THE MURDOCH SCANDAL – THEIR MEDIA AND OURS
This article was published in Irish Socialist Worker, August 2011.
There are a moments when a single event, like a flash of lightning, illuminates the sky and reveals the whole landscape below which previously remained hidden in the dark. Such is the News of the World phone hacking scandal which has engulfed Rupert Murdoch and his whole News Corporation media empire. And what a landscape it has revealed!
Across the world we live in societies dominated and run by a small minority of their population. This ruling minority is not a tiny handful, some secret conspiratorial committee, but a definite social class consisting of the very rich, the industrialists, the bankers, the financiers, the generals, the judges, the police chiefs and so on – together they make up maybe one, at most two, per cent of the population.
This class, which has a common interest in boosting profits, exploiting working people and defending capitalism, masks it domination through a division of labour. It spreads its members out through a variety of institutions which are claimed to be independent of each other.
The judges are independent. The police are independent. The politicians are independent. The state broadcasting corporation ( BBC or RTE) are independent. The civil service is independent. The editors of newspapers are independent. The Committees of Inquiry, headed by independent judges, are independent. And they are all non-political except the politicians.
Moreover they all check and balance each other so that no one individual group or faction gets too much power, and everything is fair and democratic.
What the phone hacking scandal lit up was the murky world of the interconnections that, in practice, link all these institutions together. And what a murky world it is – key establishment figures left with hardly a fig leaf to cover their shame. ‘Tyrants, hypocrites, liars!’ at Patrick Pearse described a previous generation of the British ruling class.
As the Timeline shows below , the core of the scandal is simply that journalists working for Rupert Murdoch routinely illegally tapped peoples phones. The scandal started to come out when they were caught hacking the phone of a member of the Royal Family. It exploded when it emerged they had hacked the phone of child murder victim, Milly Dowler – that was too horrible to spin or sweep under the carpet.
As the scandal unravelled, however, it became clear that they were all in it together – Britain’s top politicians, top police and top media producer. They were all politically and socially connected. Cameron had numerous private meetings with Murdoch and was a neighbour and friend, and they all protected each other, much the same as America protects its puppet dictators like Hosni Mubarak, until the last possible moment, quite regardless of any considerations of morality or decency.
We need to understand there is nothing unusual about this. It is how the system works.
In Ireland Charley Haughey resigned over a phone tapping scandal , and was corruptly linked to Ben Dunne and AIB . Bertie Aherne was up to his neck in it with Haughey, like Brian Cowan with Seanie Fitzpatrick and Michael Lowry with Denis O’Brien, who with Tony O’Reilly controls most of this country’s media.
Some commentators, like David McWilliams,have said this is ‘crony capitalism’ not ‘real’ capitalism. It’s not, it is how capitalism operates in the real world from Texas to Beijing. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were also linked to Murdoch, George Bush and Dick Cheney were linked to the oil industry.
Capitalism oozes corruption like an athlete oozes sweat, for the simple reason that it is a system driven, first and last, by profit and ruled, not just by rotten individuals, but by a class which owns and controls the means of production and, on that basis, dominates economically, politically and ideologically.
At the same time the scandal also shows that our rulers are not all powerful. They are beset by contradictions and rivalries among themselves and they fear the people. Faced with exposure and potential revolt they retreat and discard subordinates , Coulson here and Brooks there, to preserve those at the top. Faced with serious revolt or revolution, as in Egypt, they will even sacrifice those at the very top to save the system. But they can be beaten.
While every corrupt scalp taken is a step forward it is the system itself, capitalism, that has to be uprooted. And for this working people and socialists need our own media.
This is because the mainstream media is not only self-serving, dishonest and corrupt but also systematically promotes a pro- capitalist view of the world – a view which absolutely takes it for granted that production has to be organised for profit, that ‘the markets’ have to be kept happy, and that ‘entrepreneurs’ i.e. capitalists are the real wealth creators.
We need a newspaper, like Socialist Worker, which reports on and reflects the struggles of working people – their strikes, demonstrations, campaigns and uprisings, here and in other countries – in a way RTE and the Evening Herald will never do.
But the paper has to do more than just record what is happening; it has also to develop and communicate an alternative anti-capitalist, socialist world view. It has to expose the evils of capitalism but also explain how the system works. It has to fight against reactionary ideas that can divide the workers’ movement, like racism, sexism and homophobia and champion the oppressed such as travellers and refugees, who the capitalist media like to scapegoat.
It has to serve as the memory of the working class, preserving the history of our class’s past struggles such as the Paris Commune, the Dublin Lock-Out, the Russian Revolution , and the workers’ councils in Ireland during the War of Independence – a history which would otherwise be ignored and forgotten. It has to arm its readers with the political arguments to counter the propaganda of the politicians and make the case for a socialist alternative.
It also has to act as an organiser of the workers’ movement, bringing groups of workers together, building solidarity and resistance to the system on every front.Finally it has to serve as a kind of scaffolding, within which a workers’ socialist organisation, a party of the working class, is constructed and grows.
Of course other media – Facebook, Twitter , You Tube, film etc – all can and should be used for these purposes too, but the paper remains key because of the way selling it enables socialists to interact with the workers movement and other working people on a face-to-face basis.
TIMELINE OF THE SCANDAL
2000 – News of the World (NoW) editor, Rebekah Brooks , launches campaigns against paedophiles and for public access to the Sex Offenders Register (known as Sarah’s Law after murdered 8 year old, Sarah Payne).
2002 – Schoolgirl Milly Dowler murdered.
2003 - Brooks moves to The Sun . Andy Coulson becomes editor of NoW. Brooks admits to a parliamentary committee that she paid the police for information. News International says this is ‘not company practice’.
2005 –NoW runs story about Prince William’s injured knee, based on intercepted phone messages.Royal officials complain and the police investigate.
2006-7 - NoW Royal Editor, Clive Goodman and private investigator , Glen Mulcaire are arrested for hacking royal phones and, after guilty pleas, are jailed for four and six months respectively. Andy Coulson resigns as editor but says he knew nothing.
May 2007 - Coulson becomes Conservative Party Director of Communications under David Cameron.
2008 - News International pais Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association £700,000 to settle phone hacking claim,
2009 - Brooks becames CEO of News International . It emerges that NoW reporters, with knowledge of senior staff, hacked the phones of celebrities and politicians while Coulson was editor from 2003 to 2007 and that the company had paid out more than £1 million to settle phone hacking cases. Scotland Yard announced it would NOT be carrying out a new investigation into the allegations.
NoW editor Colin Myler, Coulson (again) and Les Hinton (Chair of Dow Jones and Murdoch’s right hand man) all deny evidence of phone hacking beyond the one case that had come to court. The Press Complaints Commission accepts this.
2010 - In January House of Commons Media Committee says it was inconceivable that the NoW management didn’t know about phone hacking, but in May Coulson becomes Director of Communications for new Con-Dem government .
Accusations of hacking pile up, from actress Sienna Miller (who wins a settlement of £100,000), MP George Galloway, Union leader Bob Crow, former Deputy PM John Prescott, MP Chris Bryant, footballer Ryan Giggs and journalist Brendan Montague.
December 2010 - Crown Prosecution Service says there will be no more prosecutions and Cameron continues to defend Coulson despite calls for his resignation by Prescott and others