Oh Roop, It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

In happier days...

I remember when I first read about Rupert Murdoch as a kid, how he barnstormed the British media in the 1960s and published anything that might put the nation’s panties in a bunch: its journalistic establishment, its finance establishment, its trade union establishment, its royal establishment. You name it, if it was a pillar of something-or-other, he wanted to chop it down. Then I learned about his blackheartedness, his don’t give a damn attitude and total lack of self-awareness and accountability. God help me, I thought, I love a psychotic.

While I worked at Dow Jones, we all watched as Rupert Murdoch outfoxed the utterly dundering Bancroft family, owners of The Wall Street Journal. Somehow he managed it so that the family’s only representative on the board was a 27-year-old aspiring opera singer. Even then I reckoned, well, if the family that owns this paper doesn’t realize what a jewel it has, maybe they don’t deserve to own it.

We were also sick of the Bancrofts doing things like selling off all their Dow Jones stock while insisting on keeping their controlling power. It seemed dysfunctional and cheap. Despite his faults, Murdoch was never cheap with the paper — in fact, he’s been spending on it  like a drunken sailor — and he seemed to genuinely love and covet it. With Murdoch, coveting is the most you can ask for.

Since then, many have left the Journal, as not everyone favors Murdoch’s rarefied brand of journalism. And while he used to go after the establishment, it seems now what he has always desired was to become the establishment.

And he’s succeeded.

But few expected the Murdoch brand of journalism to include hacking phones. For a long time, it’s been known throughout Britain that celebrities’ phones were being hacked. But the tabloid culture in the U.K. has always been off-the-hook absurd. People yawned. Only in recent days have we learned that the phones of kidnapped girls who ended up dead were hacked, the mobiles of dead soldiers.

And yet some of the media has been slow to decry the so-called Last Tycoon. Consider the phalanx of stories over the past week with shots of Murdoch being deluged by flashbulbs with headlines like, “The Murdoch Style, Under Pressure.”

The Murdoch style? Are you kidding me?

If the rising-star, take-no-prisoners Murdoch of yesteryear had faced the ailing Murdoch of today, we have no doubt what he would have done. Shown no mercy.

8 thoughts on “Oh Roop, It Didn’t Have To Be This Way”

  1. “If the rising-star, take-no-prisoners Murdoch of yesteryear had faced the ailing Murdoch of today, we have no doubt what he would have done. Shown no mercy”.

    Finally. we start to see the extent of this perversion. about 6 months ago, I took to reading Financial Times after decades of following WSJ. I had begun to question the even-handedness of WSJ in the wake of the murdoch acquisition –not because i was suspicious of Murdoch but simply because the coverage seemed one-sided. Bad news was suppressed —RA RA buy buy. As recently as this past weekend an article espoused the wonders of China growth while the prior day NYT disclosed the massive debt bubble supporting it–one concrete example.

    Over the past few years I also became more and more displeased by the disintegration of the televised US news services. There really is none. No balanced reporting. No Walter Cronkites left. The supposed news channels had deteriorated to MSNBC left wing ra ra or Fox’ right wing ra ra ENTERTAINMENT.–not news. Not that entertaining either.

    Then we hit the financial meltdown when apparent government misconduct and/or blundering, non-disclosure, etc seemed the rule of the day rather than investigation and outing apparent manipulated financial fraud. A true need for the 4th Estate –but none exists as it now appears.

    Simultaneously we see the Elliot Spitzers and less known Ohio AG Mark Dann, and maybe even Rangel start to take on the governmental investigations needed, and we see them almost immediately go down in flames on personal screw ups that somehow became widely known and trumpteted more aggressively that the vital public functions they were attempting to serve.

    Now we see the UK original Murdoch business model exposed in scope –at least so far. a But aside from the unscrupulous digging which is sort of associated with investigative journalsim –but on steroids, there is the far more frightening implication of systematic widespread intimidation of politicians and investigators.

    So far the focus once again is on little fish–lowly UK policemen. A good start–but this vampire squid reach extends far beyond that little corner of tabloid journalism. As I noted above, my sense has been that the US news media has also deteriorated into tabloid journalism and the spectre of a wisespread Murdoch “business model” based on illegal invasive intrusion into personal foibles for the apparent purpose of intimidation of investigators and politicians seems unlikely to have been limited to the UK or one aggressive woman editor.

    A better term to be contemplating as I wonder day by day “Why no cry for inquiry in the US?” suggests some of the the nastier terms: blackmail, extortion, subornation of testimony, manipulation of markets –I could go on. It is not so much the devices employed to gather the news–which I could sort of excuse as aggressive journalism–it is the purpose and use of that information that is the real abomination. If this were a left wing operation that just disclosed who was sleeping with whom–it would be simple tabloid journalism,. but Murdoch had his hands on nearly the entire crop of Republican presidential hopefuls. Bad enough the free press exposure–that was scary, but when we add the prospect of systematic manipulation of information to intimidate if not blackmail members of both the US and UK governments that is another thing–an inexcusable damning thing.

    Now, the apparent forgetfulness of people like Fed reserve Greespan–inability to understand fairly obvious financial improprieties stats to take an ominous tone. Explanations of misconduct that seemed as if scripted by Fox right wing talking heads and editors now take on a new light–maybe they were scripted by Murdoch’s political machine.

    Why 50 states AGs decide to settle abuses for millions of Americans without investigation, why the reason for Greek government profligacy is not part of the story, etc etc –now one HAS TO WONDER.
    Cellphones and credit cards in the US operate the same as in the UK, so do private investigators—but Murdoch’s political ambitions in the US –are even more intimately connected with the economic destinies of his subscribers and his advertisers. The US $$$$ at stake dwarf the so far tiny $$ involved in the UK. If these people will go so far as has been proven in the UK to sell a few papers, what would this global machine do to control a US election–to control the US Congress–more susceptible to this sort of thing due to the Committee structure of government? What would Murdoch do to own a President of the US? All we know is that his minions exhibited absolutely no sense of boundaries—rules made to be broken to please the top. And along the way, the 4th estate became the most dangerous branch of government in this media age.

  2. In a recent episode of the Award winning TV show Burn Notice, Michael Westen (the star of the show) referred to the people who destroyed his life as an Unauthorised Quasi Governmental Organisation.

    Those people who are familiar with the “fictional” programme would know that it is about a Government Agent, Michael Westen, who is disowned by his country and left in the cold in Miami.

    The premise of the show is that a hidden network of people has developed a parasitic relationship with a range of government agencies to further its own agenda. We are never sure what that agenda is but we know that the organisation is used to deliver work that would not be sanctioned if it were publically known. This work could include illegal wiretapping, entrapment, extending political influence, collating information on key political and business leaders and effectively operating as a puppet master within the governmental and commercial world.
    This seemed very farfetched until I read today that the head of the British police had resigned and our senior homeland security chief was under pressure to resign due to a potentially compromising relationship with key people within a global media company that was involved in unsanctioned and unauthorised data collation.

    In the fictional world of the Burn Notice Westen states that dismantling these unsanctioned networks can take months or even years and requires a substantial effort by a range of official government agencies. In Britain these agencies include government select committees and special judicial inquiries. In America they may include the FBI and possibly the enforcement of anti-corruption criminal conspiracy legislation.

    My question however is this, should major news agencies be treated as non state actors with their own political and commercial agendas? If they are Non State Actors then how can they be regulated and held accountable for their actions and agendas? Of course this way of thinking removes the notion of the impartiality of journalists and news media and makes journalists work more difficult. However, it allows us to start thinking about holding media conglomerates to account as non state actors or corporations with an agenda?

    The Murdoch affair is beginning to remind me of the events surrounding Licio Gelli and the Propaganda Due. That affair exposed a puppeteer mechanism of hidden networks, clubs, organisations and societies that were able to affect the Italian political process and supported corrupt practices. It also led to the collapse of the Italian Government.

    We live in a more open society than Italy of the 1970s and what happened in Italy should not be able to happen again. However, the possibility that hidden networks in this case groups of private detectives, and data mining experts (who combined hacking and garbology, with unauthorised access to official databases – driving registration, hospital records, police computers) shows us how easy it is for a person with sufficient financial resources to create networks that can duplicate the abilities of governmental organisations yet are not accountable to the public and have their own agenda.

    This is not a question that can be resolved by one government we probably need a transnational regulatory framework for media conglomerates. I am not sure what the best framework would be.

  3. @ Allan; Re your query,
    “should major news agencies be treated as non state actors with their own political and commercial agendas? If they are Non State Actors then how can they be regulated and held accountable for their actions and agendas? Of course this way of thinking removes the notion of the impartiality of journalists and news media and makes journalists work more difficult. However, it allows us to start thinking about holding media conglomerates to account as non state actors or corporations with an agenda?”

    Ms Goodman’s post is a suitable forum to discuss transatlantic issues and solutions. I wish it enjoyed wider readership. I posted references to it elsewhere to attempt to boost it–with surprising results that I will mention below.

    Your issue is directly to the looming point. Like it or not we in the developed countries are perched precariously atop a financial house of cards that forms the infrastructure supporting so-called “globalism”.

    Let there be no mistake—neither the term nor the concepts it embodies are popular in the US, once one gets past the Coasts. In the Heartland, the states that the urban NYC, LA, SF, and DC denizons derisively refer to as the “flyover states” the term “globalism” is increasingly disliked–even hated?

    The outrageous and abusive conduct of unrepentant financial center “Masters of the Universe” has underscored and heightened this antipathy. The Heartland US, much like the German electorate with which it shares a substantial common heritage and attitude, is deeply distrustful of foreign influence. This started out as long-held dislike for the United Nations, and has now been clearly associated with the the mega-banks, which even we Boehner District corn-farmers realize are international institutions with little or no particular allegiance to the success or future of our parochial US interests.

    “To big to fail” –or else what? Will our crops stop growing? Will China stop buying our food?; Will our coal mines cease functioning? Our power plants cease producing electricity? Will Canada and the Saudis stop exporting crude oil to our refineries? Our auto-plants stop producing pick-up trucks for export? Our social security and medicare come under fire–despite being capitalized for 10-20 years to come? Will the Saudis and Kuwaitis order US military out of their country–never to return?
    Will Hyundai dealers stop importing foreign-made cars? Will the “too big to fail banks” stop lending, forcing people to use local banks, regional banks and credit unions to buy cars made from parts produced in the US?

    Or will the international bankers and hedge fund operators stop getting $ billion bonuses? Or will a US government freed of that influence initiate investigations for domestic and global intimidation of politicians and investigators and crimes like anti-competitive behavior and-like bribery of these self-styled “Masters of the Universe” ? Will the US government step up to the [plate as has the UK government and called for a PUBLIC accounting by the Murdoch global media empire?

    The foregoing may just explain why the Tea-partiers do not perceive the risk of default the same way as NYC and DC do. Maybe –just maybe–they see it as a way to escape the repression that has come along with “globalism”. We are desperate in the US. No matter which party we vote for or against–as more commonly occurs–nothing changes. Maybe despite the pain today–the freedom of escape from an ever more demanding, irresponsible and apparently unchecked financial system will portend a glimmer of light for the future of our children.

    Murdoch has created an apparatus that is part and parcel of this grasping global financial juggernaught. A free press delivered us from the scheming ambitions and abuses of Nixon. Without that free press we might have sunk earlier into the current state of wealth dislocation and global excesses that we suffer today.

    Murdoch’s operations are not in any sense the manifestation of a free press as envisioned by the 1st Amendment. Murdoch’s operations are the antithesis of a free press. He buys free press competitors to control their investigative reporters–to end their independent revelations–to literally buy their silence. This is the essence of an assault on the 1st Amendment which encompassess the right for a free people TO HEAR –not just the right to speach. Yes with his wealth he can DIRECTLY buy away the right of the press to SPEAK—and thereby INDIRECTLY buy away the right of the people to HEAR.

    So we approach the solutions by describing the problems: impairment of the 1st Amendment and comparable rights throughout the developed world where Murdoch holds sway. It is very bad to allow the concentration of power in a handful of banks—and only three ratings agencies which seem to call the shots based on their clients’ self-interest. US mortgage bonds with AAA ratings –that are in fact junk until the junk is sold and the fees collected. Greek bonds that are AAA until it is time to trigger the credit default swaps. Then overnight they become junk. The vultures move in, buy at 50 cents and demand $1 or hold the entire European population hostage as they did the US. [with as yet unknown consequences]

    Concentration is very bad for banks and worse for ratings agencies—that is well established. But concentration of press in a single global media empire enables this abuse–it is this far worse. Concentration of control over media is the single greatest threat to free people everywhere.

    Murdoch took the logical next step—and undermining the political independence of free governments. In UK he intimidated, coerced, extorted the entire political system, thereby effectively usurping the powers of that government to represent the interests of the people. In the US he has achieved greater inroads. He controls the primary economic communicator and immerses the people in multiple 24 hour purported news channels.

    Of these, the FOX “news” network thrusts “for free” into the homes of millions of Americans an array of non-stop propaganda advancing the merged political-economic views best designed to advance the Murdoch global power hegenomy. Murdoch’s empire merely is a thin facade for a naked political machine–with the primary purpose being to control the social, economic and political will in the US. Any expose that it does fails to address economic abuses–it justifies them. More likely any “expose” consists of a purely salacious revelation of the sexual conduct of any politician or other notable which does not wear his collar. This is the end–and the means of achieving that “end” are irrelevant to this globalist.This inludes eliminating competition—be it people–or publications ala WSJ and most-telling Huffington Post—which people believe is a left-wing check on the right wing. In fact, HP constitutes the tool to keep right-wing politicians under his sway. With the advent of free-thinking Tea Partiers, the greatest challenge emerged–how to control people fundamentally opposed to the imposition of a global fascist state. Answer– an apparent left leaning operation that was truly free–that can be used to bludgeon the Tea Party candididates that get”out of step” and have any real appeal.

    The last tenet of the Murdoch philosophy: Ask for forgiveness if you get caught and cant suppress or distort the facts.

    So what are the solutions to eliminate this global impairment to the freedom of mankind. 1) restore competition in the press—the most aggressive anti-competitive regulation must fall upon the 4th estate to preserve it from the tamperings of Murdochs present and future. Break it up—in very small pieces. Restore freedom to the Press.
    2) impose legislation which forbids supposed press entertainers from government office–it infringes the public interest and lends itself to corruption.
    3) preclude control over very large national press by any familiy interst–and in the US by foreign interests that would have inherent conflicts. an eexample of this pernicious effect is the large ownership interest in this evil empire by the Saudis.

    4) Disclosure; The viewers should be made aware at the beginning of each broadcast that the comments are approved and swayed by the Saudis–and the continued drum-beat of war in the Mideast inures to their benefit. Perhaps then, people will recognize that they are being manipulated to support vast crushing expenditures that have little apparent benefit to the US —-while teachers are laid off, our promised and paid for social securty and medicare “entitlements” are belittled and threatened, and our infrastructure is left to disintegrate as hospitals, roads, dams and public projects are carried across the middle east without regard to cost.

  4. PS: re the long reach? Maybe Im just paranoid. could be–iv angered some pwerful people in the banking world.

    i posted the comments made above about Murdoch on WED on Huffington Post–sort of letter to the editor. Posted at: Wed, Jul 13, 2011 11:07 am
    yes i knew HP was Murdochian–I just wanted to see how efficient they were–if they were really integrated..

    By 12:15 PM my son had a phone disconnect while speaking to my partner—with a message that there had been a “gate change” –thats a 1st for us. The line reopened within a minute. The text messages still disappear into the ether. i wouldn’t think that much of it if months earlier, my converstations with another attorney were not seemingly known by opposing counsel word for word I do not know what is paranoid and what is insightful—and that is a sad state of affairs.

    by 6PM i had no HP account. I did really enjoy their Hill letter.

  5. @ Elouise
    Sorry about a couple things—One I have terrible typing skills. Two Iv been pretty streeses out watching the combined EU and US governments dance while the economies melt-down and my retirement evaporates—-Ill have to catch the WSJ today to see what Murdock’s pick of the day is so I can recover my losses from one day in 2008 and a week [plus yesterday] in 2011. Things are a little tense–but I will take this opportunity to congratulate Tim Geithner on sticking with the job till after election –rather than imperil appearances by taking that job at Goldman to securitize and sell the US Highway system. just going to have to wait till after election to cash in.

  6. Really enjoy the blog, plan on getting the book. Sadly though i feel the system has been completely corrupted to the point of it being UN-fixable. Rich or poor, people are people they lie,cheat and steal. Well at least I get to witness the fall of rome

    1. Hey, John Mc, thanks for the comment — and, as for ‘Rome,’ never say die. Please do leave a review of the book on Amazon, so I know what you think.

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