From The Independent
Mark Steel: My guess is the cleaners are to blame
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
This year's television drama awards must surely go to the news, whose current scriptwriters are outstanding. Next week Newsnight will end with James Murdoch being told his real dad isn't Rupert, it's Fidel Castro. Then the credits will roll and we'll all be desperate to see the next episode.
The only quibble I have is those days when there are two resignations, as the second one comes before there's time to properly enjoy the first. So come on police chiefs, spare a thought for your public and space these things out properly.
Yesterday's instalment was genius, in which Rupert himself answered questions such as "Mr Murdoch, do you remember a paper called the News of the World" with "Er, hmmm, the what? News you say, hmmmmm, brrr err I don't recall it." It's a sign of Murdoch's declining power that he didn't buy the rights to show himself at the select committee and put it on Sky on pay-per-view.
But for all the resignations and arrests no one yet has personally admitted to doing anything wrong. For example, there seems to be an agreed line that ex-policeman Yates didn't pursue the first investigation properly because he was busy dealing with other issues, such as terrorism. I hope he was more thorough with that part of his job, and didn't say: "I've got a bin liner full of documents here with details about where al-Qa'ida is planning to blow up. So I want everyone to work round the clock in ignoring them completely. That should keep everyone safe."
To be fair there were other matters the police were dealing with at this time. Just one incident that clogged them up for a while was the perjury case against Tommy Sheridan, the socialist member of the Scottish parliament, after he successfully sued the News of the World for libel, which had claimed he'd been to a swingers' club. It was reported that Rupert pledged revenge against the "Commie bastard", Luckily he didn't have to ask the police for their help, because they spent £1.5m on an investigation, taking what they accept was "thousands" of hours, at the same period that the investigation into phone hacking was slightly less rigorous.
Maybe this was part of the counter-terrorism campaign, and they thought Tommy Sheridan was planning a new trend in suicide bombing, in which Scottish socialists turn up at swingers' clubs dressed only in explosives in the knowledge everyone will think it's a fetish, before blowing themselves up in support of the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage.
BBC Scotland wondered at the time: "Why should precious resources be wasted on such a stupid exercise?" as it's almost unprecedented for the police to pursue a case of perjury after a libel trial. Tommy Sheridan's car and phone were bugged, and the trial that sent him to jail cost millions more, but luckily the police found the funds and time for this, probably because the evidence wasn't wrapped up in bin liners, which are a nuisance to open.
One answer may be that at the time the paper and the police seemed to be getting on extremely well, with the paper paying policemen, and the police employing PR people from the paper. But that would be cynical as this was clearly an elaborate job-exchange system, similar to those programmes where they get dustmen and accountants to swap places for a week.
But these are complicated questions because News International is a complex company. The company has paid thousands in legal fees but the owners have no idea who made the payments. My guess is it was one of the cleaners. And the most ridiculous plot line in this story altogether, is that the bumbling, pathetic, forgetful fool who sat there unable to answer any questions about his own company in yesterday's hearing, is the bloke all our governments have been grovelling to for the last 30 years.
Believe it or not it gets worse. After the 2009 publication in Murdoch's New York Post of the infamous dead monkey Obama cartoon, another of his papers has managed to outdo the tackiness of that.
Twitter rages: Murdoch's Times of London famine cartoon 'most offensive' thing yet?
f you thought the outrage over the phone-hacking scandal was starting to die down, The Times of London, one of Rupert Murdoch's own papers, may have brought it straight back into the spotlight.
An editorial cartoon published Thursday morning in the paper with the title "Priorities" shows starving people in Somalia saying "We've had a bellyful of phone-hacking ... " It's causing quite a firestorm on Twitter. You can access the newspaper's site here, but you won't be able to get past the pay wall without a subscription. The paper has not yet returned calls for comment.
The Guardian's Deputy Editor Katharine Viner (@KathViner) tweeted a link to a photo of the cartoon this morning and asked what people thought of it.
And boy, did she get a response. From regular citizens in the U.S. and UK, to politicians, media specialists and PR folks, the responses are rolling in at a mile a minute.
The responses generally fall in one of two directions: utter disgust or the notion that while the cartoon makes a point, having it come from a Murdoch-owned newspaper makes it just straight ridiculous. For some, it's being seen as an attempt to try to get readers to move away from the story and focus on something else.
The cartoon does come a day after the questioning of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has also become a part of the phone-hacking story, during which several UK lawmakers argued that perhaps it was time to move on to more pressing issues.
Emma Gilbey Keller, who is married to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and is a contributor to Vanity Fair Daily, had one of the most retweeted responses to the cartoon.
She tweeted the following: @EMMAGKELLER: "Anyone else wondering if this cartoon from today's London Times is part of the Edelman strategy? http://yfrog.com/kezx9np"
Keller is referring to the giant public relations firm that is now working with Murdoch and his team to try to repair their damaged image after the phone-hacking scandal.
There's been a lot said in the media and online about how the Murdoch empire has handled the scandal. In a post on media blog Mediaite about the cartoon, writer Alex Alvarez calls it a "tacky, potentially offensive cartoon" and says it probably isn't the right way to divert attention.
"There are several methods of dealing with a much-publicized scandal, some less advisable than others. Issuing a public apology for mistakes or poor judgment? Pretty much always a good idea. Holding individuals responsible for their roles and dealing with them accordingly? Usually works out pretty well," he writes. "Publishing a tacky, potentially offensive cartoon making light of serious allegations AND life-threatening poverty? Oddly enough, that rarely ever works."
He does, however, agree that more attention needs to be paid to the crisis in Somalia and elsewhere - and he's got a suggestion for what The Times of London may do to really make a statement about the issue.
"We agree that eradicating childhood hunger is still a global priority and that outlets diligently, even obsessively, covering the phone hacking scandal were probably not devoting too many headlines to the plight of starving, saucer-eyed children in the first place? Although, hey. Maybe the Times of London can change the tide by donating to charities fighting to end hunger, or devoting an issue to poverty instead of offering up condescending, out of touch editorials that only work to reflect poorly on its already beleaguered employer."
And there is indeed a major problem in Somalia. The president has issued an urgent appeal for international aid as his drought-stricken country faces a famine that has left half of the population in dire need.
Anna Holmes, founder of the popular news blog Jezebel.com, which caters to women, acknowledged in response to someone else that she believes there's truth in the cartoon that the famine news has been buried. But she tweeted (@AnnaHolmes) "the media/public can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can talk about hacking *and* famine."
Ryan Bourne, an economic and statistical researcher at the UK Centre for Policy Studies, tweeted (@RyanCPS) "I know the point The Times are getting at, but I find this cartoon very distasteful."
Was it an attempt to guilt-trip readers into changing their focus? Political Scrapbook, a political blog, tweeted (@psbook) that the cartoon was an attempt to tell us to "move on," and in an post on its site, it said "the third and most tasteless prong of resistance has come from a graphic in The Times depicting children in Somalia, suggesting that talking about phone hacking has prolonged their starvation. No one is stopping The Times covering both stories."
Jeff Jarvis, well-known media critic, journalism professor and creator of the BuzzMachine blog, (@jeffjarvis) simply tweeted: "Good God. Murdoch's troops no bounds" in response to Viner's search for feedback on the cartoon.
Others, like Tim Karr, campaign director of the Free Press, a media reform group, called it "shameless." A lengthy search through the responses finds similar synonyms and sentiments, including that it was "brutal."
One of the most retweeted comments in response to Emma Gilbey Keller's tweet was from (@TeresaKopec), who said the "Cartoon in Murdoch's London Times may be most offensive thing they've done yet."
There's no doubt the comments will keep coming, and in a variety of forms, just as the tentacles of the story continue to grow and the implications of the scandal continue to murk the media waters.