Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Real Scandal Behind the Murdoch Empire

The real scandal behind the Murdoch empire

By Deirdre Griswold
Published Jul 30, 2011 7:04 AM

The scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World won’t make the giant media monopolies any less mouthpieces for the billionaire ruling class.

Heads will roll — they already have. That’s why executives get paid so well. They do the dirty work for the real owners of capital and sometimes get caught. Then it’s off with their heads and another high-paid flunky gets the job.

For example, Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Rebekah Brooks, head of Murdoch’s British papers, have been forced to resign, and Brooks has been arrested, but the global Murdoch media empire goes on.

Murdoch’s News Corp. owns not only tabloids like London’s News of the World (which just closed down), the Sun (London) and the New York Post, but also the staid Times of London, the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Dow Jones & Co., Far Eastern Economic Review, Fox television channels all over the world, the National Geographic channel, 20th Century Fox, HarperCollins publishers, plus literally hundreds of other newspapers and news, entertainment and business outlets.

Murdoch’s right-wing politics reek in all of them — in some more openly and crudely, in others more subdued. The question is, why were his lying flunkies outed this time? How come Murdoch didn’t have enough influence to cover it all up, as he undoubtedly has done before?

Is this huge scandal really over the greedy and crass behavior of his employees who, looking for juicy news copy, hacked the cellphone of an abducted teenager and then deleted messages from her voicemail, thus giving her parents false hope that the girl was still alive? This seemed to be the issue when the scandal first broke, but many other revelations followed that compromised British politicians and police officials.

There are probably several answers to the question of why the scandal has escalated. They can be boiled down to this: Murdoch has lots of money but he also has made lots of enemies in his own class of arrogant capitalists. One who tries to corner the world market, whether it’s in news or in oil, has to sink a lot of competitors. Murdoch was trying to take over Britain’s most lucrative satellite television company when the scandal broke.

Bow down to royalty

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, described the executive branch of a capitalist government as “a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” When the consensus among the bourgeoisie is that one of their own has overreached himself and wants to take the whole pie, they expect the state to step in.

What made Murdoch vulnerable? For one thing, his minions had bribed security guards for Britain’s royal family to sell them the royals’ private phone numbers so their conversations could be hacked to produce titillating stories for his tabloids.

The bourgeoisie in Britain like having a monarchy that is considered sacrosanct. Hundreds of years ago, when they were struggling for political power, the burghers may have wanted a republic without all the expensive trappings of majesty, but those days are long gone. The royal family became a symbol of the British Empire and an untouchable buffer between the masses and the real ruling class — the capitalist oligarchs.

Thus, they consider the Murdoch machine’s trifling with royalty a danger to the supposed dignity of the entire ruling establishment. Disrespect and outright disdain for royalty is rife among the masses, especially the youth. But the bourgeoisie see Murdoch as a traitor for capitalizing on this.

The resignation of the two highest-ranking officials of Scotland Yard was another sign that the credibility of the capitalist state itself had been endangered by the Murdoch gang, whose deep pockets let them flout the law with impunity.

This is a time when the ruling class relies on the state to force austerity on the masses. The same kinds of cutbacks and layoffs in the public sector that are starting to roil workers in the U.S. have been shoved down the workers’ throats in Britain, despite huge demonstrations and the first general strike in decades. The bourgeoisie and their politicians need to clean up the image of the state.

Murdoch takeover bid fails

Another element that undoubtedly fed the desire to bring Murdoch down a peg or two was News Corp.’s attempt to take over British Sky Broadcasting, the country’s most lucrative satellite television network. It has more than 10 million paying subscribers, representing 36 percent of all the households in both Britain and Ireland. The government’s business secretary boasted he had “declared war” on Murdoch and would find a convenient legal excuse to block his takeover bid. (New York Times, July 23)

News Corp. already owned 39 percent of BSkyB. James Murdoch, son of Rupert, was made CEO of BSkyB in 2003. Four years later, despite shareholder objections, he was moved up to become “non-executive chairman,” replacing his father. Since the phone-hacking scandal went viral, News Corp.’s takeover bid has collapsed.

Don’t expect that all this means that the Murdoch media empire is finished, or that it will tone down its racist, anti-immigrant, misogynist content. A struggle within the ruling class can get messy, but the real big shots seldom go to jail or even have to pay more than pin money for their crimes. Besides, even the most genteel of capitalists need an unscrupulous media that doesn’t hesitate to dish out right-wing sensationalism to the public, especially in times of economic crisis.

The real scandal is that billionaires control and manipulate what the people read and view every day.

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