Leon Brown on

HACKGATE: AN IMMODEST PROPOSAL: 2011

As a democratic socialist and libertarian I believe, like many, that there is a risk the hysteria surrounding the entire press at the current time could spiral out of control and taint the whole newspaper industry: not only squalid tabloids but also the more ‘high-minded’ so-called ‘qualities.’ But do we have cast iron evidence that the ‘broadsheets’ (all tabloid sized now in their non online form) don't engage in this sort of activity?

Unless proven otherwise the broadsheets must be presumed innocent. After the revelations of this week, however, a new doubt has crept in. We can be fairly sure the Guardian and Independent wouldn’t engage in such criminal behaviour on the industrial scale or to anywhere near the same inhumane degree, as the NOTW - with its hacking of the mobiles of a murdered schoolgirl, dead soldiers and terrorist victims. However, would it be entirely surprising if it was found that the broadsheets do after all engage in hacking?

The bottom line for all media concerns, after all, is profit. The Guardian nowadays despite the high calibre of some of its journalism and writers has been for many years now the mouthpiece for an utterly bourgeouis, smugly hypocritical, politically correct, moral relativist, innately capitalist Labour Party.

However, it would be churlish to withhold credit from The Guardian for playing a blinder in bringing these revelations to light.

One thing is clear. The time for press self-regulation is over. It clearly hasn’t worked. Journalists in this country should report the news: not the right-wing opinions of their owners. Opinions can be confined to editorial sections. We have a no-bias rule for TV and radio. Why can’t bias be kept to a minimum in newspapers? If a journalist wants to write polemical pieces they should set up blogs and websites. Readers may know of a very good polemical website. It's called the Recusant

As for the abolition of the NOTW: nothing more than a totally cynical and cosmetic hatchet job by the Murdochs. For its employees to howl with rage that Murdoch is unprincipled - excuse me while I rummage around for the sick bag. These hacks were quite happy to work for the gutter press: a principle free zone. They don’t deserve our sympathy. And let us all ardently hope they won’t have the brass neck to apply for benefits now they will be receiving their P45s - seeing as they have written column after column heaping abuse on the entire welfare system over the past 40-odd years when, as we all know, only a tiny minority of claimants abuse the public purse. More than you can say for our elected representatives: countless numbers of whom were guilty of fiddling their expenses in the last parliament.
 
Anyway, in six months’ time it could all merely be a case of reboot/reload. Roll of drums and fanfare for The Sunday Sun. I wonder how many of the NOTW employees crying tears of rage and promised retribution today will hold onto their anger if the summons to work for their old boss comes their way again. Not many, I would wager.

People who think Murdoch is finished are deluded. He'll still be pulling the strings of our political system behind the scenes and pouring his trash consumerist/celebrity, right-wing garbage into the easily suggestible minds of the people who buy or read tabloids: unfortunately the majority of the paper-reading public.

It is scarcely surprising Murdoch won't jettison Rebekah Brooks. She is his human shield. This flame-haired harridan knows exactly where her boss's bodies are buried. If she was sacrificed she would sing like a canary. So Coulson will be offered up to the public as the sacrificial wolf. And watch Cameron fiddle as his former Director of Communications burns. Did anyone notice he was looking slightly more flustered than usual today as he was verbally pummelled by the media at the No 10 press conference. The old Etonian shiny-cheeked self-assurance was turning a distinct shade of scarlet.

At any rate, Brooks and Coulson could be marked people. Coulson because he has been arrested and will probably be convicted. Brooks because it is possible there may be people who wish to exact revenge on her (whether the comrades and families of the dead soldiers or sacked NOTW employees). Quite probably, the British taxpayer (downtrodden chumps that we are) will now have to stump up the bill for the police protection of this ignoble pair. Considering they stand accused of paying the police off in the first place it is curiously ironic. Now we may very well all be asked to pay the police off to protect them!

The following (a dream scenario) or a modest proposal, if you like, is what needs to happen although it never will. Why? Because Cameron, the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and its leader, Ed 'I'm so disgusted by Rupert Murdoch that I attended his garden party last week’ Miliband’; are M's creatures to a man. Cameron counts Rebekah Brooks as a personal friend. In particular, the synthetic outrage of the Labour front bench these past few days is nauseous given the fact that they cravenly sucked up to Murdoch and News International for 14 long years. As with the banking crisis and the expenses scandal they have no credibility on this or any other issue as they share a hefty portion of the blame for the present sorry state of our media and our divisive and unjust social. political and economic system. Before they start congratulating themselves on suddenly finding the balls to attack Murdoch they should consider this fact. Without a credible commitment to genuine change they aren’t yet fit to govern this country any more than the Coalition.
  

So here is an ‘immodest proposal’ to fix Murdoch’s empire - and by definition start to repair the discredited British political system:

The BSkyB bid should be blocked without a hearing. As it stands tonight, despite hundreds of thousands of signatures on petitions from the public, the deal is very much on. Spare us the crap that a Prime Minister can’t intervene in a democracy. Is Rupert Murdoch a man who seemingly owns the political system, some of the Metropolitan Police and most of the British media a democrat? No. And what of the independent regulators? The PCC, Ofcom and the Monopolies and Mergers commission have proven themselves completely (if not cravenly) toothless.

‘No’ to a public inquiry. Even with a so-called ‘independent’ judge (undoubtedly educated at Oxbridge) it would cost millions, probably be another whitewash with no power of censure and true to past form exonerate the government and the political system while all the while rapping Murdoch over the knuckles by assuming the hawing tones of moral indigation.

A purge of the worst criminal offenders in News International: charges, prosecutions and prison sentences.

Plea bargains for lesser offenders (the amoral thieves otherwise known as tabloid hacks aren’t noted for their ethics. Faced with fines or prison they would have little qualms about reeling in their former masters.

A referendum put to the people with a delicious twist on the old Heathite slogan: 'Who governs Britain? News International or Her Majesty's elected government?' If the referendum goes in favour of the government Murdoch's assets should be seized, NI shareholders denied compensation and the Murdoch family deported from Britain for good.

Of course News International will dish the dirt on the politicians and offending police officers if this modest proposal was taken up. This is why neither Parliament or the MET have ever moved against Murdoch and his empire due to terror of what he might expose about them, their peccadilloes and their own ways of conducting business. It is alleged Rebekah Brooks obliquely threatened dishonourable members, recently, after repeatedly refusing to appear before a Commons select committee investigating the practices of News International. (So much for Harriet Harman’s ridiculous and sexist assertion made at the height of the banking crisis that with more women in the boardroom we would get rid of a macho, risk-taking destructive corporate culture!)

However, if Murdoch did unleash the Furies on our elected representatives at least we would be shot of a few more of them as well. On this occasion at least, the political class, should get its betrayal in first - as outlined in the above modest proposal.

Ruthless, yes. Costly, yes. But a price well worth paying. All those who believe in a decent, free society (largely social democrats and democratic socialists to a man and woman), must start playing hardball with freemarket fanatics and money grubbing shysters (whether bankers, MPs or pressmen). We must use the same degree of cool-eyed cunning and ruthlessness (within the rule of law) against them as they've used against 90% of the population for over 30 years. Only then will this country deserve to be called a true democracy and earn its right to a genuinely free press.

Leon Brown © 2011