Friday, 29 July 2011

Come dine with me - politicians, police and the media

Senator Geary: "I despise the way you pose yourself. You and your whole f****** family."
Michael Corleone: "We're both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family."  (Godfather 2)
After Rupert Murdoch's admission to the recent parliamentary committee of special ties to successive political leaders comes the now acrimonious fallouts from their mutually-sustaining relationships.

From Thatcher to Blair, Brown to Cameron, Rupert Murdoch, his family and select executives like Rebekah Brooks have been feted and courted by prime ministers and party leaders like no other part of the media.

The hospitality has been duly returned.  Only weeks before the Milly Dowler hacking revelation and crisis exposures for Murdoch, every major political name, from David Cameron to Ed Miliband, was still being wined and dined by News International.

But the 'come dine with me' intimacy extended even further, with revelations that now-resigned Metropolitan Police head Sir Paul Stephenson hosted a dinner at Scotland Yard with Ed Llewellyn, Cameron's chief of staff , and Neil Wallis, ex-News of the World deputy editor turned Met media advisor, in attendance.  

Stephenson may claim that it was 'only a dinner', but this and multiple other instances of cosy patronage between the Met, Downing Street and News International illustrates the 'three course menu' of power, corruption and lies at the heart of the establishment.  

In his evidence to the committee, Sir Paul made an earnest plea for his critics to understand that he had to be intimate with News International in order to promote the best public image possible for the police.  In effect, the country's highest-ranking policeman claims he was compelled to attend all those expensive dinners and spa-hotel vacations to win favour with Murdoch's executives.

Assistant Metropolitan Commissioner, John Yates, also now resigned, told the committee that having self-sacrificed his position, so should "others" - meaning News International elites - now do likewise.

Unsurprisingly, the recriminations have only intensified the rush to more self-indulgent evasion of the truth.

And none in more sanctimonious voice than Gordon Brown, a man who, as Ian Bell notes, was still able to eat dinner at Rebekah Brooks's wedding all the while knowing that the Sun had invaded his family life.  For Bell:
"What’s baffling is that Gordon Brown, once a Chancellor who could certainly have given the Murdoch empire’s tax returns a second look, has only now realised that he was supping with the devil."
But who is the biggest devil here?  John Pilger sees little difference between Murdoch, Brown and all the other eager diners who sit at the News Corp table:
"Murdoch may be more extreme in his methods, but he is no different in kind from many of those now lining up to condemn him who are his beneficiaries, mimics, collaborators, apologists. As former prime minister Gordon Brown turns on his former master, accusing him of running a “criminal-media nexus”, watch the palpable discomfort in the new, cosy parliamentary-media consensus. “We must not be backward-looking,” said one Labour MP. Those parliamentarians caught last year with both hands in the Westminster till, who did nothing to stop the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and stood and cheered the war criminal responsible, are now “united” behind the “calm” figure of opposition leader Ed Miliband. There is an acrid smell of business as usual."
Meanwhile, the BBC, Guardian and other 'mind-food media' seek to occupy the high moral table, effecting a safe distance from the 'fast-food' Murdoch outlets.  It's a smug posture, saying nothing about the biggest crimes of the day or the failure of liberal journalists and editors to self-examine their own part in the distortion.  Pilger again: 
"The truth is, Britain’s system of elite monopoly control of the media rests not on Murdoch’s News International alone, but on the Mail and the Guardian and the BBC, perhaps the most influential of all. All share a corporate monoculture that sets the agenda of the “news”, defines acceptable politics as maintaining the fiction of distinctive parties, normalises unpopular wars and guards the limits of “free speech”. This will only be strengthened by the allusion that a “bad apple” has been “rooted out”."
 If only the Guardian and BBC would permit serious reflection on that kind of media consumption. 

As the latest Media Lens Alert notes, much of the 'interrogation' of Murdoch and his lieutenants concerns illegality around phone hacking and other such subterfuge.  But where have we seen any parliamentary examination, or criticism from people like Brown, of Murdoch's crucial role as a propagandist for Britain's and the West's wars?  Where, indeed, among the Guardian exposures, has this - "Murdoch's other moral crimes" - featured as an issue?

The absence of such within our media and parliamentary village should come as little surprise.  After all, it was Brown and his accomplices who helped organise the mass killings in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the BBC, Guardian and other liberal outlets serve to rationalise those very same war policies.   

Such are the ways in which the establishment manages its 'mistakes' and internal crises. It's a complicity that involves not just Rupert Murdoch but all corners of politics, the police and the media. 

The above-noted quote from Corleone might, more aptly, be Murdoch himself saying: 

"We're both part of the same hypocrisy, Prime Minister, but never think it applies just to my family."


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