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Murdoch’s Muddle – OpEd


Is this Britain’s own Watergate with consequences that could prove as disastrous for Cameron as they had been for Nixon? The prime minister may try hard to put up a brave face, pretending to be outraged by the shenanigans of Murdoch’s media empire even as he tries to smear everyone with the muck that he finds himself in over the phone-hacking scandal. “We have all been in this together” was the refrain in his speech on Friday, drawing attention to the close ties his Labour predecessors enjoyed with Murdoch.

That however is unlikely to rescue Cameron from the storm that has exploded in his face and could very well prove the undoing of his government. Of course, the intense love affair between Blair and Murdoch, who owns nearly half of the British press, is hardly a secret. It may have played a decisive role in Blair making it to 10, Downing Street and poor Gordon Brown being thrown out of it after Murdoch switched his patronage to Tories.

But for all his lies and obfuscation, Blair did not pick up a former News of the World editor to be his communications chief. Cameron did. That too after Andy Coulson quit in 2007 following his involvement in, well, another phone-hacking scandal. Call it poetic justice or whatever that Cameron finds himself at the center of the current media storm over phone hacking thanks to the involvement of Coulson. The prime minister earned himself no brownie points by pitching up for his spinmeister calling him his “friend” who has been arrested.

Even though the News of the World, the flagship of Murdoch’s empire and one of the world’s largest selling newspapers, has been shut, it may be a while before this tempest rocking the British isles blows over.

The issue at the heart of this whole unsavory business is not just the shocking hacking of a murdered school girl’s cell phone by the News of the World or the politicians shamelessly sucking up to Murdoch and bending rules for him. This is about the unhealthy and immoral marriage of convenience between the media and politicians both exploiting each other and abusing the public trust and power that they enjoy.

Cameron is indeed right on the dot when he suggests “we are all in this together.” No politician in this Turkish hamam has a stitch of clothing on him. Despite being an Australian based in the US, Murdoch has been using his awesome media power to try to be a power bigger than the government itself, often dictating political agenda in the mother of all democracies. If he has politicians eating out of his hand in Britain, he has Fox News and numerous other outlets in the US to use as his tools of persuasion. Indeed, with his media empire stretching from Australia to America, the whole world finds itself in Murdoch’s stranglehold.

This wouldn’t be so serious if News Corp.’s agenda was only driven by business interests. As with Fox News, sensationalism, jingoism and a campaign of lies and hatred against minorities drive this Orwellian empire. And unabashed championing of Israel, support for Western wars and persistent hostility toward Arabs and Muslims are the hallmarks of its agenda. Let’s hope this scandal will finally help rein in the evil empire subjecting it to the scrutiny as everyone ought to be in a democracy. It’s time Murdoch stopped playing god.

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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