There have been a number of efforts lately—obnoxious efforts—to say News Corporation’s hacking scandal is some kind of “piling on” by opponents with a “commercial or political agenda.” The implication, not least from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal editorial page and his “Fox & Friends” show, being that the level of coverage is unfair, somehow, that the story isn’t that big a deal, or that the scandal hasn’t touched Rupert Murdoch as a CEO or News Corp. as a whole—confined as it was to ”the tabloid excesses of one newspaper.”
Perhaps then it would be a good exercise to run through all the wrongdoing—including rampant, institutionalized criminal activity—that is already in the public record as having been committed in the hacking scandal.
For starters, executives, editors, and reporters at News Corp.’s UK unit have: bribed the police; illegally hacked thousands of people’s phones, including a 13-year-old then-missing murder victim’s; tampered with evidence while the victim was still missing. They interfered with a second murder investigation; misled police and Parliament, repeatedly, when questioned about these activities; knowingly employed an ax-murder suspect who had been convicted and imprisoned for planting cocaine on an innocent woman in a divorce case; paid millions of dollars to victims explicitly in exchange for their silence; paid large sums to former employees after they had been convicted of crimes committed at the behest of News Corporation employees; continued to pay for convicted former employees’ high-powered lawyers.
It has further been revealed that a senior News International executive deleted millions of emails in an “apparent attempt to obstruct Scotland Yard’s inquiry”; hid the contents of a top journalist’s desk after he was arrested; stuffed documents into trash bags and took them away as detectives came into the office to investigate; put the scandal’s lead police investigator, whose inquiry was a bad joke, on the News Corp. payroll with a plum columnist job.
Here’s some of what we know of corrupt activities undertaken by government institutions at News Corp.’s behest or which, at a minimum benefited, News Corp.
The police: stuffed thousands of pages of convicted hacker Glenn Mulcaire’s notes in plastic bags, leaving them unexamined (or at least uncataloged) for years; did so while insisting publicly, and before Parliament, that the scandal was limited to two people and, crucially, that a full investigation had been performed; hired Neil Wallis, who was News of the World’s deputy editor while the crimes were committed, to advise the police on how to handle their own PR problems stemming from the hacking scandal; Wallis ferried information back to News Corp.; the police notified just a handful of people that their phones might have been hacked despite having evidence that in fact thousands had been; concealed their payments to Wallis for a year. Meanwhile, top police officials dined repeatedly with News International executives during the investigation.
Political elites: Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron hired the News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who oversaw a newsroom in which criminal activity was commonplace, to be a top aide, despite warnings that Coulson was personally implicated in the scandal; Labour leader Ed Miliband hired a Murdoch journalist to be top flack, and he promptly told the party to tiptoe around the scandal; regulators came very close to approving a massive TV deal for News Corp. that would have furthered its stranglehold on Britain’s private media, all while the scandal was continuing to worsen.
Now that we have all that background, enter The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which this week has gone into full-on Murdoch mode, defending its parent company from the ”commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics.” It has unleashed no fewer than seven defensive editorials and columns this week, reports Bloomberg News, and it’s only Wednesday.
Even that page can’t find a way to defend its parent company’s actions (though it does feebly try to defend now-resigned Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton’s honor), so it tries to shift the focus to the motives of the press interest, which appears to include every media outlet in the entire world. When the facts are against you, resort to the ad hominem attack, and a weak one at that. That’s pathetic. Or as Jack Shafer put it:
Not one of the seven defensive editorials and opinion pieces published this week about the scandal in the Murdoch’s U.S. flagship, the Wall Street Journal, has any teeth. It’s hard to inspire terror in your enemies when all you can do is gum them.
Look, any outlet not covering this major story aggressively is doing so for commercial reasons, like, say, Murdoch ownership, or for ideological ones. The Journal:
They want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world.