I tend to avoid cross posting material from my work at the Daily Beast, but this is an important unintended consequence of Murdoch's reaction to the Phone Hacking scandal which has sent a chilling effect through Fleet Street
News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch holds up a copy of the newly launched The Sun on Sunday newspaper last February in London. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty)
"What Rupert Murdoch has done is unprecedented in the free world," says the veteran journalist Nick Cohen, author of a recent award-winning book about censorship, You Can't Read This Book. "Managers have been tasked to go over every expense claim and emails for signs of wrongdoing," he told The Daily Beast. In the process, Murdoch has "basically given up his journalists and their sources."
Over a hundred people have been arrested since the phone hacking scandal engulfed Murdoch's UK paper in the summer of 2011. Fifty five of them journalists. And the reason is not as simple as you would think:
During the height of the phone-hacking crisis that hit Murdoch's London subsidiary in 2011, parent company News Corp. faced an even greater threat-an investigation in by the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged breaches of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans payments to foreign officials. To reduce the potential hefty corporate fines and indictments of senior executives in New York, Murdoch created a beefed-up Management and Standards Committee (MSC), with access to a recovered database of more than 300 million emails from its London newspapers and a remit to cooperate with the police.
Since the phone-hacking scandal that shuttered the News of the World broke, there have been more than 100 related arrests. Fifty-five of these have been of journalists, and the majority not for suspicion of phone hacking, as in the six new arrests Wednesday, but on suspicion of corrupt payments to public officials, most of it on evidence provided by the MSC.
"Seriously," Cohen points out, "more journalists have been arrested in Britain this year than in Iran."
But this morning, a very reliable reporter on the Daily Mail suggested that James' testimony could be blown out of the water thanks to find among the millions of supposed deleted News International emails found on a server in India:
As expected, the appearance of James Murdoch, the Chief Executive of News International (and related to some other famous people) before the DCMS Committee today failed to produce any huge bombshells. Let's remind ourselves that the Parliamentary Committee has no real powers of subpoena, witnesses are not obliged to testify on oath, is not run by trained lawyers, and is not allowed to investigate anything that could prejudice the three ongoing police investigations.
James is smart, lawyered up, and left no hostages to fortune in terms of his evidence. Tom Watson had some stellar moments, challenging James over various contradictory testimonies, naming three or four other private investigators working for News International (adding some cryptic reference to Operation Millipede), and at least landing a rhetorical blow by calling James
'the first mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise.'.
This is partially inspired by a conversation on Labour List, the premier British Left of Centre blog, where a version of the Political Compass Test was taken by several diverse commenters.
Now most people who visit the political blogosphere know the parameters of that test: authoritarian/libertarian, socially interventionist/economically interventionist. Like Myers-Briggs, these are static and almost self fulfilling quadrants which test how much you believe in individual freedom versus social responsibility, whether in crime, foreign affairs, the economy, gun ownership or reproductive rights. We all know the tests, and probably where we come out in them.
I think that the events of the last three years make that compass profoundly irrelevant, an old paradigm which can only provide a direction in an outdated map. Follow me below the fold while I suggest that the old metrics no longer apply and we are in a new world looking for new bearings.
Yes, the Murdoch story may be flying under the mainstream media radar, but with three British police investigations ongoing, two Parliamentary committees, a televised public enquiry with full powers of subpoena starting tomorrow, a DOJ enquiry stateside, and other investigations and legal cases in the US, Australia and Italy into Newscorp anti-competitive and/or criminal behaviour, this is not about to go away any time soon.
As an early indication of this, it has just been announced that over sixty separate claims (some filed in multiple names) have been filed in the UK civil claims court against News International: these include dozens of celebrities and prominent politicians, but also the families or partners of murder victims, or casualties of other high profile incidents such as the 7/7 London bombings.
These weren't people who thrust themselves into the limelight - but people who had already been violated by some awful event, only to have their own privacy violated by illegal means by a company whose only interest was profit and using press exposure to exert political power.
Bernstein on the Watergate Analogy and the Culture of Lawlessness
If you think the Watergate analogy is hyperbolical or fanciful, don't forget it was first made by Carl Bernstein himself in The Daily Beast nearly three months ago
The circumstances of the alleged lawbreaking within News Corp. suggest more than a passing resemblance to Richard Nixon presiding over a criminal conspiracy in which he insulated himself from specific knowledge of numerous individual criminal acts while being himself responsible for and authorizing general policies that routinely resulted in lawbreaking and unconstitutional conduct. Not to mention his role in the cover-up. It will remain for British authorities and, presumably, disgusted and/or legally squeezed News Corp. executives and editors to reveal exactly where the rot came from at News of the World, and whether Rupert Murdoch enabled, approved, or opposed the obvious corruption that infected his underlings.
The parallels with Watergate... Had to do with the culture itself that made this possible. In the Nixon Whitehouse Nixon was responsible for the sensibility that permeated the place, that had to do with unconstitutional acts with a cynicism about the political process and how it was practised, and a disregard for the law. And it became apparent to me, as I read more and more what was happening here, that really at bottom what this hacking furore is about, it's about a culture in the newsroom that has nothing to do with real journalism, real reporting (which is very simply put the best obtainable version of the truth) but rather has to do with serving up both the lowest common denominator of information and calling it news, and obtaining it through a methodology which is outrageous, whether you're talking about hacking or other kinds of invasions of privacy, and that the atmosphere in that newsroom is a product of the culture that Murdoch in the News of the World .
This needs must be quick because the unofficial news has just hit the street, but for those of you who think Holder and the Department of Justice aren't taking the what Gordon Brown has called the 'criminal media nexus' seriously, Bloomberg just has this
News Corp. was sent a letter by U.S. prosecutors investigating foreign bribery, requesting information on alleged payments employees made to U.K. police for tips, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
The letter is part of an effort by the U.S. Justice Department to determine whether News Corp. violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the matter isn't public. News Corp. fell 1.7 percent on the news.
This week's testimony by News International's former lawyers and executives turned into a bit of a damp squib (executives and lawyers boring? How's that?). But with the start of the Leveson Inquiry, and further arrests by the three police teams now investigatiing phone hacking, computer hacking and corruption of police officials, there's no danger this schadenfreudefestschrift is going to go away.
So let me take this relative calm to explore British Prime Minister's David Cameron's disastrous decision to employ Andy Coulson, as his main media strategist.
It's a fascinating tale, that gives a brilliant insight into what Gordon Brown described as the 'criminal-media nexus' which explains the rise of Newscorp as the most powerful global media force.
It's been a week since my last instalment of this riveting saga of dynasty, criminality and corruption at the heart of our government, and though things haven't been playing out in the same tremendous rush of exposes - the firestorm as David Cameron called it - the phone hacking revelations at News International, and the subsequent coverup, will continue to rumble on, and explode in lightning strikes at unexpected intervals.
This is an abbreviated post-festum version of My DKos diary which - because the sessions overran for two hours - I had to abandon before it Rebakah Brooks' testimony. Much played out as I expected it - as you will see in the diary below.
Because testimony wasn't under oath, because MPs aren't trained investigators (like the forthcoming Commissions of Enquiry), and because Rupert, James and Rebekah could hide under the cloak of 'ongoing investigations, it was always bound to be a damp squib investigatively.
However it was full of drama - and even pie!
An annoying and distracting moment, like most pie fights I've seen. Fun in some way - but completely counterproductive. The real drama came from the Wizard of Oz moment.
Whether it was calculated or not (I really doubt it was calculated) the curtain was pulled on the wizard, and what we saw was a rather bumbling, angry, pompous old man used to being powerful, but when it comes to the question "Do you bear any responsibility" the answer was "Nope."
But this is important. Merely tearing the veil on the secret unaccountable power of the Murdochs is a revelation in itself. Murdoch never governed by being loved, by being charming, or by being intellectually respected: he swayed his secret powers by fear: fear of being exposed by him, salaciously, financially, politically, personally.
Now that fear has gone, the emperor has no clothes.
Full diary beyond the flip - I think, in the main, I predicted well. But Moosers, tell me what you think