By Christopher Harvie
Rupert Murdoch has apparently taken to the skies to protect the UK part of his media empire from the consequences of its misdeeds. There seems a certain parallel with the need of General Pinochet, fourteen years ago, for rest and recuperation in London. What followed from it? An arrest and trial which imposed, at least symbolically, some check on the military thugs who thought South America their possession, and gave the chance for democracy to prove that – notably in Brazil – it could work. Why is this transformation not underlined by a movement to impose a Citizen’s Arrest on our own Pinochet: someone who has done his best to destroy the rule of law in favour of the extension of the personal power and privilege of the over-rich?
What Murdoch has been up to has no connection with the freedom that a socially-concerned press ought to enjoy. The social investigation that the ‘Insight’ team at the SUNDAY TIMES used to practise is years in the past. He wrecked it. His media dictatorship has subordinated civic information and duty to a carousel of pointless and mindless sex-sport-and-celeb stories. In time this has helped divert the UK economy into its housing-and-shopping cul-de-sac. Public relations handouts have been tarted up as objective economic coverage. The maintainance and extension of the tax-evasion privileges of the ultra-wealthy follow logically from the deformed morality of a billionaire who has manipulated the law to minimise his contributions and maximise his power. Under successive ministries the back door of Downing Street – not the ballot box – has been where centralising policy has been forged.
Under the Murdoch media’s current invasion of personal privacy lies not John Milton’s principle of freedom of opinion but a vicious right-wing populism, extending from the raving idiocy of Fox News to the WALL STREET JOURNAL’s defence of the ‘moral hazard’ so effectively practised by the racketeers of finance capitalism. Privilege has been bailed out by taxpayers whose health services and housing are now put at risk; criticism from unions or elected representatives has encountered vindictive personal attacks. The cumulative effect has been a British press subject to a Gresham’s law in which the bad drags the good down with it. Murdoch’s bullet for the worthless NEWS OF THE WORLD will be followed by the systematic ‘rationalisation’ of our confused liberal press – the flagging GUARDIAN and SCOTSMAN, threatened by the ‘squeezing of the middle’ – just as our towns are cloned by the booze-merchants and megaretailers.
Electoral politics in an evolving European confederalism aren’t perfect, but its problems are nothing compared to the economic distortions prior 2008, in which Murdoch and his media manipulation were central factors. Was this an accident of overreach, or a deliberate policy? So far even the Conservative media has admitted that the greedy have flourished at the expense of the civic sphere and the rule of law.
A trial will educate, clear the air, humiliate where humiliation is deserved, confiscate. It’s time!