Friday, 8 July 2011

Recanonise St. Vince? If we can dance on Rupert's grave.

The denouement now occurring in Wapping is, hopefully, the first sign of the removal of malicious and unaccountable elements from the media.  Murdoch is wriggling in a way that he hasn't since he first acquired the "News of the World" in 1969, and the Tories and Labour are queuing up to have their memory cells erased given the extent to which backside-kissing has been the order of the day.

From the moment that Thatcher and the then-editor of the "Sun" started chewing the fat together, and creating the Poujadism that has blighted British politics ever since, the sight of the two parties cosying up to News International has become so commonplace as to be unworthy of comment - the way things are in a post-capitalist, post-national age, where governments are clients of large corporations whose accountability (and tax liability) is opaque and where, until now, Murdoch has assumed that the main-party consensus would protect his dubious activities.  However, the buck stops at the top - it does for public servants such as Greg Dyke whose immolation at the hands of the right-wing press still sticks in the craw.  Murdoch has tried to run News Corporation as a family fiefdom, and his judgements are now so totally shot that the kindest diagnosis is that he has decided on method acting after an overdose of "Citizen Kane".

The irony of this is that the Torygraph "outed" Vince Cable's suspicion of Murdoch before Christmas.  As a Liberal News International, and the remainder of the frothing, semi-rabid right-wing scum pack, are hardly likely to be favourably predisposed - witness the monstering dished out when Clegg outperformed during the election campaign in 2010.  Cable's previous reputation as the politician who explained the financial crisis and began to question the status quo is overdue for rehabilitation - especially since Jeremy Twat is now going to find it very hard, within UK and EU competition law, to block the takeover of BSkyB.  Cable might have been in a position to take a much more robust line on this than the Tories, who, after all, spend their holidays schmoozing with the odious Rebekah Brooks and taking their political cues from the "Sun" and its up-market cousins.

However, what is pleasing is that there are early manifestations of Dozy Dave's Big Society - the calls for boycotting of the rag that precipitated its early demise (both by readers and advertisers) and the refusal of reputable charities such as the RNLI to be co-opted into the final edition's crocodile tears and phony contrition.  I suspect that the Tories won't see it this way, though.  For them, and for Labour, who spent the best part of two decades ingratiating themselves through prostituting most of their remaining principles, this is an unwelcome example of grassroots democracy.  Brooks's tenure is an outrage given that she was in control throughout the first period of hacking, and her attempts to blame the situation on the "Guardian" would be nauseating if they weren't so clearly deranged.

The good news flows from the genuine outrage and the realisation that what forensic journalism from the "Guardian" has unearthed is probably the tip of a tabloid, Tory iceberg.  Proper journalism is professional, and doesn't rely on backhanders, technological terrorism and an agenda designed to make Torquemada seem like Mother Theresa  Apparently Ms Brooks told her soon-to-be-sacked hacks that there are at least two more years of revelations to come - and I for one can't wait.  Hopefully this will extend to the "Sun", as Murdoch's daily comic is so pernicious and so self-satified that the hubris and humble pie would provide much delight amonst those of us who think that the News International acquisition of Times Newspapers should have been referred to the competition authorities.

There will be apologists coming out from all corners - people who have taken Murdoch's shilling or wish to.  The first one to amuse me was Bouffant Bo-Jo, clearly unhappy at his re-election prospects, who probably saw Murdoch as a good negotiating pawn to screw more than £250k per annum out of the Torygraph, for reasons that one does not wish to speculate about without serving a Freedom of Information request on the Child Support Agency.  Murdoch, not single-handedly, but with dominance, has led and debased the currency of the media in his time in the UK.  For once, one is almost (but not quite) thinking that Maxwell's larcenies weren't as bad.

While crowing over all this is highly enjoyable, schadenfreude should not be allowed to take away from a number of key issues that the junior Coalition partners should seek answers about:

1.  The extent of police involvement and complicity.  The purchase of law-enforcement agencies by capitalists is totally unacceptable in a society where citizens have pretensions to basic freedoms - this could be a scandal in the Met greater than that of the Vice Squad in the 1970s.
2.  Corporate governance within News International.  If it is as poor as the amnesiac parasites have been putting forward, then they are clearly not fit people to control a free advertising newspaper on the Isle of Wight, let alone three (there were four) national newsapapers and the opiate of the people in the form of extortionate "let them watch sport" satellite television packages.
3.  The extent to which the warnings about Coulson and his cronies were ignored by the inner cabal of Tory party grandees.  If Alan Rusbridger is right then their judgement is so screwed that you have to question the entire premise of a Coalition based around trust and an agreement.  Cameron's platitudes are too little, too late - he is guilty by association and should be prepared to take the consequences.
4.  Introducing a "fit and proper" test for media ownership, and more stringent definitions of monopoly and competition.  There is also the question as to whether UK media should be controlled by organisations based outside the country - a strong case should be made for a majority of GB directors on all company boards, registation and full tax payment within the GB to qualify for permission to own and operate media outlets in the UK.
5.  Whether there has been collusion between Labour and the Tories - this is a systematic problem that neither party has demonstrated any wish to do anything about, and Blair's poodle-like devotion to Uncle Rupe does not inspire confidence.  Mister Ed needs to be clear that the Labour Party is repenting of its folly, and to make common cause with libertarians of all stripes.

For the rest of us, there is the need to keep up pressure, and encourage further investigation by those sections of the press and media not quivering from anticipation of future exposure.

Murdoch is cunning, but looks increasingly cornered.  A good utilitarian solution would be to administer the coup de grace and then start the process of genuine pluralism within the media.

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