Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch may have had shaving foam thrown at his face at a parliamentary inquiry in the UK, but it is the rest of us who have egg on our faces. Anyone hoping to see a contrite, humble and apologetic Murdoch would have been severely disappointed. He stated forthrightly that he is “not responsible” for the phone-hacking scandal that has disgraced his media empire, led to the arrests of his top executives and disgraced his company, News International. A man known as a micro-manager was suddenly claiming distance from virtually every action his company took.
Yet, despite being so willfully blind to the criminality rampant at News International, Murdoch now has the gall to claim he is the best man to clean the company up. Murdoch cannot have it both ways; he was either ignorant or culpable. It is time for him to own up to that and face the consequences. There are others who need to be questioned too, starting at the very top with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The prime minister had hired Andy Coulson, editor at the News of the World during the phone-hacking period, as his spokesman even though the scandal was in its early stages then. There is reason to believe that the political establishment in the UK turned a blind eye to News International’s shenanigans. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that Murdoch had most British politicians in his pocket. Thanks to his outsized media influence, Murdoch was able to command fealty from politicians of every ideological stripe.
That may ultimately be the chief lesson of the phone-hacking saga. Politicians and media moguls should not be in bed together. The relationship between the media and politicians should be intrinsically adversarial in nature because of the former’s primary watchdog role. Murdoch changed that on its head through his power and purse. He might escape arrest and trial, but surely his influence should now plummet. That is the very least that needs to happen for some semblance of justice to be served.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.