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Rupert Murdoch and the Phone-Hacking Scandal: Unfit to Lead? Willful Blindness?

By Dennis Loo (5/2/12)

On Tuesday, April 30, 2012, the House of Commons’ Culture, Sports and Media Committee issued its report “News International and Phone-hacking”: “We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”

They describe Murdoch as having “exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.”

Willful blindness means that someone in charge has failed to investigate, when they should have, what their subordinates have been doing, and they are still therefore legally responsible for what has been done, despite not knowing what was being done in their name. While these findings appear to be – and in some respects are – a damning indictment of someone who has been, and is, one of the most powerful people in the world, and until now nearly untouchable, “willful blindness” serves as a poor excuse for holding Murdoch responsible for lying to Parliament about what he knew and when he knew it. Murdoch knew. His son knew. All of his lieutenants knew. And they knew it from the start. Rupert and his son James, when they testified before Parliament, were obviously lying.

What NewsCorp was caught doing is analogous to what Nixon was caught doing in the Watergate Scandal that ended up forcing Nixon from office. Nixon and his henchmen were spying upon the Democratic Party (and the anti-war movement, most especially Daniel Ellsberg). But it wasn’t Nixon’s spying on the anti-war movement that brought his presidency down. It was Nixon’s spying on the “legitimate opposition” of the Democratic Party that sealed his doom. Similarly, this scandal in Britain has been fueled not as much by NewsCorp’s horrid spying on common people (although that has been a factor), it’s been his company’s daring to tap the phones of the rich and famous, including the Royal Family.

What Murdoch, his son, and his various other lieutenants have been doing, and are now in deep trouble for, is merely the logical extension of what tabloid journalism is all about, which Murdoch has turned into one of the most powerful and most influential corporate empires in the world and in history: scandal and unprincipled, unethical, gutter “journalism.”

As one of the commenters at The New York Times on their May 1st article about this states, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. The collusion, corruption, influence peddling and cozy relationship between Murdoch and his companies with the PM and others in power in Britain and elsewhere, including most notably of course, the U.S. and Australia, their ability to make or break political careers, parties and election results, their ideological role as right-wing extremists posturing as “populists,” are all in play here.

The monstrous way that power is exercised by those in authority, whether they’re in public office or part of the media world, are tantalizingly present if this scandal is allowed to continue. The hemorrhaging is only in its early stages. Removing the Murdoch’s from power in their companies would only substitute two fiends but not alter the culture of the companies that they founded and lead or the larger landscape of neoliberal policies.

For the full story to come out will require that the populace insist that the unraveling of the various threads be completed to their end and that they participate along with other journalistic sleuths in making that happen. The House of Commons’ report references several sealed documents that have yet to be revealed.

As I have more time to read the report I will likely post more about this.

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