The Brits are always polite and correct. And so it is in the News of the World’s hacking scandal. The world’s largest selling newspaper has closed down after it was discovered that its staff violated privacy laws by hacking into phones and emails of thousands of British citizens. Not only journalists and officials of the company were arrested but the paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch publicly apologized and closed down the paper. He along with his son, number two in the company, was questioned by the British parliament. Most surprisingly an intruder breached security and attacked Murdoch with a harmless foam pie. This drama earned sympathy for eighty year old Murdoch. Murdoch is the world’s biggest media mogul. Taking him down like this means a lot more than violation of journalistic ethics or privacy laws. Consider a scenario that no newspaper or politician will be rude enough to describe.
Here are some facts to consider.
|The wide networking and hacking suggests objectives beyond news gathering. What could these be?
The victims whose privacy was invaded belonged to the powerful elite including politicians, businessmen and even royalty. Their number was so large as to indicate intelligence rather than mere news gathering. Top politicians and the police were drawn into the newspaper’s net. Two top police officers in London have resigned for accepting hospitality from the paper’s executives. After resignation they claimed they had done no wrong. They argued that if they deserved to resign, so should Prime Minister David Cameron because he had employed the former boss of the executives, who had entertained them, as his press aide. This press aide was the former editor of the newspaper and he too was arrested and questioned by the British parliament. The London police employ 45 press officers. Ten of them are former employees of News of the World.
The wide networking and hacking suggests objectives beyond news gathering. What could these be? Consider Rupert Murdoch. As the world’s biggest media baron he has been a leading proponent of closer economic ties with China. Rupert Murdoch is an Australian who became a global icon decades before another Australian, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, did the same. By a curious coincidence both these Australians have a China link. Assange’s father was Chinese. Murdoch’s wife is Chinese. Born of humble stock Wendy Deng migrated to America as the protégé of an American couple. After divorcing her first husband she married Murdoch who was decades older. Wendy Deng succeeded in developing very close ties with top Chinese leaders.
The strength of Murdoch’s media empire is mind boggling. It is spread across the world into print, television and film entertainment outlets. Fox News, 20th Century Fox cinema, Star TV network, The Times and The Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal in New York are a few of Murdoch’s prominent acquisitions. His media empire has the clout to mould public opinion as no rival can. Decades ago Murdoch’s company News Corp entered into partnership with Dow Jones for running newspapers in Hong Kong . The partnership was brief because of incompatible attitudes. A leading shareholder of Dow Jones, James Ottoway, accused Murdoch of shamelessly kowtowing to Beijing . It was many years later that Murdoch succeeded in purchasing America’s prestigious Wall Street Journal from Dow Jones.
News Corp articulates best the views of the corporate US lobby that profited from cheap Chinese labour by diverting investment from the US domestic market to China . Years ago I had described this corporate lobby along with China as the world’s real Axis of Evil. Thanks to complicit American politicians US trade with China resulted in a five to one adverse balance spanning several decades. This in turn led to huge US indebtedness, joblessness and a crippling economic crisis. The architect of this policy, Dr. Henry Kissinger, after retiring as Secretary of State ran his own company, Kissinger Associates that made huge profits as consultants in major US-China business deals. Kissinger Associates employed many high ranking officials retired from the US political establishment who continued to wield influence. Kissinger was also appointed by Beijing to the government’s China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC).
After David Cameron became British Prime Minister his biggest challenge lay in activating a sluggish economy. He needed China to bail him out. Rupert Murdoch would have liked nothing better. China’s overseas direct investment into Europe has been low. Recently there was a shift towards services and this led to rapid increase in rates of investment into Britain. Chinese companies mainly carry out sales and marketing operations and establish headquarters in Britain although they mostly operate in the manufacturing sector. Britain has encouraged China to view London as the gateway to European markets.
In November 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron led Britain’s biggest trade delegation over the last 200 years to China . He desperately sought Chinese markets for British investment. He did mention the absence of human rights in China, which was perceived as a sop to domestic critics, but he made no secret about his desperate need for China. That is why Murdoch and Cameron were on the same page. That is why so many of Murdoch’s former employees have been inducted in the government. That is why the News of the World could continue its hacking and illegal surveillance for so long until a whistleblower spilled the beans. He later died.
Therefore the significance of the Murdoch affair transcends journalism. In today’s world individual ministers are far more powerful than individual editors. But collectively, media is more powerful than politics. It is the only window of information for the world. It can manipulate opinion and alter political scripts. It can make and unmake heroes. It can create villains. It is the voice of the corporate lobby that owns politics and controls the media. And Rupert Murdoch was the unquestioned King of the world’s mainstream media. Now he is in the doghouse. Does that mean a major political rollback? Time alone will tell.