But the hacking scandal now engulfing Murdoch's empire is also allowing false reverence for the BBC and other 'respectable' media as it preens itself on upholding 'journalistic morality'.
Hacking the victims
Now-available records confirm that NotW spook-investigator Glenn Mulcaire listened-in on murder victim Milly Dowler's phone as a criminal investigation was under way into her abduction. He also deleted messages on her phone to free-up space, giving the Dowler family false cause to believe she may have still been alive. Many other notable victims are now coming to light.
However, it's increasingly clear that Mulcaire was not acting as a lone rogue. Phone hacking and other such invasions are widespread across the tabloid media. Ex-NotW reporter Paul McMullen has also confirmed that his paper paid large sums of money on a regular basis to police officers in exchange for confidential information.
Awareness of such actions goes right to the top of the Murdoch organisation. It reaches higher even than then NotW editor-in-chief and present News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who, as a Channel 4 News investigation has now shown, was acutely aware of such subterfuge, having also been party to a meeting with the Metropolitan Police over the NotW's surveillance of a detective investigating the case of a murdered journalist.
Only now are the really uncomfortable questions being asked. Why didn't Brooks declare her knowledge of all this hacking and surveillance? Why didn't the police themselves mention the meeting they'd had with Brooks? Why has there been no police investigation or, indeed, serious media examination, before now into the cash payments made to police officers by NotW?
The NotW is now facing a serious backlash, with public boycott sentiment and companies like Ford and Sainsbury pulling their advertising from the paper, a reaction threatening to ruin one of Murdoch's most lucrative Wapping brands.
All of which puts key politicians in the spotlight over their own carefully-cultivated relationships with the Murdoch empire, not least David Cameron who has close links with Brooks and employed her successor at NotW, Andy Coulson, as his communications chief.
Coulson now faces a potential perjury charge for testifying during the recent Tommy Sheridan perjury trial that he didn't know about NotW hacking and payments to corrupt police officers.
In the admirable course of unlocking NotW/police deceptions, Labour MP Tom Watson has now openly declared the Sheridan verdict "unsound" as a consequence of Coulson's allegedly false statements. The gathering revelations of Murdoch-police accommodations also throws a confirming light on why the Crown Office decided to pursue a criminal prosecution against Sheridan in the first place.
Meanwhile, Cameron has issued all the customary words denouncing NotW and promising an independent inquiry, a likely whitewash and stalling exercise while he tries to smooth-manage the Murdoch relationship and BSkyB deal. Labour leader Ed Miliband has, in turn, sought to maximise Cameron's embarrassment, carefully neglecting his own party's prostitution to Murdoch.
Liberal media's 'shock'
But the hypocrisy doesn't end at Downing Street or Parliament. It has also been 'righteous-judgement' time among the wider media as more 'respectable' journalists savage the NotW and Murdoch's mercenary practices.
Some have expressed their deepest shock over NotW methods, such as ITN's Daisy McAndrew who tweeted:
"There are v few stories I remember that elicited genuine shock & [sic]; disgust around the newsroom. Milly Dowler's phone being hacked is one."The BBC's big-act business editor Robert Peston has also given his standard drama delivery on News International's gathering problems, exorting on how the political pressure could impact on parent company News Corp's BSkyB bid.
Yet, while people will rightly boycott the NotW and condemn Murdoch, Brooks, Mulcaire and their ghoulish operations, the public outrage also encourages false notions of corporate and media angels.
Just as 'good businesses' like Ford see the expedient need to distance themseves from 'bad business apples' like NotW, so do many journalists revel in setting themselves apart from Murdoch's 'bad apple' papers.
The sanctimonious tendency of an establishment-liberal media to seek ethical 'status' in such cases has never been so prominent.
Thus, could Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman ask a NotW feature writer if he was in any way "ashamed" to be associated with Murdoch's paper.
It wouldn't, of course, occur to Paxman or his BBC colleagues to reflect on their own shame in being part of an organisation which has done so much to defend and rationalise Britain's aggressive war policies or failed to report Israel's oppression of occupied Palestinians.
While legitimate to decry the deep distress Mulcaire and NotW have caused their unwitting victims, why can't such journalists and editors apply relevant and proportionate language to much higher state crimes?
What, in particular, could they, should they, be saying about the calculating politicians who have inflicted mass death and suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere?
More self-critically, what could they, should they, be saying about the failure of their own 'vanguard' media to expose and pursue the executive directors of such slaughter?
Thus, BBC, Guardian and other liberal journalists can castigate Mulcaire et al as evil pariahs while treating high-ranking war criminals like Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and Geoff Hoon as respectable figures of authority.
So, while Mulcaire has gone to ground, Campbell enjoys multiple media invites to plug his memoirs and appear as a role-model figure on Jamie Oliver's show about education.
Here's Campbell himself blogging on NotW illegality and media morality:
"The central issue – illegal activity by the media – has not changed. But the public and political reaction almost certainly has. I have argued for some time that this is an issue that just won’t go away."Indeed, it won't. Nor will the truth of Campbell's own infamous media manipulations and complicity in mass murder.
With still-murkier truths to emerge from the NotW issue - spawning, no doubt, another 'national debate' on 'media standards' and calls for a 'better-regulated' press - we can be reasonably sure that no critical spotlight will fall on the BBC or its liberal accomplices over their shameful failure to challenge and expose powerful politicians, corporate tyrants and criminal warmongers.
Running with public feeling over the NotW scandal, liberal media animosity towards Murdoch and his voracious empire may have found new and confident expression. Now may, indeed, be an optimum moment to strike the wounded beast. But that won't deal with the deeper corporate priorities and institutional propaganda that drives the wider media, not just Murdoch's sizeable chunk of it.
From the scabrous tabloid red-tops to the liberal-stylish pretensions of the Guardian, the same problems of media conformity to power remain, with little evidence that those journalists 'appalled' by the NotW can remotely see their own functional part in the much bigger deception.
Update at 17.27:
James Murdoch has just caved-in and announced the closure this weekend of the NotW. It's a tactical, damage-limitation exercise, of course, with an eye on keeping the BSkyB bid safe, but indicates, still, the potential effect of people power to challenge even Murdoch's 'untouchable' empire.