Rupert Murdoch: The Story Thus Far

Is Rupert Murdoch evil? Or brilliant? Or lucky? So immense are his holdings that a list is the only way to explain what they are.

It’s fascinating that the man who brings us Fox Views News also brings us the Wall Street Journal, which once was quite a good paper. Murdoch’s most enduring legacy, I predict, will be The Simpsons (no kidding.)

But it’s the British holdings we’re concerned with now because they appear to have Mr. M.’s 80-year-old bells in a wringer. The story thus far…

Beginning in late 2005, Court sycophants became concerned that someone somehow was learning of Royal Family Secrets. Because this suspicion involved a high-profile family, the venerable Scotland Yard was called in to investigate. Rumors began to circulate that reporters at Murdoch’s News of the World (henceforth called NoW) and The Sun may have illegally wiretapped and pinged the telephones of numerous celebrities, including the Princes William and Harry. This was high-level stuff, so hot that it resulted in the spring 2006 leak Harry had visited a strip club! The Sun’s precision headline: “Harry Buried Face in Margo’s Mega-Boobs. Stripper Jiggled . . . Prince Giggled.” I know some of you want to see a Royal between two boobs, so here you go.

Scotland Yard, deeply embarrassed, hastily concluded the wiretapping was performed by only two journalists, Royals’ watcher Clive Goodman and investigator Glenn Mulcaire. (The two had learned how to capture the PIN numbers of cell phones owned by Royals, celebrities, politicians, etc. Thus, they were able to listen to voice mail left on those cells and find “scoops.” By using pinging, the reporters could also physically locate someone.

(And here’s audio of Mulcaire explaining to another reporter how to capture a soccer coach’s number, courtesy of the NYT.com audio.)

The problem was that during its investigation, Scotland Yard came up with much more evidence that dozens – if not hundreds – of other cases existed where News of the World reporters had performed similar illegal taps. Most were of the celebrity ilk, such as listening in on voice mails of Jude Law, Siena Miller, Mick Jagger and, the greatest of them all, Hugh Grant.

However, and this just kills me, the Yard decided pursing the case “was a heavy stone that they didn’t want to try to lift,” according to one parliamentarian. Instead the Yard mumbled something about pursing terrorism (which translates into British as “pfroofreeing trzm”).

But, the Eugenie was out of the bottle. Numerous families filed police reports alleging the same violations against the NoW particularly. Since it was Murdoch the police clearly would have to go up against, they – like the Yard – did nothing.

What we didn’t know then but know now is that the most heart-wrenching, unethical, immoral and unforgivable tapping had already been done in 2002 on the cell phone of a missing 13-year-old school girl, Milly Dowler. Dowler was missing for six desperate months before her remains were found. During that time, NoW scumbags tapped into her phone messages, listened to those left by her desperate friends and family, erased messages when the inbox became full so that more could come in and, thus, confounded police as to whether or not the girl was still alive and/or where she might be.

When did all of this wrong-doing become known? Well, the NYT first blew the whistle in September 2010 on some of the shady practices in Murdoch’s papers when it interviewed, among others, former NoW entertainment reporter Sean Hoare who explained the widespread and editor-approved practices. NoW editors angrily accused the NYT of professional jealousy. And then everyone’s attention was taken up in the Royal Wedding and the “scandal” died down during the winter and spring of 2011.

But it would not go away. The Yard, caught in an unprofessional and illegal position itself, had to notify hundreds of shocked subjects that they, too, may have been subject to illegal taps..violations that had taken place years previously that the Yard knew about but did not bother to inform people of. (The number now stands at approximately 4,000.)

By early July of this year, everything exploded when a rival newspaper revealed the Murdoch’s News of the World had tampered with evidence in the 2002 Milly Dowler case.

Outrage was swift and very real.

On July 8, Andy Coulson, editor of News of the World from 2003 to 2007, was arrested for his connection to the scandal and other corruption charges. (It is worth noting that after Coulson left his editorship of NoW, he became – upon Murdoch’s recommendation – the communications director for current British Prime Minister David Cameron. Hmm. But don’t worry folks. Cameron cut short a visit to Africa to call for a special Parliamentary inquiry into the affair.)

Murdoch was forced to drop his attempted takeover of BSkyB cable in Great Britain, a multibillion-dollar move that would have given him the same power in broadcasting as he enjoys in print.

The best PR agency in the world, Bell Potinger, was called in for “refuse de-odorification.” And it would be needed, quickly.

On July 15 Rebekah Brooks, editor of the NoW from 2000-2003 – when many of these atrocious activities took place – resigned.

She was arrested on July 17.

Also on July 15, Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton, who has been with Murdoch for 50 years, resigned. Dow Jones, of course, owns the Wall Street Journal, which used to be quite a good paper.

On the weekend, Murdoch visited the Dowler family and apologized numerous times for their injury. While the apologies were heartfelt, the family’s attorney says the Dowlers have indicated “they can forgive but not forget,” which translated into British means: “See you in court, bastard.”

On July 17, Sir Paul Stephenson, Metropolitan Police commissioner and head of Scotland Yard, resigned. He denied knowing anything about the cover-up of illegal taps or new allegations of police bribery by reporters.

John Yates, the other top police official of Scotland Yard who reviewed phone-hacking evidence in 2009 and concluded there was no need for a deeper investigation, resigned.

Murdoch published a public apology to his readers on the same weekend.

And then on July 18..um, what happened again on Monday, the 18th? I know it’s something kind of important.

Oh yeah. Now I remember:

Sean Hoare, the former NoW entertainment reporter who first busted the NoW for its practices, was FOUND DEAD IN HIS APARTMENT! AND HE WAS IN HIS 40s! AND THE POLICE DO NOT BELIEVE HIS DEATH WAS SUSPICIOUS! AND HE WAS IN HIS 40s!

As Jon Stewart puts it, if the police – who are investigating allegations of bribery against them by the same man who is found dead in his apartment – are satisfied his death was not suspicious, then it’s OK with him, too.

That almost brings us up to date. At last week’s hearing before a select committee of Parliament, a hooligan tried to throw a cream pie (A CREAM PIE!) at Mr. Murdoch during his testimony. Although Murdoch got some of it in on his suit but not in the puss, the worst damage was inflicted on the miscreant who was promptly thumped by the 30-year-old Mrs. Murdoch, Wendi Deng. You have got to see this video. Wendi is in the beautiful pink jacket. (Versace, perhaps?) I am so impressed by her no-nonsense, take-no-prisoner, stand-by-her-man, leap-over-the-crowd defense of Murdoch. Seriously, Murdoch owes her BIG TIME for that. And, gentlemen. You must honestly ask yourselves: Would your wives do THIS for YOU?

It’s reported that Rebekah Brooks is staying with the current British Prime Minister, David Cameon. (He’s also the same person who called the parliamentary investigation. But, hey! Apartments are hard to find in London.)

Murdoch and Deng will continue to live nice lives. He did not know what was going on at his papers. Neither did his son. Neither did Rebekah Brooks. Nobody seen nothin’, see?

But former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who claims the NoW obtained confidential medical records of his son, summarized the situation best on Wednesday when he testified that victims watched “their private, innermost feelings and their private tears bought and sold by News International for commercial gain.”

In doing so, he said, “News International descended from the gutter to the sewer.”

P.S. On July 10, Rupert Murdoch closed the 168-year-old News of the World.

Fixing the Newspaper Business or “Do I Have to Do Everything Around Here?”

to-do-listThis has been on my to-do list for a while but it keeps getting pushed downstream by other, more pressing issues.   The volume of whining – along with the complaints about the whining – has gotten so loud, though, I figured I’d better take an hour or two and get it done:

“#23: Fix newspaper business.”

Pay attention.  I’m only going to go through this once.

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