Almost more interesting than the salacious details of the criminal business model used by Rupert Murdoch's News of the World is the enthusiasm with which the virtuous old New York Times, of all publications, has thrown resources, personnel and prime front-page real estate into coverage of the scandal.
It's a little weird, even, when one considers that the Times, which likes to think of itself as the newspaper of record for the whole wide world, although it is hardly that, is a respectable American paper and the News of the World scandal, for all its delightfully sordid details, is really a just parochial and not particularly surprising little affair on a small island off the coast of Europe.
Nevertheless, the Times' online international edition last night featured two major articles on the front page, one chronicling how Murdoch's wretched weekly shook down senior police officers who tried to investigate it and the other explaining how the NOTW's depredations extended even unto the personal medical and banking information of the British prime minister and the location of cellular phones used by the Royal Family.
The Times seems to have assigned at least five reporters to the affair!
Enterprising readers seeking an explanation to this unwholesome interest by the newspaper of the mid-Atlantic Establishment can find a good one on the Counterpunch.org website, where British-born journalist Alexander Cockburn provided this tidbit over the weekend: "There’s nothing like competitive pressures to prompt an editor, or a publisher, to call for the knuckle-dusters. … It was Murdoch's takeover of the Wall Street Journal in 2007 and vows to knock the New York Times off its perch that prompted the Times … to run last September a very long, closely reported story on the News of the World hacking scandal, which helped breathe life back into the story."
This rather brings the Times' current fascination with this sordid tale into perspective, don't you think?
Cockburn goes on to suggest that some of the same illicit investigative techniques may have been used by Murdoch's American publications. But whether they were or not is really irrelevant. Murdoch is done like dinner, regardless.
This is not so obvious yet, judging from the skittish tone of the coverage anywhere but in the Times and on a few lefty blog sites. After all, media reporters are made nervous by a man like Murdoch, whom they have good reason to fear in many countries.
Moreover, the media is unused to the idea of the unwholesomely rich getting into trouble with the authorities for anything other than the usual Hollywood drug and alcohol fuelled excesses of prostitution, racist ranting, inappropriate sex and the occasional poolside slaying.
But they will pile on soon enough. The Establishment is still the Establishment, after all, and the Establishment brooks no challenges. If the Queen of England, for heaven's sake, does not define the Establishment, who does?
In a perverse way, observing all this from the bottom of the heap, it is hard not to admire the Australian-born media mogul's willingness to take on the most powerful people in society. But it is said here that he will pay a steep price for his cheek. It will be more serious than merely being told he can't buy a profitable TV network he wants to get his hooks into.
When the truly powerful are finished with Murdoch -- if he survives, he is 80, after all -- he will envy the fate of Conrad Black!
How are the mighty fallen!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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