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Murdoch Gets Facked By His Hacking Hacks

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A few isolated hacking instances could have been and were contained. But then the problem spread. The catalyst was Milly Dowler.

Suddenly what was just sleazy (and therefore pretty normal for the News of the World) became something akin to grave-robbing. The bleatings of a former prime minister meant nothing next to it. After all, even though hacking was illegal, somehow public figures were fair game. But after Dowler the public got involved and the issue became profoundly political. Miliband saw his chance to get some ink, and pry the Tories apart from their Liberal lackeys. It also helped that a ton of the hacking targets were Labour MPs.

What has turned this into a national crisis is – of course – Cameron’s utterly craven attempt to curry favor with Murdoch by hiring one of the big man’s favorite lieutenants as communication advisor. You can imagine the screams of outrage from Ken Clarke and the other grandees at this Faustian bargain, knowing that the hacking scandal was odds on likely to be bigger than Coulson had admitted. The second chance that Cameron gave Coulson, was a second chance to crack the Conservative ship below the waterline.  Cameron has already turned on Murdoch, and will have to go further. You can bet Rupert won’t take to that too kindly as his empire crumbles. His UK holdings are utterly toxic now. Nobody will want to do business with him. Is this hypocrisy? Definitely. Did everyone think he was a saint before this all went down? Not at all. But up until last week his power was feared. Now he’s out in the biting cold in his briefs. In short (excuse the pun), he’s had it.

To make matters worse for Rupert, the Met is now forced to turn on him too. The cozy relationship is over and Scotland Yard can only rebuild its reputation by going Medieval on News International, after Stephenson’s timely resignation over his own Coulson – Wallis. They’re sure to build some pretty strong cases against the company now their own good names are on the line, and you can bet your boots the public and parliament will demand these cases be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  All this leaves Murdoch with nowhere to look for protection. His army of loyal lieutenants are either going to jump ship voluntarily, or be forced to walk the plank, either way ready to spill their guts to protect themselves. A den of vipers turns quickly upon itself.

Could it bring Cameron down? Probably not. The Tories have no choice but to hold tight, and hope the dust settles before the next General, which is likely (even though the Cons won’t have Murdoch’s help in creating distractions). But there are threats to this strategy. Firstly, Clegg seizes the opportunity to claw back some of the lost ground he’s ceded to his erstwhile Conservative friends. If he pulls the plug now, he risks letting an invigorated Labour Party win on the back of the crisis – outright. If he doesn’t he looks like he’s yet again allowing the good name of his party to be dragged through the mud. And secondly, that the public mood turns to profoundly forcing Tory backbenchers to try and save their necks by joining with Labor and Liberals to no-confidence the government. But that would really be something.

In the US, the most likely outcome is that Murdoch and News Corp survives, but pays a hefty price in investor lawsuits, and fines for illegal activities conducted abroad by a US corporation. They may have to sell off some serious assets to survive, and should be taken down a notch for a good long while to come. But the knuckledragger constituency that soaks up the Fox News Channel is unlikely to be swayed by events over the pond. And as for Fox’s Entertainment divisions, they do very well, and unlikely to be affected by the scandal and answer to Wall Street – a thoroughly amoral bunch which cares only for the bottom line – rather than the public

At the end other end of this tunnel, a bright light shines.  The crisis engulfing the Murdoch Empire in the UK signals a shot in the arm for wider British political discourse. With News International’s reputation in tatters, tabloid journalism will become far less malevolent, and a nasty cloud of power-coddling press propaganda will no longer hang over British democracy.

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Written by coolrebel

July 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Washington

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