The fall of an empire

July 30, 2011 8:30 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Amid all the hype of the Murdoch saga, it is fascinating to see how the mighty rise and fall.

All eyes have been drawn to the shaming of the billionaire media mogul and the craven way in which leading politicians have seamlessly switched from fawning over Rupert Murdoch one moment and then attacking him for his newspapers’ appalling methods of investigation the next.

But while it can be delectable to revel in schadenfreude, let’s just remember a few things.

Murdoch bought the Sun in 1969, itself a direct derivative of the Daily Herald, and turned it into a low-grade abusive tabloid whose populism and abuse of individuals was unprecedented in its ferocity and bile – and, occasionally, humour.

Remember the “Gotcha” headline as the General Belgrano sank killing hundreds of young Argentinians?

Remember the abuse of Neil Kinnock in the 1992 election?

Remember page three and the denigration of women?

Remember the abuse of Irish people?

The list of spite is pretty long and this shameless tabloid has done a great deal to lower journalism from reporting and investigation to titillation and abuse.

A key point in this dismal downward spiral was the vicious battle of Wapping in 1986 as the Murdoch empire and police joined forces to destroy independent trade unionism in the Murdoch branch of the newspaper industry.

Anyone who doubts the intensity of that struggle 25 years ago should see the exhibition at the Marx Memorial Library in London’s Clerkenwell Green.

Although the NUJ and print unions were forced into retreat at Wapping, they stood then for what they stand for now. They were and are the bulwark of industry standards.

While both Murdochs, father and son, seem to have selective memories when it comes to what actually happened over phone-hacking and mysterious relationships with police, parliamentarians might do well to examine the distant recesses of their own memory banks.

They may recall another inglorious episode in the history of the News International/News Corporation empire.

David Swanson whose excellent recently published book War Is A Lie wrote a superb article on the Stop the War website about Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda in favour of war.

Murdoch’s media outlets, all of them, all over the world, supported every aspect of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The hyperbole knew no bounds. As Swanson points out, “The week before the world’s largest anti-war protests ever and the United Nations rejection of the Iraq war in mid-February 2003, Murdoch told a reporter that in launching a war Bush was acting ‘morally’ and ‘correctly’ while Blair was ‘full of guts’ and ‘extraordinarily courageous’.”

An astonishing choice of words at a time when Bush and Blair were adamantly claiming the existence of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

None of this was accidental.

Soon after becoming leader of the Labour Party, Blair headed off to enjoy Murdoch hospitality on a sun-kissed island to be reviewed by the Murdoch world executives team.

He passed the test with flying colours and was supported by Murdoch throughout his tenure as PM, as was John Howard in Australia and Bush in the US.

The News of the World’s phone-hacking and the news empire’s corrosive influence on politics and public life are deeply pernicious.

But it is the war hysteria, denigration of foreign cultures and support for the erosion of human rights and the war on terror that are the most appalling legacy of the Murdoch empire.

David Cameron was finally hauled before Parliament today to explain, or not, his role in the Murdoch scandal.

Twenty-six meetings with Murdoch apparatchiks in 10 months, lunches, picnics, barbecues and parties with all of the family and Rebekah Brooks do not seem to have troubled his sensitivities about the office of Prime Minister.

The same culture pervaded the higher echelons of the Metropolitan Police, but events have finally caught up with them.

But as the select committees proceedings and judicial inquiries continue, caution is vital.

Although Murdoch was forced to back off from his bid to buy up all of the shares in BSkyB, the Murdochs may well be replaced by other equally unscrupulous board members. Faceless suits will then launch another attempt at control of BSkyB and ever-expand their network.

We have a right for our information and messages not to be controlled by the amoral attitudes of megalomaniacs.

To be fed a daily diet of self-serving patriotism and aggression against other cultures and peoples leads us to where we are – at war for no purpose against poor people who just happen to live on top of oil and minerals.

The media is currently obsessing over itself.

Maybe it had to happen, but the Murdoch melee has buried many other things.

Earlier this week Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons that the army would be reduced by 17,000 and replaced by an enhanced volunteer force, on grounds of cost.

This was presented with all the expected rhetoric about the British army being the “best in the world,” with claims that “our security” was as important as ever.

When Labour MP Paul Flynn questioned the wisdom of adventures such as the Afghanistan war, he was roundly denounced by most MPs.

I questioned the need for Britain to attempt global reach when we clearly cannot afford it and was accused of being a “tiny minority” and out of touch with the reality of Britain’s position in the world.

But is it only a “tiny minority” who care about the future of the NHS? The privatisation of £1 billion of public health services was announced today on the quintessential “good day to bury bad news.”

And is it “out of touch” to be concerned about the famine in Somalia, where there is a shortage of food and medical aid because of the ongoing conflict?

None of this gained much publicity, however, and the media rapidly moved on to what it does best – reporting itself and famous names interviewing each other.

Jeremy Corbyn has been MP for Islington North since 1983

This article first appeared in the Morning Star on 21st July


Categorised in:

This post was written by Jeremy Corbyn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *