Friday, April 27, 2012

And now, goodbye to all that ...

Thanks to the Leveson inquiry, the pond is learning new things every day (or addled night, as the case may be).

The latest is that billionaires are easily misled and amazingly trusting. This will come in handy the next time a billionaire hoves to near the pond, and asks for help.

Don't you worry about that, the pond will say, likely enough your problems can be easily solved by the pond. If it's not just a few rogue journalists, but actually an endemic cultural issue, then likely enough that's just been hidden by a few rogue lawyers.

When in doubt, always blame the lawyers. After all, Shakespeare did. And what's good enough for Shakespeare, is good enough for chairman Rupe.

Now why don't you just toddle off and tend some other part of the empire that appeals to you, as chairman Rupert Murdoch did when he found the News of the World hard-going and amused himself with The Sun, which gave him tremendous political clout, though he never once used that political clout for any purpose whatsoever.

At this point, no doubt there'll be a few sceptical voices raised against the rose-coloured glasses vision that the pond has managed to sell to the willing, believing billionaire, but it's always the way isn't it. After all, knocking billionaires and chairman Rupert is something of an industry.

But why, they ask, did the same culture of corrupt practices fester away in The Sun, which resulted in a number of senior journalists being arrested? Seeing as how chairman Rupert allegedly had his eye on that particular favoured bauble? (Senior Sun journalists arrested in police payments probe).

We might never get an answer to that, since Mr. Jay never bothered to ask the question. In fact Mr. Jay never much laid a glove on chairman Rupert, as he presented his tale of being easily misled, and being ever so humble, so much more 'umble than Uriah Heep for his many errors and failings, which chiefly consisted of trusting a few deviant lawyers.

Instead the inquiry, by end of proceedings, had provided a handy platform for chairman Rupert to trot out his favourite bete noirs, amongst them the BBC (why the cads are even on the intertubes, no fair) and Google (why it links to pirated content) and the disruptive technology that delivers pornography right into the home, when it should be delivering the thoughts of chairman Rupert. Which are good and clean and pure, if a little old-fashioned. Rupert two legs good, Google four legs bad.

It turns out that chairman Rupert is a strong believer in government regulation, and he hasn't heard that Google provides a safe filter, if users care to use it.

He believes the intertubes needs regulation, but not newspapers, except that these days newspapers are on the intertubes, but oh never mind:

"I think you have a danger of regulating, putting regulations in place which will mean there will be no press in 10 years to regulate."

What? There'll be no more salacious tittle tattle about celebrities, except that Murdoch titles don't do salacious, except when they do salacious?

Naturally there were a few doomsayers and deniers who took exception to what chairman Rupert had to say, including Tom Crone, former legal manager of the News of the World:

His assertion that I 'took charge of a cover-up' in relation to phone-hacking is a shameful lie. The same applies to his assertions that I misinformed senior executives about what was going on and that I forbade people from reporting to Rebekah Brooks or to James Murdoch.

A shameful lie! Now there's a handy header, way better than "a fanciful concoction of special pleading by someone who believes in unicorns."

But the good news was that on the second night chairman Rupert did much better than he did on the first night, and the number of hackles that rose, and the cries of shame are testament to the way he insulted all and sundry, blamed others, and took full responsibility, while noting he'd been completely misled, so that this heavy burden was the singular failure of everybody else ... except the Murdochs ...

Already the wags are having great fun. Chairman Rupert spent a great deal of time explaining why he hadn't read so many seemingly relevant things - just tasted them, if you will - and the pond intuited that this was a tweeting child of the intertubes with the attention span of a gnat. Rupert Murdoch and the pond were one.

Some played childish games with this honest testimony, such as Helen Pidd compiling a list of the things chairman Rupert hadn't bothered to read - Just what hasn't Rupert Murdoch read?

But really, is it the business of the chairman to stay on top of detail?

Oh it's just too galling. Now if only the shareholders could understand that the most important thing about a chairman is that they must never pay attention, but must always delegate, and delegate in such a way that deniability can be turned into an art form.

Oh yes Allen Dulles, we do so love the notion of plausible deniability.

The two best moments for the pond, rich and redolent with irony? Well surely it was the moment when Murdoch complained about being the centre of attention:

"I would argue that when you've a pack of journalists and paparazzi in your face you are under duress."
There is stifled laughter in the room and Lord Justice Leveson says "I think we will revisit that later."

And then this moment:

"It's a common thing in life, way beyond journalism, for people to say, "I'll scratch your back if you scratch my back."
Robert Jay QC: "But it's interesting that you say that's no part of the implied deal in your relations with politicians over 30 years Mr Murdoch. Is that right?"
Murdoch: "Uh … yes. I don't ask any politician to scratch my back … that's a nice twist, but no, I'm not falling for it." (and there's a few other message issues outlined here)

Just for a moment, the performance mask slipped, and the presentation of an innocent billionaire took on the hint of a billionaire who knew exactly how he'd become a billionaire. Sometimes by scratching, and sometimes by clawing ...

Naturally at Pravda by the harbour sinister conclusions are being drawn, as you can read in Richard Ackland's Winds turn against Murdoch evidence:

The relentless attacks on the national broadband network in News Ltd's national daily The Australian and other of its capital city tabloids is not without an eye on protecting the patch of Foxtel, SkyNews and Fox Sports...

... It is notable that Tony Abbott's Coalition is in step with News Ltd in its opposition to a statutory media regulator, a privacy law and the broadband network in its current proposed form.

Oh dear. Look, it's very simple Mr. Ackland, the intertubes deliver pornography inside the home at blinding speed - likely enough it's all the fault of Google, if not the BBC - and the NBN will just make it worse. All the Murdoch family cares about is trust and public good.

What's that you say?

We have seen over the past 12 months or so evidence of News International's ever-spreading stain on British institutions and democracy - on the police, on the public service, on politics and on the media itself.

Oh really. A stain? A blight? A press in connivance with Tony Abbott to destroy the world for futurists?

Surely we're just talking about a few bad apples, and a couple of rotten law firms, and a few naughty people indulging in a cover-up? By the way, didn't you train as a lawyer Mr. Ackland?QED?

Can it all be so bad, when Rupert Murdoch has produced a wondrous media diversity? You know, the diversity of feral right-wing thought that infests such great products as Fox News and The Australian.

Diversity and plurality, and only a cynic would suggest that if you swallow that particular brand of kool-aid, you're sounding as gullible as the average extremely gullible billionaire.

After it was done, the pond immediately felt withdrawal symptoms, but with a bit of luck, the ripples from this little splash in the pond will continue out until they reach David Cameron, and then they'll continue on into the United States, and then what fun.

Just one point of order. In case you bought the chairman's latest boot-kicking of the BBC - carrying on where his son left off - it's worth reading Murdoch and the Cameron entourage: a shameful tale laid out for all to see:

Sky's dominance over the BBC is already looming: now past its investment phase, Sky's income is multiplying fast at £5.5bn a year, against the BBC's static £3.5bn. Sky's growing billions can buy everything, not only sports and movies, but every best series: the BBC trains and develops talent, predatory Sky will snatch it. Nor is Sky that good for the Treasury: for every £1 in Sky subscriptions, 90p flees the country, straight to News Corp and Hollywood in the US.

The BBC is remarkable value for money: Sky subscribers can pay £500 a year, the licence fee is £145 for masses more content. Sky is parasitic, as its own subscribers watch many more hours of BBC than Sky, so Sky would collapse if the BBC denied it its channels. Yet the BBC still pays £5m a year for appearing on its platform, a deal struck by Thatcher to help Murdoch.

Except of course that chairman Rupert never asked a single thing of any Prime Minister.

Well it made for great on-line viewing. Oh sure we could have watched it live on ABC24, but it felt right to watch it online, on the feared and reviled intertubes, courtesy of The Guardian, which had set the whole circus rolling, via a medium that undermines everything Rupert Murdoch and his company stands for. Locked content, and information that can never be free ...

What was it Lord Acton said? Power tends to corrupt, and there's nothing more bizarre than watching billionaires explain how they believe in unicorns? While a few cynical lawyers and bad apples make life hard for unicorns ...

And if you believe that, have we got a unicorn that's just right for you, at a handy knock-down price befitting a billionaire ...

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