Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Does zero tolerance extend to Chairman Rupert's empire ...

(Above: so much for Godwin's Law, Soviet sub-section clause 2 (a))

Almost any day of the week you can find conservative columnists such as Miranda Devine banging on about zero tolerance policing as the best way forward to bring about a civilised polity.

She was at it awhile ago in relation to George Street, in City's violent anti-social riff-raff rate a big zero, but she's been doing it for yonks ... or years, if you don't speak Eastern suburbs-ese.

The thesis is that if even a sparrow dares to fart on a well-manicured lawn, it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

New York is always the focus, though the implications for Australia have been disputed (as you can read here in pdf form) and after reading the wiki on the subject here, it's possible to emerge thinking that the Devine has been her usual simplistic, mindless self on the subject.

And to be consistent, you'd have to think the Devine was shocked, outraged and appalled by the recent shenanigans at The Sun, demanding persecution and prosecution for all and sundry, and sweeping aside the feeble objections mounted by Sun associate editor Trevor Kavanagh in Witch-hunt has put us behind ex-Soviet states on Press freedom.

Kavanagh is shocked, outraged and appalled that the police are taking an interest in the operations of The Sun, which it seems isn't a swamp that needs draining.

It seems that the investigation isn't proportionate, and is a witch-hunt, and hapless journalists are feeling the full force of the law, and the police are being diverted from important issues like mass suicide attacks at the Olympics.

It has the familiar ring of dissidents protesting about speeding or parking fines, always a sure test for enthusiasts for zero tolerance.

So when the police get matters so far out of proportion, we are entitled to ask: Who polices the police?

Indeed. And if a media organisation gets things so far out of proportion that it embraces, condones or allows criminality and bribing coppers, we are entitled to ask: who polices the media? The corrupted coppers?

Here's how Kavanagh elides, skates by, one of the key issues:

Their alleged crimes? To act as journalists have acted on all newspapers through the ages, unearthing stories that shape our lives, often obstructed by those who prefer to operate behind closed doors.

These stories sometimes involve whistleblowers. Sometimes money changes hands. This has been standard procedure as long as newspapers have existed, here and abroad.

Uh huh.Sometimes money changes hands.

But if money changes hands, and the recipient of the cash in the paw is a copper (or other public servants), then the noble journalists are actually conniving in the corruption of the police force (or the public service). This isn't the same thing as slipping someone a bottle of whiskey or a box of chocolates as a way of saying thanks - though gifts are at the start of the slippery slopes that conservatives love to babble on about - it's actual corruption.

The poor fuzz have already paid a price for doing the dance with journalists, at first trying to sweep things under the rug, and then when the rug became too distended and bulgy, being forced to fall on sword. Was it only in July 2011 that Sir Paul Stephenson felt the need to resign from his position as the Metropolitan police commissioner? Saying:

"I saw senior figures from News International providing evidence that the misbehaviour was confined to a rogue few and not known about at the top.

"One can only wonder about the motives of those within the newspaper industry or beyond, who now claim that they did know but kept quiet.

"Though mine and the Met's current severe discomfort is a consequence of those few that did speak out, I am grateful to them for doing so, giving us the opportunity to right the wrong done to victims — and here I think most of those especially vulnerable people who deserved so much better from us all. "(here).

Poor deluded possum. He seems to think if you do the crime, you get investigated, and maybe you even do the time, and that once the egg is broken it can't and shouldn't be put back together the way it was: is clear to me that the current furore marks a point in time, a need to learn and change.

In contrast, Kavanagh sees nothing but persecution by coppers, organised by politicians, and it seems even the sacrosanct page three is now under vile attack (Lay off Page 3, Sun editor Dominic Mohan tells Leveson Inquiry). Yep, the printing of women in skimpy clothes - why it even has its own webpage here - is a feminist activity, approved by Germaine Greer, and the rag is issue-driven feminist to its very core.

But leaving the comedy routines aside, it's possible to understand why Kavanagh is squawking, because it's the minions who are being lined up for the fall, yet all the minions were doing was carrying out operations that were connived at, with a nudge and a wink, and say no more about that, in the fetid world of British tabloid culture. And that mood setting, that tonality, must come from the top, be allowed, perhaps even encouraged from the top.

So where's the noble act of a Sir Paul Stephenson, taking responsibility and falling on his sword?

Dream on.

As usual, it's necessary to turn to The Guardian to get a sensible view of the Kavanagh Soviet squawk, in Rupert Murdoch hit by feud over Sun arrests.

The problem for the police is that they've been tainted, and the Kavanagh squawk is a bit like a motorist pulled over for speeding protesting about heavy-handed, boot-stomping, Soviet-clothing clad brutal coppers. Yes, yes, I might have been speeding, but haven't you got something better to do with your time than persecute me? When I'm running late?

What else can the coppers say in response but 'please just pay the fine'?

The Met said "the seriousness of the allegations" meant it did not believe the 169 officers working on three investigations – the corrupt payments inquiry, the Operation Weeting phone-hacking investigation, and in the computer-hacking unit Tuleta – were "in any way disproportionate to the enormous task in hand".

The Met added "that no more than 10 MPS officers attended each of the home addresses of the persons arrested as part of Operation Elveden" on Saturday and that at "no stage has any [other] major investigation been compromised".

In response to Kavanagh, Watson said: "The notion that the police might politely ring up to make an appointment to see a Sun journalist for a civilised chat is far-fetched. It takes some nerve for News Internation
al, in the form of Kavanagh, to be accusing the police of wasting time and resources."

The coppers are under the hammer, and the lemons at The Sun are feeling squeezed and used, the media has become the story, but doesn't like, doesn't understand it.

And when it does become the story, the next thing you know journos are running stories like The chutzpah of Rupert Murdoch's Sun, and most piquant of all, Sun veteran Kavanagh launches covert attack on Murdoch - in The Sun.

Kavanagh has stirred the pot and muddied the waters, and so in the New York Times the examination of the entrails continues in Murdoch Faced With 'Civl War' After Arrests at London Tabloid, which contains a quote from a former Murdoch employee, Andrew Neil:

“The Sun has turned against Rupert Murdoch. He has put in place things he cannot stop. The Sun was the most loyal to Murdoch. It was closest to his heart. Now Sun journalists believe he has launched a witch hunt to protect himself. He won’t be welcomed. They won’t believe his promises. They’re sullen. They’re resentful. They feel betrayed.”

And so Chairman Rupert flies to London for a showdown, and one thing's certain. He's never been the Sir Paul Stephenson kind ...

Who knows how it might all turn out, but the police are now set on a course from which they can't diverge without further media speculation and humiliation, and the committee handing over the evidence to the police must continue their work, or risk humiliation, and even worse, accusations of cover-up which might draw criminal charges, and the biting journalists at The Sun are now bitten, and roused, and ranting about the Soviets and oppression and persecution ...

It surely has to be as rich a brew as the one faced by Chairman Rupert when he shut down the News of the World, and it's not surprising that rumours have now surfaced that he might decide to cut and run in relation to The Sun, but if he did that, he'd also be pulling the rug from under The Times, which has long been carried by tabloid profitability.

For the moment, it's like watching a train-wreck in slow motion, endlessly titillating, and with significant implications for News Corps. print empire in Australia.

But will it stop Miranda the Devine blathering on about zero tolerance?

Don't bet on it ...

(Below: well if it's good enough for a six year old to cop 45 days in reform school for bringing camping utensils to school ... here).

1 comment:

  1. It was the beginning of the end when the Murdoch family began appearing on the covers of mags like "New Idea" and "Woman's Day' with 'family scandal' headlines. When a media family loses complete control of its public image they are dead meat, even if it takes a while...


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