News of the World Scandal: “The Murdochs Have Lost Control of Events” (Updated)

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For those of us on the wrong side of the pond, it’s hard to appreciate the significance of the News of the World scandal. A 2009 investigation of this News Corp tabloid for interceptions of messages to royal aides led to a private investigator and a News of the World employee being convicted and sentenced to prison. The current scandal centers on the paper hacking into the voice mailboxes of over 2000 individuals. Sources allege the victims include Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury secretary) George Osborne.

But the event that galvanized opinion, as most readers know now, was the hacking into the phone and deleting messages of a girl who was abducted and murdered in 2002, Milly Dowler. The removal of the messages allowed the voicemailbox, which had been full, to take more messages, all for the purpose of getting more juicy messages from her desperate friends and relatives, at the ghoulish cost of giving them the false hope that she had deleted them and was therefore still alive.

And Dowler may not be the only case of this sordid conduct. As the Independent reported yesterday:

The Labour MP Tom Watson claimed last week that the NOTW hacked the phones of the parents of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the children murdered at Soham in 2002.

The fact that Rupert Murdoch decided to shutter the News of the World, a profitable paper, in a frantic act of amputation, shows how desperate the media mogul is to regain command of events. Rupert and his son James, the News Corp. deputy chief operating officer, appear determined to save Rebekah Brooks, the head of News International and editor of the paper when the Dowler hacking took place. Almost anyone else would have purged staff, including Brooks, and kept the paper.

One has to wonder whether Rupert Murdoch is not trying just to salvage Brooks’ career, but also that of his son. Initially commentary on the closure of the paper hailed it as a brilliant gambit, but cooler heads beg to differ. The Financial Times, which has this fiasco as its lead story in its US edition, intoned:

Rupert Murdoch has sacrificed the News of the World in a desperate attempt to cauterise a crisis at his $46bn global media empire, as his son admitted personal fault in handling the escalating phone hacking scandal at the British tabloid newspaper.

Even though the immediate motivation may also have been to keep it pending transaction to take full control of $12 billion satellite broadcaster BSkyB, on track, the tone of the FT piece was that that expectation, which seemed a certainty a mere day ago, was looking remote:

Before the Thursday afternoon announcement, Jeremy Hunt, culture secretary, had been expected to delay until September his verdict on whether to allow News Corp’s pursuit of BSkyB to proceed, after being deluged with 100,000 submissions on the deal.

Felix Salmon argues that the paper was fatally tarnished and the crisis management disastrously inept. But the latter is what produced the former. And SturdyBlog contends, contra Felix. that shuttering News of the World without doing a full bore housecleaning was insufficient:

His gamble was calculated to prevent cross-contamination of his other brands and, most crucially, to keep the proposed BSkyB takeover dry. I think he has failed in two significant ways:

Firstly, he has created an army of as many as 200 disgruntled whistle-blowers. The hope that not a single editor or journalist will have come across a document or email which implicates those responsible is naive. Watch out for leak after leak and revelation after revelation.

Secondly, he has removed the physical target for the public’s anger, without removing the guilty parties. The inevitable result is that the public’s anger will be directed upwards to News International – the organisation which now seeks to shelter the guilty. And they are guilty. Which ever way one looks at the matter they are guilty. At best they are guilty of gross incompetence – if one were to accept their ludicrous argument that they had no idea of the systemic immoral and illegal practices which took place under their watchful eye. At worst, they are the source of the infection.

Now to the significance. It’s difficult for Americans, with our craven and diminished press, to comprehend how much power the Murdoch empire wields in Britain. From Bob Garfield at the Guardian:

The extraordinary thing from this vantage is to see the Great Transatlantic Paradox dissolve before our eyes. To wit: in the US, because his properties are such loud and shrill voices of rightwing politics, Murdoch has long been demonised as a press baron in the worst sense. In the Hearst sense, the Pulitzer sense, the Charles Foster Kane sense. Yet, he isn’t that at all, in these parts. In the US, he inflames zealots but has no measurable influence on anyone else, least of all institutions of power. He may well have the house organ of the Republican party, but by no means is the tail wagging the elephant.

In the UK, though, where prime ministers and MPs of both parties, the press and even the police have cowered under his influence for more than 30 years, he was – until this week – demonised hardly at all. He was the Teflon Oligarch. Only now, amid universal sympathy for the family of a murdered child, have the hitherto craven and cowed coalesced to fight back. Only now is Murdoch being held accountable for decades of ethical bankruptcy, including not mere wiretapping and bribery, but three political generations of influence-peddling and who knows what?

It is Fleet Street’s answer to the Arab Spring. In this drama, poor Milly Dowler is Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation unleashed decades of pent-up rage. What remains to be seen is whether Murdoch, like strongman Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, will quickly lose his power – or whether he will quickly tamp down protest, à la Saudi King Abdullah. Or must we now endure media Libya?

A video by Nick Davies of the Guardian, who broke the critical elements of this story, will help American readers get up to speed not just on the background of this story but on its political significance (hat tip Buzz Potamkin).

Note this video was recorded before it was reported that a News of the World correspondent, Andy Coulson, is to be arrested today, and that a second, unnamed writer is expected to be arrested in the next few days. And in a further twist, Coulson was, until January, director of communications for the current Prime Minister.

The video below, of 2007 and 2009 investigations (hat tip Buzz Potamkin), shows some of the principals, including Brooks, Coulson (who interrupts her in the first clip), Les Hinton (who is now running the Wall Street Journal), Yates, who ran the now discredited 2009 Scotland Yard investigation (apparently not paid off formally, but too many lavish News International lunches), and head of law Tom Crone (as Buzz Potamkin notes, “Ever see a lawyer perjure himself?”)

You have to click through to see it; the Guardian did not provide embed code.

Although it does not (yet?) involve a sitting national executive, I suspect this investigation is going to command as much attention in England as the Watergate hearings did here. So it’s worth learning the names of the dramatis personae and the backstory so you can appreciate the twists and turns of this evolving affair, particularly since it does have the potential to become a turning point. Sturdyblog again:

The truth is Rupert Murdoch’s empire is a product of our times; a Thatcherite dream of entrepreneurship. Capitalism is a primarily male construct and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is preoccupied with size. What the last few days prove is something that a significant and growing school of political and economic science has been arguing: size presents opportunities for efficiencies and economies of scale and scope, up to a point. Beyond that point it produces crude oil cartels that price-fix; banks that are too big to fail; corporations that hoard food securities to the detriment of the starving; telecom giants that refuse to pay tax; media conglomerates which bribe officials for information and openly state that they control the outcomes of elections. In short, entities so large as to think they can operate outside ordinary ethical and legal constraints.

It is up to us to stop them. And the biggest, the most gloriously positive lesson of the last few days is this: With a few gutsy politicians like Chris Bryant and Tom Watson, a few driven journalists, a few doggedly determined bloggers and a public that is sick to the back teeth of being treated like idiots, we can.

Update 5:30 AM: BBC reports that Prime Minister David Cameron will appoint a judge to head the inquiry into the News of the World phone hacking scandal. This greatly increases the odds of a serious investigation.

Update 6:00 AM: The FT reports that Cameron said that James Murdoch should have accepted Brooks’ resignation (which she tendered twice this last week). Cameron used to be thick with her.

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  1. vlade

    Killing NotW may prove the stupidest move Murdoch could have done – but, I believe, at the same time, the only one he could think of given the world he believes in.
    As pointed out, it creates MORE than 200 people (there’s quite a few freelancers and contractors who got most income from NotW) very unhappy with NI (apparently, Brooks offered to resign, to which NotW newsroom went “We accept!”). All it takes is one disgruntled IT contractor who downloads the whole email archive.
    Moreover, everyone and their dog outside NI will be painting it as a cynical attempt to distract the public opinion (something Murdoch is very good at – but harder if everyone’s looking for it). They will (as some already are) pointing out, that a newspaper with no advertisers and no readers is something he would close anyways.
    The interesting thing is whether it will spread to The Sun – that would be an irrepaprable damage to Murdoch in the UK.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      One point I neglected to mention is that Murdoch will now run a Sunday edition of the Sun, presumably to recapture NOTW’s franchise. He may offer (or at least out hold the possibility of) employment out to the NOTW workers, which would keep them in line. But you are right, all it takes is one former staffer with access to damaging information to do a lot of harm.

      1. MRW


        I don’t know where I read it in the last day, but according to the press account, by shuttering NOTW’s doors — and there was a word used to describe it that escapes me now — Murdoch can get his records ditched. It has to do with the process of ending a business in England in the way that he is doing it. The records are tossed, because there is no reason for a government official to hang onto them.

        It was said in this article that this was why Murdoch wanted NOTW out of the way before any investigation began. He can legally claim there is nothing to search through. If I find the article again, I’ll tack a link on here.

          1. andrew

            They’re reporting tonight that the police are going to investigate allegations that News International destroyed the whole email archive a year ago, just as the investigation was starting up.

    2. Everyman

      Killing the NotW was shrewd rather than stupid – and dead square for someone only interested in the bottom line. The mass desertion of advertisers well underway would have financially crippled the paper even without the likely readership backlash. Murdoch was merely shooting a crippled racehorse without the slightest sentimentality over its successes on the track, the kudos it brought him and the love the public had for it.

      As for the Sun, it will after a barely decent interval become a seven-day paper with “The Sun on Sunday” rummaging through the NotW’s abandoned wardrobe and picking out all the garments and trinkets it fancies.

      It’s likely Murdoch’s clever ploy will blind-side all the dough-brained politicians but it remains to be seen if the British public will fall for it.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        You need to read up on the Tylenol scandal. It’s possible for really good disaster management (which includes being willing to Do The Right Thing, something utterly alien to Murdoch) to repair a tarnished brand. But that would have meant taking decisive action much earlier.

        If they had really cleaned up in 2007-2009 (which would mean among other things probably ditching Brooks back then) NOTW might have survived. It could credibly have been presented as an act of previous, discarded management.

      2. vlade

        I have seen only one response so far that even considered demise of NotW as at least partial remedy (apart from the people who wanted NotW dead on principle).
        If Brooks (and anyone in position of authority at NotW at the time of hacking) was fired last week, Murdoch would have been in so much better position – this was a transparen attempt, and if SoS will appear in any form or shape this year, it’s going to effectively re-open the case (indeed, if Murdoch will start a new Sunday paper at any time this decade, other newspapers will run first-pages on how he’s trying to reinvent NotW & get the whole story back again).

        Labour and Liberals already entered the fray (and by the update, Torries, however relucatntly, might have done so as well) – and the whole thing here with Murdoch is that once you do that, there’s no way back if you want to survive. As a matter of fact, the battle-lines now are such that any politician that would even seem to try would get slammed in polls (which is why we had the apologies from Cameron).

        There would be nothing on Earth that would help Murdoch should something appear that would indicate that (for example) he was protecting Brooks because she knew more nasties on him & his empire. He could wave goodbye to BSkyB, and I’d not be suprised if he was facing shareholder revolt (not a voting one, but a selling one – 60% of NewsCorp is institutional, and if say the UK funds started going even partially the way advertisers did…).

        Is it a likely outcome? I don’t think so, at this stage. But bombing NotW out of existence w/o Brooks going didn’t really change that much – and I believe it even pinpointed the problem more.

  2. Anon

    The Metropolitan Police Service (London area police force) is up to its neck in this as well:

    Corrupting serving police officers?

    Rendering convictions of murder victims unsafe? (Will the Dowler family, among others, now have to go through the horror of a retrial?)

    Perjury in the Tommy Sheridan case (Coulson, Bird and Wight, all NoTW employees testified that phone hacking hadn’t happened)?

    Where does it end? Not with the closure of one scummy newspaper, that’s for sure.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      That’s one thing I’m not certain of in the 2007 and 2009 investigations. They lied, but was it sworn testimony? If no oath was taken, technically it is not perjury. But it sure does stink.

      1. the.Duke.of.URL

        Coulson lied under oath to a Glasgow court. And paying money to policemen is illegal as is aiding and abetting it. Emails showed that he is guilty of perjury, although his Tory friends are saying that he didn’t say that he aided and abetted giving money to ‘corrupt’ cops, which is oxymoronic.

        Brooks admitted to a Parliament select committee that she was aware that money was provided to police for information. In the Dowler case, it may well be that deletion of the emails constitutes interfering with the course of justice. The police contend that the killer may have left a message.

        The icing on this particularly squalid cake is that the family of the deceased were treated disgustingly in the court room by both the psychopathic killer and his defense team, more than was required to get at the truth. They complained about their treatment in court publically after the verdict and this has inflamed the debate surrounding the hacking.

        It may be the case that Brooks is being used as a shield for James. but James himself doesn’t care for print, really only being interested in digital media and its amazing profits. The profit difference between NoW and Sky is in the billions.

        1. Anon

          Senior News International thought to have deleted million-strong NoTW email archive, aka perverting the course of justice:

          News International originally claimed that the archive of emails did not exist. Last December, its Scottish editor, Bob Bird, told the trial of Tommy Sheridan in Glasgow that the emails had been lost en route to Mumbai. Also in December, the company’s solicitor Julian Pike from Farrer and Co provided the high court with a statement claiming that it was unable to retrieve emails which were more than six months old…

          … on 23 March this year, Pike formally apologised to the high court and acknowledged that News International could locate emails as far back as 2005 and that no emails had ever been lost en route to Mumbai or anywhere else in India. In a signed statement seen by the Guardian, Pike said he had been misinformed by the News of the World’s in-house lawyer, Tom Crone, who had told him that he, too, had been misled. He offered no explanation for the misleading evidence given by Bob Bird.

    2. Richard Kline

      Yes, I’ll second Anon here. While many of the individual hacks of this scandal are reprehensible, it’s the scope and intent now being dragged into public view in rotting chuncks which most profoundly appalls. The phones of the Prime Minister and his chief of staff were hacked; those of sitting senior judges; of senior defense appointees _and_ serving senior officers. That’s balls, but having it all out puts ones own in a cinch. And it’s clear there was a comprehensive, enduring system of bribing police officers for tips and leads, probably thousands of them. Don’t tell me that this wasn’t known to the editors of the NoTW.

      —But wait, it’s not conceivable that Murdoch himself didn’t know. He’s in daily contact with his editors on what goes on the sheet, and many of the great scoops of that fine organ had to have had their sources in pay-for-play and shadow-filching; no other sources. To me, this is what the rush to close the paper was about. The real fear is that somebody is going to sing that a Murdoch sat in a room when the sources were discussed, and did nothing to end it (at the very least). This may be part of why Brooks isn’t being pushed: she has the two real spheres of Rupert’s power on a block with her tongue for a blade, and he’d better keep her happy going to and coming from the pokey if he doesn’t want to sing in a higher key come the day. The pressure for him to be prosecuted and/or banned from UK media may well reach megaton levels, which will doubtless put the legions of soiled politicos utterly beholden to him in an agonizing position, being clutched between the investigation and his crepuscular corpus as their sorry little tokuses will doubtless be the more this goes on.

      And David Cameron, tight with Mrs. Brooks nee Wade? They only went horseback riding together. Don’t be surprised if his career doesn’t survive this menage a mille, either. Watergate does strike me as a fitting comparison, and long overdue. Cameron Agonistes! coming to a pixelplasm near you.

      Murdoch, Ink. is exactly the kind of monstrosity that Thatcherism was designed to midwife, as it were. Well, in the UK they’ve got Frankenstein’s Eraserhead got up over them, so not let’s see what they make of it all. Roast beast, one hopes.

      1. Anon

        If the editors are saying they didn’t know about the hacking, they are incompetent boobs.

        Anyone who has worked in journalism for even five minutes knows that claim is bullshit. The editor is in everyone’s face, every minute of every day, that’s in the job description.

        Hugh Grant (!) went undercover to glean inside info from a former NoTW staffer who now runs a pub (*hic*) in Dover.

        Staffer suggested PM David Cameron knew as well. This one is going to run and run.

  3. pegnu

    “Capitalism is a primarily male construct”

    while I respected your wonderful coverage of the financial crisis, you are losing that goodwill by publishing rubbish from blogs such as Washington’s Blog and now this nonsense. WTF does this statement even mean?

    “he [Murdoch] was – until this week – demonised hardly at all”

    Only someone who doesn’t follow or understand UK politics would claim this. This is simply not true.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think you protest too much And I’m quoting Sturdyblog and the Guardian. I suggest you read more closely.

      Capitalism, and economics generally, do happen to be male dominated. Look at how many female Clark medal and Nobel economists are female, as well as CEOs and board members. I suspect you see an even heavier skewing towards male CEOs in the Inc 500. I’m not a fan, but that is how it seems to break.

      1. pegnu

        Sure, I know you are quoting other websites. But you chose what you quote and I stand by my criticism of these quotes.

        It depends what you mean by “capitalism” – if you mean people making, buying and selling things to each other and generally getting on with their lives without some kind of central state control – I don’t see what is inherently “male” about that. It is something humans have been doing for all of written history with some exceptions.

        But I accept your criticism of our modern political and social elite.

        However none of this has anything to do with this scandal at the NOTW.

      2. pegnu

        even more amusing about the “Capitalism is a primarily male construct” quote is that is was directly preceded by claiming it was a Thatcherite dream. Also one of the main protagonists in this scandal, Rebekah Brooks, is a woman. Why do people think women would be any better or worse than men? To think either is surely in itself part of the problem.

        1. LeeAnne

          Ms Brooks is a minion for Murdoch. How is she an example for your argument that male dominance and obsession with penis size are unrelated to size as power? -as in weapons and rocket design for that matter.

          no, men are only obsessed with breast size and shape, not as for feeding babies, the children of the world, but as toys for their pleasure -couldn’t be a projection of obsession with their own genital size -well hidden and remarked upon only at the risk of breaking a taboo -enforced by males.

          no, for men, its the size of their portfolios, the reach of their control, and their toys.

          1. Dave of Maryland

            The successful man dominates the world.

            The successful woman picks her man and rides him.

            Takes both kinds.

          2. pws4

            “The successful woman picks her man and rides him.”

            I think I know what you mean, and I do love it quite a bit when my wife does that, but is it quite pertinent to the discussion here?

          3. LeeAnne

            there’s nothing prejudicial about noticing that men make the deals -the majority of the deals, not women. Men insist on their right to run things without the input of women, claiming that women lack whatever attributes are required to be included in equal numbers in the goofy decisions they make for the rest of us in all areas of our lives.

            Where are the women making decisions on individual nuclear plants? It may take a rocket scientist to create the technology; it certainly appears to take nothing but a bunch of fools to decide how and where that technology should be used as well as for all the important decisions affecting our lives and the lives of our children and children’s children.

          4. psychohistorian

            I am glad to see this sort of discussion of the concept of capitalism.

            Capitalism as people currently understand it represents the male dominant status of our current culture.

            It is competitive in ways that, if influenced by women, there would be more cooperation.

            It is long term immoral in ways that, if influenced by women, would be forced to consider the future of humanity more.

            Can and are we going to get there from here? One can only hope.

        2. readerOfTeaLeaves

          Why do people think women would be any better or worse than men? To think either is surely in itself part of the problem.

          There’s a lot of testosterone in very competitive parts of the economy. Rebekah Brooks happens to be female, but she appears to be an anomaly in the News Corp org chart. It’s a safe bet she’s protecting James, but we’ll see what continues to unravel. This would be the James who basically wrote checks to shut people up.

          Meanwhile, among other juicy bits that you seem to be unaware, the remarkable Mr. Nicholas Shaxson in his “Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens” explains one ‘competitive advantage’ that News Corp used to get an economic advantage: tax havens. Shaxson quotes one person who observes that Rupert, et al, have basically given a big accounting “F&#k you” to every nation state in which it does business, and has mastered the use of tax havens and offshoring.

          In his book, Shaxson lists some real tax haven kings:
          Citigroup (427 tax haven subsidiaries, of which 290 in the British system)
          Morgan Stanley (273 subsidiaries, of which 220 in British system)
          News Corp, 152 tax haven subsidiaries, of which 140 are in the British zone

          Thatcherism and neoclassical economics have enabled vast economic structures with no accountability to any local region or group of politicians. How do you get elected politicians to basically stiff their own employees and the communities where they do business? Well, one way would be to hold them hostage by collecting the data from their cell phones.

          It’s about aggressively avoiding social responsibilities, while skimming profits and then screwing the people paying for your goods and services.

          Shaxson also provides a fascinating psychological profile of the thought processes of people who work within, support, and are ideologues on behalf of offshoring: they tend to be what most observers would call ‘fundamentalists’ in the economic sense. They also appear to be aligned with what would be called ‘macho’ styles of doing things.

          You are missing some mighty juicy bits, and this has enormous implications.

        3. Binky the perspicacious bear

          Thatcher was pretty butch.
          Totally feeds into the barely suppressed homoeroticism of American conservatives who oppose homosexuality because it turns them on so much.
          Also a lot of elements of sadomasochism in the Thatcher mythology-the “Iron Lady,” the wire frame mean mommy that has the bottle from the chimp experiments.

      3. pws4

        It’s true that capitalism is male dominated, but I don’t think that’s why capitalists are obsessed with bigness.

        The reality is that even in relatively less corrupt capitalist economies, the small fish get eaten by the big fish. If you want to survive as a capitalist entity versus monopolies, cartels and monopsonies you have to be big.

        Of course, in our economy (and apparently the British economy) where there is a fire sale on public officials, a big company can use the State as a hammer against it’s opponents. If you want to be able to breath easy, you’d better be big.

        Big also makes it easier to extract monopoly and other rent from the economy.

      4. Is This Really Necessary In 2011?

        So you hide behind quoting others to post rubbish? And this is supposed to absolve you of the prejudicial nature of the quotations?

        There are obvious parallels to be made with quoting other sources regarding the well-known laziness of some racial groups and other ignorant prejudicial statements, but discussing those would dilute the point.

        If you are going to expound misandrist views, at least have the moral integrity to do so directly.

        Now I recall why I stopped reading this site regularly several months ago. Insulting one half of the population will not get you very far, especially if you do not have the minimum level of integrity to do so without hiding behind others.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          If you didn’t notice, I’m female and don’t find the quotes objectionable, so I find it rather funny that you accuse me of offending women. Other women on this thread don’t share your tender sensibilities (see LeeAnn and ReaderofTeaLeaves above). So you are making a large claim (that all women would find the comment insulting) not supported by the evidence.

          I’ve worked my entire career in male dominated settings (Japan; investment banking, M&A in particular; later consulting to financial services players, including derivatives traders and private equity fund, and very wealthy individuals [Forbes 400 members]). All the real players were male. I’ve never had a woman client in my entire 30+ years in business. I’ve been where the rubber hits the road. If you don’t like unvarnished descriptions of how the world works, I suggest you need to get more in touch with who has really has power, and it most assuredly is not women. You are shooting the messenger and that isn’t useful.

          Really, grow up. Overdoing PC backfires on the people you are trying to protect. It makes them sound like whiners.

          I’d rather fight about real issues, like why there are so few women in positions of power, and how in groups protect these privileges, than cavil about an opinion writer theorizing about why men in leadership positions act in ways that I like to call “conquestial”.

          1. Cedric Regula

            “I’ve been where the rubber hits the road.”

            I hope that’s not really true…

          2. readerOfTeaLeaves

            Thank you, Yves.
            It’s interesting that the commenter presumed ‘Capitalism is a male construct’ was intended as a slam.
            Some things just ‘are’, and if you don’t try to analyze them then however can you try to understand them in the slightest. I hadn’t read it as a slam.

            Although, I do admit, I have long given up hope in truly understanding the males in my life 8-p
            Then again, they claim the same of me, so it comes out even. We are all endlessly confused ;-)

          3. Yves Smith Post author


            I’ve reread the comment in question and I beg to differ. The bit about ” Insulting one half of the population will not get you very far” can only be construed as an attack of PC on behalf of women. I have yet to run across a man who took offense at the idea that men have been the driving force behind capitalism. Until VERY recently, the demands of child rearing and housework made women non-participants in the overwhelming majority of cases. Women now have more choices, primarily due to home appliances considerably reducing the amount of effort involved in housework and improved contraception (and of course the women’s rights movement producing pressure for greater hiring of women).

            And like it or not, can you find ANY female analogues to Murdoch or Bill Gates, even on a lesser scale? Even very successful business women (think Oprah) don’t exhibit the same level of what one might call competitive aggression. Now I think more of that is nurture rather than nature (this commonly touted blather about women being inherently more consensus oriented or nurturing makes me want to vomit, since that stereotype too often serves as an excuse to keep them out of positions where toughmindedness is required), but cultural forces are VERY powerful. And unless you are willing to acknowledge their existence, you can’t change them.

            BTW, in rereading I see I overlooked an explicit attack on my integrity, (“especially if you do not have the minimum level of integrity to do so without hiding behind others”) as well as a straw man that the reason for my inclusion of that bit of Sturdyblog was primarily to make some sort of genderist dig. Attacking the character of anyone who writes here (meaning the guest bloggers as well as yours truly) is grounds for banning (this is official comments policy, I’ve referred to this in the past). This is a private, hosted space and I see no reason to indulge ingrates spitting at the people who provide content at no cost to readers.

      5. the.Duke.of.URL

        As for Murdoch pere’s demonization, it does depend on who you speak to as it were. Some have demonized him, others have not. As far as I am concerned, Murdoch turned what was one of the greatest newspapers in the world, the Sunday Times under Harold Evans with its Insight team, into a pallid version of its former self. The NoTW seems to have gone from being “only salacious” to being incredibly sleazy under Murdoch’s ownership.

  4. Kevin Smith

    GREAT post!~
    Excellent video of Nick Davies — thanks for finding that.

    It is worth noting that the royal family [notably Prince Edward] were the first to really take on the Murdoch’s and their phone hacking.

    If the royals had not broken this story and started the breaking of the Murdochs, and the jailing of a couple of Murdoch retainers, this cancer in British society might still be growing.

    1. the.Duke.of.URL

      It wasn’t the royal family that brought this scandal to the attention of the public but the Guardian which has been hammering on about this for years. The royal family among others only began to protest when they were told that they had been hacked by the police or suspected that they had been after others had been told this.

  5. LeeAnne

    It was inevitable that the dark powers would turn on each other. Let the games begin. Who knew it would begin here with Murdoch.

    Murdoch, and whomever is responsible for this anti anti-trust foreigner on the loose over information in the US as gatekeeper between professional journalism and the people belong on the same rung of hell all together now.

  6. Mea Culpa

    Might that include recent massiveUS,Canadian regulations, ISP surveillance and new tech companies?

  7. dearieme

    Murdoch had too much influence in Thatcher’s time, but that influence grew preposterously in Blair’s. You have to remember that Blair’s kitchen cabinet was dominated by a thuggish former pornographer with a backgound in the Daily Mirror, owned by the crooked Labour MP Bob Maxwell – so that tabloid standards were rampant then. The Brown circle was also sleazy – Damian McBride was the main name there – and Cameron has employed Murdoch’s man Coulson. After that dreadful three-in-a-row I’d welcome back a Thatcher in a second – at least she had lots of backbone and a clean press office!

  8. Sungam

    Just as a quick point, I wouldn’t be too disparaging of the US print media. At least they suspend and reprimand Reporters who fabricate or plagiarise stories.

    Last week we had another (much smaller) newspaper scandal breaking when Johann Hari’s lies and plagiarisms at the Independent came to light. Senior management closed ranks around him and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. Some pointed comparison with Jayson Blair, formerly of the NYT, were made…

    1. Heavy Armor

      But J. Blair was the sacrificial lamb to make it look like the NYT was doing ‘something.’ Judith Miller’s Front Page stenography of the Cheney Administration’s Iraq War ramp-up was met with…nothing from NYT management.

    2. Jim


      All we get is SPIN in our newspapers and on our televisions. More often than not, it is SPIN on anything important to the special interests.

  9. aeolius

    Of course on this of the pond, our medium is TV. And that evil empire has Fox as its tongue. It would be folly to assume that dirty tricks was restricted to the UK.

  10. Sufferin' Succotash

    If Davies is right about the ongoing police investigation, then some News International employees or ex-employees won’t be just disgruntled–they’ll be shit-scared. In that case, look for some of them to walk into Scotland Yard and start talking.
    Butter on your popcorn?

  11. Schofield

    Rupert Murdoch’s use of his companies for the purposes of hacking individuals e-mail and voicemail accounts for the purposes of content for his media and possible blackmail together with bribery of the police illustrates a very real problem with human natures. We badly need to wake up to the paradoxical evolutionary fact that as a species we are “hard-wired” to select sociopathic behavior as well as mutual cooperation for survival strategies. The better we understand this the better we’ll be at tackling our “self-selected” problems. Indeed if we fail to do so the greater the number of gene-selected sociopaths as a percentage of the population and the greater the sociopathic behavior within our societies which encourages yet further selfishness.

    1. Ransome

      In the corporate world, you must pass several real world tests of sociopathic loyalty to advance. Very early the filtering begins. The Superclass is immune to the wails and whining of the underclass.

      The real “humor” is that it is almost always a Democrat that is caught with the envelope or money in the freezer. The Republicans have an organization that collects, launders and redistributes. Those that are caught keeping cash are punished (Himmler’s speech to the SS). Abramoff’s feelings were hurt because he was just doing his job.

      1. Francois T

        “Abramoff’s feelings were hurt because he was just doing his job.”

        Yet he was punished while his compadre Grover Norquist, is still screwing this country around more than ever before with this debt ceiling freak show.

        I watch the show Future Weapons and some fantasies pops into my mind sometimes…

  12. Jim

    “The removal of the messages allowed the voicemailbox, which had been full, to take more messages, all for the purpose of getting more juicy messages from her desperate friends and relatives, at the ghoulish cost of giving them the false hope that she had deleted them and was therefore still alive.”

    Everybody has jumped to the conclusion the messages were deleted to allow more juicy messages come in.

    It is more accurate to say the NOTW tampered with evidence in a murder investigation.

    1. pws4

      “Everybody has jumped to the conclusion the messages were deleted to allow more juicy messages come in.

      It is more accurate to say the NOTW tampered with evidence in a murder investigation.”

      Well, it’s also possible for both of those things to be true.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Nick Davies in the video clip reported that that was the motivation for deleting the messages. Since he has been THE reporter on this story, I’d imagine he has a basis for that comment.

        1. pws4

          Right, my point was even if the reason for deleting the messages was prurient (and I believe it was), the News of the World was still interfering with a murder investigation.

          1. Firean

            Not the only murder case that New of The World is reported to have intruded upon while Rebekah Brooks (then Wade) was editor of the New of The World.
            quote :
            Channel 4 News

            Following the Channel 4 News revelation that a police detective was under surveillance by News of the World journalists, the Met confirms that Rebekah Brooks was aware that the officer was targeted.

            The Metropolitan Police have told Channel 4 News that in 2003 officers met the former editor of the News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, over claims that a police officer was shadowed by journalists from the paper.

            The allegations – exclusively revealed by Channel 4 News on Tuesday – involve a surveillance operation during a crucial murder investigation which implicated private investigators who had alleged links to News International.

            In 2002 a BBC Crimewatch report investigating a notorious unsolved murder featured senior detective Dave Cook. Later, Cook realised he was being followed after colleagues informed him he was being targeted by journalists at the News of the World.

            So concerned were police that a witness protection unit was mobilised along with a counter surveillance team to watch journalists allegedly following Cook.”


    1. dearieme

      Because by contrast with the others mentioned she was so superior. Blair was a slimey creature with a weakness for launching wars. Brown was (people suspect) bonkers. Cameron seems to be just a higher-IQ, better-mannered version of Blair. What a shower.

  13. Sock Puppet

    As a(nother) us resident brit , I have been following this one. The eventual implications for all of Murdoch’s “fair and balanced” empire worldwide are huge. Thanks Eve for bringing this to the attention of your readers.

  14. Peripheral Visionary

    Reading through all the stories on this, I keep asking myself: are we still talking about the trash rags that seem to print nothing but stories footballers and the hottie-of-the-month? I hate to blame the victim here, but the British people wouldn’t be facing this scandal if they didn’t have such an appetite for, well, scandal. Murdoch would be penniless if trash rags weren’t such a hot item in Britain.

    To the larger point of corporate domination of various sectors, I am increasingly coming to the view that there is an astonishingly simple solution to it: raise interest rates. Corporate expansions are almost always fueled by massive amounts of debt (high cash income companies like Microsoft are more the exception than the rule), so the easiest way to limit companies from becoming oversized is to limit their access to capital. (But then you’d have to deal with the bleating of a thousand thousand economists that you’re depriving them of the one lever they can use to control the economy . . . )

    1. Sock Puppet

      He also owns the Times and Sunday Times. And the left nut of every pm since Thatcher.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I think she’s the human shield for James, and Rupert believes if she is still in the News Corp fold, that she is more likely to hold the line than if she is cut loose.

  15. Semanticleo

    I am hearing a little buzz on the connection to Wiener hacking. Has anyone
    gotten a bit of a hit on this?

    1. PQS

      Only rumors at the time.

      But I can’t believe Breitbart isn’t being paid by Murdoch somewhere down the line to dig up and invent stories to construct a narrative of RW “truthiness” to play to the rubes.

  16. PQS

    Once again Wall Street points the way, with well-fed, well-paid executive types now claiming utter ignorance at what their employees were doing:

    “At best they are guilty of gross incompetence – if one were to accept their ludicrous argument that they had no idea of the systemic immoral and illegal practices which took place under their watchful eye. At worst, they are the source of the infection.”

    Remind us, again, MoTU, why it is that you deserve such fat paychecks when you don’t even know what’s going on in your empires?

    And what kind of human being exploits the family of a murder victim for money?

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Reminder: Murdock bought the Wall Street Journal.
      Now, if you were a tax haven gymnast with a neoclassical believe in ‘efficient markets’ — and a complete hypocrite about being ‘competitive’ in the ‘marketplace’, when in fact your competitive advantage was built on offshoring your millions while your ‘chump’ competitors continued to support the local communities with *their* tax payments, then you’d probably want to control the main, most respected news outlets that report on the MoTU, and how going after them is mean and silly.

      Wall Street Journal was surely as much a political investment as a financial one for Murdock.
      Are a few more dots connecting for you…?
      I don’t have Lexis/Nexus, but I’m guessing that ‘tax havens’ don’t get covered very much in WSJ. I’m guessing that really digging into the fraudclosure issues don’t get covered in the WSJ in the proportion they’d merit if you assessed their impact on our current economic situation.

      Not only is Murdock in deep sh*t in UK, consider what this means for US political electeds (and I think Anthony Weiner was an ass, but consider that his metadata was being read — basically, data theft, as with phone hacking). And then consider that Murdock, whose outfits have done such heinous things to sell papers as to mislead the family of a murdered teenager into believing her still alive, and then… well, it looks rather complicated.

      This is huge.

      And there is another interesting layer related to multimedia and web content and the future of whatever we’ll call ‘news-and-blogs’:
      It’s good for Pearson (who IIRC owns FT).
      Also good for
      Interestingly, both outlets have what is IMVHO actually far superior video interviews to most commercial online outlets.

      FT,, and Real News Network have a more conversational vibe and produce better info, on different business models, than say… Fox cable.

      Fox pays shriekers a ton of money to bring in eyeballs.
      Meanwhile, the newspapers are starting to provide better quality video, with far better content, than a lot of cable is producing. And they’re not paying millions in salaries to a Limbaugh or Beck to do it. They actually pay knowledgeable, quiet, thoughtful *reporters*. (Ditto Real News Network.)

      This gets more and more interesting by the day.
      Not only has Murdock revealed himself as an amoral creep, his business model is crumbling in a way that suggests he **really, REALLY** needs to get his bands on BSkyB.

      Popcorn time!

  17. KLM

    One of the most furstrating things about reading these stories (and the numerous comments on them) is that it seems to be lost on people that phones (or any system, for that matter) should not be so easily hacked!!!

  18. Patrick

    It is highly improbable that only the NoW was using these squalid practices. Given the chatty, not to say incestuous, nature of tabloid journalism it begs belief that other papers in the UK, and probably here in the US did not use such methods. One of the private investigators at the heart of this scandal in fact did initially work for competing titles. It was only after he came out of prison, on an unrelated charge, that he worked exclusively for the NoW.

    Scandalous practices, when they are effective, are contagious. As illustrated by the recent history of Wall St. The other similarity between the two is that both had non-existent regulation, had the political classes in thrall, and had no ethical standards.

    1. SD

      I think this is the teeniest tip of an ugly iceberg.

      How far does this go? Personnel move from company to company under the News Corp umbrella, it’s likely this is a much much larger than appears even now.

      There’s any number of pieces of seemingly mundane information that can be traded on for a price. Blackmail, insider trading, betting, trade secrets, corporate espionage, stock manipulation, extortion, unfair advantage in negotiations, and then there’s the creepy factor. Voyeurism, stalking, and lord knows what else.

      The assumption that the hacking is limited to the gossip rags seems highly unlikely.

      For some context, take a look at News Corp assets and think ‘hacking’ as you read through the list.

  19. Hugh

    This reads like a bad dystopic novel, but what is surprising is that it is not surprising. Media as criminal enterprise is inherent in its corporatization.

    So Murdoch reporters in Great Britain break into ordinary people’s email accounts. New York Times reporters among many others spread false propaganda to justify a war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands. Both are criminal, but which was more criminal?

  20. Joe Renter

    I hear from a very reliable source that Murdoch really does wear a black hat (the dark side). Karma is catching up to him. Good news.

  21. anne

    Anyone who gives up their Australian citizenship to bypass US cross media ship laws – is not to be trusted. Nor is that d/head Howard who gave him his Aussie citizenship back!!! The guy has been running the show for far too long in many counties, dictating election results (to his financial gain), and spouting his own version of propaganda. I don’t believe a word anything that comes from his b/shit papers, tv or interviews. And that goes for the whole family. Rotten from when old man Murdoch started the whole shebang. #1 on my s/list (shared with Walmart and Monsanto). Gates and Jobs are a close second.

  22. Bill

    This sort of scandal would never happen in America. We’re too apathetic to feel scandalized about anything anymore.

  23. morris wise

    The crime of Murdoch is his use of illegal wiretapping and bribery of those that allowed it to happen. Wiretapping in every form must be stopped and those using it must be given long prison terms. A nation cannot claim to be free if their citizens cannot speak openly on the phone.

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