There’s no doubt that the News Corp. scandal in the United Kingdom is indeed a scandal. Yet, is it the end of the world for Rupert Murdoch? Is it definitive proof that Murdoch’s media empire is unprincipled, undisciplined and evil? Does it warrant a congressional investigation? Is it the singular event that will bring down Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, as the Left so fervently hopes?
The answer to all of these questions would appear to be “no.” Phone hacking is reprehensible even by the sketchy standards of tabloid journalism, in addition to actually being illegal. But the self-righteous clamor resounding from the Left over a British scandal is several orders of magnitude removed from the story’s importance to American audiences. The Left’s unqualified delight in finding a piece of Murdoch’s media empire caught doing something wrong says a lot more about the way leftists think than it does about News Corp.
The nation is in the midst of a high-stakes struggle over the debt, taxes and spending, but you’d hardly know it from looking at Media Matters for America’s website. The Fox-obsessed recent journalism grads at Media Matters have been foaming at the mouth since the scandal broke: “The DOJ And Congress Need To Get Involved In Murdoch Hacking Scandal,” “Senators: Investigate News Corp.,” “Expert: Hacking May Have Violated U.S. Law.” Those are just some of the headlines featured on Media Matters’ banner as of Sunday night. For Media Matters, as for much of the rest of the Left, this is the most important story in the world.
Even the relatively less delusional Associated Press couldn’t help but pile on. An AP story dated July 17 related the facts of the scandal, as well as much of the speculation, but not before taking a gratuitous swipe at Murdoch’s media empire:
Though the former executive, Rebekah Brooks, and the police chief, Paul Stephenson, have denied wrongdoing, both developments are ominous not only for Murdoch’s News Corp., but for a British power structure that nurtured a cozy relationship with his papers for years.
Overall, mainstream media outlets have had a hard time hiding their glee over Murdoch’s embarrassment. MSNBC declared: “Murdoch Empire Under Threat,” while ABC treated readers to a detailed, none-too-flattering examination of the entire Murdoch clan in a piece entitled “Faces of a Scandal.”
Mainstream media have never understood how or why News Corp. has been so successful, refusing to believe that outlets like Fox News attract viewers because they are more in tune with the American psyche than the other big networks. The leftist narrative declares that nefarious, underhanded tactics have to be the source of Fox’s success and that of other News Corp. outlets. The hacking scandal is the “proof” they’ve been so desperately waiting for; no matter that it involved a now-defunct tabloid that was published in a nation half a world away. We would have never seen this kind of media feeding frenzy had the scandal involved some equally obscure outlet (by American standards) owned by The New York Times or one of the old networks.
Color of Change used the scandal as an excuse to further exhibit its News Corp. hatred. Protesters associated with the Soros-linked organization rallied outside of Murdoch’s home in New York, holding signs with messages like “Rupert Murdoch Profits From FOX News Racism” and “Race Baiting, Phone Hacking, Anything For Profit.” Color of Change was founded by Van Jones and James Rucker, a former director at MoveOn.org. Fox News is one of the organization’s favorite targets, smearing the network with claims that it is both racist and bigoted.
It’s beyond ironic to see such an outfit obsess over Murdoch. The Australian-born media mogul makes no bones about his politics and he runs his media empire directly, and in the light of day. In contrast, George Soros, who has spent millions on media organization, hides in the shadows, funneling money into supposedly independent organizations, many of which follow the same agenda.
That contrast and the way this scandal has become a cause célèbre is symptomatic of what’s wrong with old media. The problem with journalism today is not about tabloid reporters who clearly and flagrantly step over the line or with bosses who try to protect them. They need to be punished, but they hardly compromise the institution of journalism – whatever their political leaning. But this is not a systemic problem. We should be far more concerned about the state of the institution itself and the norms and mores that define it.
News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire have been prosecuted for the hackings and anyone who connived with them, or covered up for them, should be as well. But what of the thousands of other “mainstream” reporters who play a deeper, much more subtle game every single day? What of the subtle turns of phrases and clever shifts of focus that are designed to slowly erode away one manner of thinking and replace it with another? What of the editing tricks that television journalists and leftist film-makers use to elicit powerful emotions, directed toward those causes they support?
Clearly, no journalist or film-maker is going to be prosecuted for these sins, and I’m not suggesting that they should be. But, in the grand scheme of things, we must ask ourselves: are we more troubled by individuals who would break the law in pursuit of a story, or by an institution that regularly twists the story in support of an ideology?
Rich Trzupek is a chemist and veteran environmental consultant with over twenty-five years of experience in the field. He is the author of the Encounter Broadside How the EPA’s Green Tyranny is Stifling America and the upcoming book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry (Encounter Books).