown Prosecution Service, which did not pursue all possible charges against News Group personnel.

• The Press Complaints Commission, which claimed to have conducted an investigation, but failed to uncover any evidence of illegal activity.

For confirmed political junkies, this was the effect of pure grade medical stuff being applied directly to the receptors.  Like one of those stoned conversations you hear at the end of a long night, when you feel the truth of every jibbering, over-indulged word from your companions.  Except now it turns out that was all true and ‘they’ really were all in it together

Within quick succession, the NOTW was closed and News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks resigned, leaving commentators to ponder what it could possibly all mean.  Was News International unravelling after so long in control, or were these calculated moves to head off further scrutiny, especially the perceived threat of UK investigations spreading to the US?  How far Brooks’ departure could help to avoid this scenario remains to be seen.  Given Murdoch Senior’s skills as a political operator, it is surely premature to write the company’s obituaries.

Especially since, as an excellent article in the New Yorker noted, the tabloid culture dreamed up by Murdoch has taken over British newspapers so completely that old distinctions between tabloid and broadsheet have been pushed aside in the race to the bottom.  While readers may be shocked at how far journalists went, within that culture, it is less surprising:

If your attitude toward the lives of others is that of a house burglar confronted by an open window; if you consider it part of your business to fabricate conversations where none exist; and if your boss treats his employees with a derision that they, following suit, extend to the subjects of their inquiries—if those elements are already in place, then the decision to, say, hack into someone’s cell phone is almost no decision at all. It is merely the next step. All that is required is the technology. What ensues may be against the law, but it goes no more against the grain of common decency than any other tool of your trade.

So while there is certainly more to come from News International and James Murdoch is likely to face more awkward questions, the newspaper readers of Britain should not lose sight of the key questions around what else these ‘rogue elements’ were up to and what the effects on the country’s democratic institutions were.  The fallout of the scandal perhaps offers the best chance in a generation to create a fairer, more equitable society for Britain.   As Freedom of Information campaigner, Heather Brooke writes:

This is why there is collusion between the elites of the police, politicians and the press. It is a cartel of information. The press only get information by playing the game. There is a reason none of the main political reporters investigated MPs’ expenses – because to do so would have meant falling out with those who control access to important civic information. The press – like the public – have little statutory right to information with no strings attached. Inside parliament the lobby system is an exercise in client journalism that serves primarily the interests of the powerful.

Freedom of information laws bust open the cartel. They give everyone an equal right to access information. You don’t have to take anyone out to lunch. You don’t have to pay anyone or suppress a damaging story to maintain a flow of information. You simply ask, with the full power of the law behind you.

She also notes:

Phone hacking, that’s just touching the surface of that whole industry in personal information which is vast, huge, it’s massive

And Tom Watson, a backbench MP who as one of Gordon Brown’s henchmen had his own insider knowledge of the ‘dark arts’ and who now sits on the parliamentary committee investigating phone-hacking agrees:

I think we’re probably only about halfway through the number of revelations. I’m pretty certain there will be quite detailed stuff on other uses of covert surveillance. I suspect that emails will be the next scandal. And devices that track people moving around. That’s just starting to come out.

Unfortunately for those who are starting to get bored with phone hacking this story looks, in the tabloid parlance, to be one ‘with legs’.  A prospect which this politics junkie is relishing.

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A free press

After writing yesterday of the Independent’s Murdoch-baiting, you could bet that I wasn’t going to be a slouch when I heard and saw the lovely lady dishing out free copies of the paper in my city centre this lunchtime. Oh no. I was over to her quicker than Tsegaye Kebede, ready to see for myself.

Today’s politician-skewering headline:

Inside, a neat editorial manifesto sets out what the Indy’s hoping to achieve with this election giveaway, which I am delighted to note is planned to continue until 6 May.  It doesn’t appear that James Murdoch’s tirades have dissuaded anyone from sticking the boot in on his Daddy in the slightest:

Rupert Murdoch’s mighty media empire has become a propaganda machine on behalf of the Conservatives

Yet the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the other smaller parties are routinely ignored by the media.  The Independent is hoping to redress this, while remaining true to the name on the masthead and not swinging behind any one political party.  How refreshing!

The paper continues, rueing the manner in which serious issues are being ‘ignored or underplayed’ by the main parties, giving the examples of Afghanistan – even as troops die there, their continued deployment goes undebated and largely unmentioned – as well as climate change, where politicians are dangerously out of step with wider opinions.

As the Liberal Democrats have noted in today’s horse trading over hung parliament outcomes, our electoral system is badly broken.  The Independent is an old hand at this game having launched, with ‘tens of thousands’ of readers backing it, a petition seeking reform after the last election.  Their archive reveals Labour wasn’t always so reluctant to talk to the Lib Dems about the subject.  The paper also extols the benefits an elected House of Lords, fixed-term parliaments, active membership of the EU, robust economic reform and a revival of liberal democracy would bring to the UK.  All the stuff that has small-l liberals swooning.  What is the Murdoch empire going to chuck back at that?  Page 3 and Dear Deirdre?

So far they’re ticking all my boxes but will there be room for insightful football coverage?  I fear that the Indy might disdain football, with its pampered millionaires, gargantuan debt and stonking carbon footprint.  So it is with some trepidation that I flip to the back pages, expecting to find coverage of Woodcraft Folk-esque non-competitive games.  But worry ye not, sports fans, the back section looks good enough to keep even the most avid of us happy.

Pick up one of these free copies and there is an offer to subscribe at a reduced rate.  I confess I have never been loyal enough to any paper to consider doing such a thing – do they guarantee to have it with you before the morning commute begins? – but once the free thing ends, I might be back to drop a few groats in the pocket of Mr Lebedev.

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Disobey on 6 May

Watching the Dailies Mail, Telegraph, Express and the Sun spew rage-fuelled invective across their own front pages this week has been wonderfully exhilarating.  That their attempts to slur Nick Clegg prior to the second leaders’ debate amounted to little more than, in Tabloid Watch’s memorable description, ‘hysterical bawlings from the sidelines’ caused the warm glow that comes from being proved right to reach blistering levels at ten minutes hate HQ.  It was delightful to look on as the rest of the population finally caught up with what Liverpool fans have known for 21 years.

Newspapers lie.

The problem with lying, as your mum probably taught you once, is that eventually it catches up with you.  You start off with the ones about fascists being good chaps, if a bit misunderstood, and eventually it leads you to a place where stories about a live TV debate that contradict the evidence of anyone who actually saw it for themselves seem normal.

The Independent tried to take advantage of the anti-Clegg furore with a cheeky advert stating that ‘Rupert Murdoch won’t decide the election.  You will’.  Apparently this breaks the cosy rule about one newspaper not going after the proprietor of another, the dishonouring of which  caused James Murdoch to pop round to the Indy’s offices to engage in the kind of toy-pram-evacuation manoeuvre which is a gift to anyone within hearing distance with a Twitter account.

As the newspapers in question take a short breather from hysterical ranting, Anton Vowl asks a pertinent question when he wonders if it is them or us who have run out of steam.  While there are promising signs that this election is not going to be the usual handing over of power between two identical political parties, following an ordination of the eventual winner by an Australian media mogul, it must be a remote possibility that they will let go of the levers so easily.

Still, this election is perhaps the best chance we have to fuck up their programme and raise merry hell before they go back to ignoring us for another five years.  So, along with the White Rabbit and Beau Bo D’Or, I urge all ‘people of goodwill’ to engage in some evidence based voting to disobey Rupert Murdoch on 6 May.  After all, he can’t send James round to yell at all of us.

Independent picture thanks to Beehive City

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