Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ordering justice for Murdoch

John Bercow is the break-out star of the swirling Rupert Murdoch/News Corp. phone hacking scandal.

He’s the British Speaker of the House of Commons and the man the cameras focus on when they want to show the tumult the scandal’s wreaking on British government, media, law and society.

Bercow, 48, has been in the spotlight for bellowing, “ORD-da! ORD-da! ORD-da! ord-DA! ORRRD-daaaa!”

The first time I saw him shouting the only word I’ve ever heard him utter, I thought, “That man would be brilliant in a restaurant that discourages diners from dawdling over menu options.”


His cadence and phrasing are almost Dylanesque. Like Dylan, he can say the same two syllable-word five times and make each redundant syllable sound distinct.

Bercow’s a father of three, but I have to wonder about his parenting skills. He’s got the shouting part down perfect, but the kiddies in parliament pay him no mind.

I haven’t seen anyone so ineffectual at crowd control since Lt. Frank Drebin tried to clear sidewalk gawkers after the runaway gas truck slammed into the fireworks factory: “Move along! Nothing to see here! Nothing to see!”

Of course, there’ll be plenty to see in parliament today.

We’re witnessing the first act in a corporate de-pantsing the likes the world has never seen.

No one else on earth matches Murdoch’s level of pernicious and insidious influence on world opinion. He oversees a global corporate culture that runs on ridicule, bullying and hateful vituperation.

Without Fox News, the world would never have heard of freedom fries, terrorist fist jabs, birther movements or the $3 trillion Iraq War.

And it’s all served up with a smug sneer, the kind that let the Murdochs think this 9-year-old phone hacking scandal was behind them.

It is anything but.

“A week ago people thought this scandal might lap at Murdoch’s feet, but the waters are now over his head and his empire is at risk of submerge,” says journalist Michael Wolff, author of “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch.”

“The name Murdoch now stands for something very clear -- you hack people’s phones. And now the Murdoch brand is irrevocably tainted.”

With his reach into every level of conservative government, some are already calling this Britain’s Watergate.

That means it has the potential to be America’s Watergate II.

You could argue Murdoch’s done more to promote the conservative Republican brand in American politics than even the sainted Ronald Reagan.

Murdoch first appeared on my radar screen in 1984 when Mike Royko, the great Chicago columnist (and reason I became a writer), quit the Chicago Sun-Times after Murdoch bought it saying, “No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper. His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is power for Rupert Murdoch, political power.”

More than 27 years later, Forbes Magazine ranked him the 13th most powerful person in the world.

The unraveling begins today. Today for the first time, the Murdochs will be on the record and fact-checked in ways he’d never get on bootlick shows like Fox & Friends.

Cutthroat competitors and every enemy the Murdochs ever made -- and they are legion -- now have an opportunity to exact a revenge that’s long simmered.

And all those unblinking fair and balanced news consumers are about to learn what the rest of us have known for a long, long time.

Mr. Murdoch is of order.

And about out of time.


The Honourable Husband said...

For many years, I lived in Adelaide in South Australia. Every afternoon, a tabloid would appear on the stands, called The News, whence News Limited, News Corporaton and News International all got their names. When he inherited it from his father, Sir Keith Murdoch, Rupert used it as the first stepping stone to build his empire. For many years, the annual stockholder's meeting of the giant News International was held in the desert climate of this provincial city at the bottom of the world.

The rag was most inaptly named; little appeared in it that could be called "news". I they rejected me for a journalist cadetship, in spite of some promising published clips, saying that the ability to write was not the most important thing they looked for in a cadet.

And, yes, our local fish and chip shop used it to wrap fish.

Chris Rodell said...

Wow. There at the conception. Too bad you didn't get that cadetship. Maybe you could have exerted some influence on the young Murdoch and steered him right. The world would be better off.

Still, it's fun watching him sweat today!

The Honourable Husband said...

There at the conception? Alas, I'm not that old. Murdoch had long ceased to take interest in the paper by the time I wanted a job. But it goes to show one thing. Even if an owner does not take a hands-on role in management, he stillsets and maintains standards of corporate behaviour and mission.

John V said...

"And all those unblinking fair and balanced news consumers are about to learn what the rest of us have known for a long, long time."

You imply that the conservative public consists mostly of sheep who have already made up theirs minds and don't want to be challenged. And you are correct.

Of course, the liberal public also consists mostly of sheep who have already made up theirs minds and don't want to be challenged.

Judging by the ratings, the former is larger. And you're correct to refer to them as consumers. Murdoch sees a market and sells to it. Even if he goes down in the current scandal, the market will still exist. Fox News won't go away.

Getting back to the unblinking part - you seem to use the term disparagingly, but aren't unblinking viewers the goal of most TV programming?

I'm sure msnbc would like their viewers to stop blinking so much, because when they blink, they usually change the channel as well.

I don't know what the audio equivalent of a blink is, but Air America could have used some listeners who didn't do it.