Melanie Phillips

8 July 2011

Britain's media earthquake

Published in: Melanie's blog

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As the scandal over the News of the World continues to grow, so do its deeply troubling implications -- way beyond the gates of Wapping.  It has yet to be established how high this corruption went in the Metropolitan Police as well as in News International. David Cameron’s difficulties over hiring Andy Coulson as his spin doctor, not to mention his close friendship with NI’s Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks, can only deepen – as his uncertain demeanour at today’s press conference illustrated, where although he dumped Brooks he showed he cannot so easily wriggle out of the Coulson link.

Perhaps most explosive is what Labour MP Tom Watson said about James Murdoch in the emergency Commons debate on the scandal. Under protection of Parliamentary privilege he said:

Mr James Murdoch should be suspended from office while the police investigate what I believe is his personal authorisation to plan a cover-up of this scandal. Mr James Murdoch is the chairman. It is clear now that he personally, without board approval, authorised money to be paid by his company to silence people who had been hacked, and to cover up criminal behaviour within his organisation. That is nothing short of an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

If this is true, it may be that the extraordinary lengths to which Rupert Murdoch is going to protect Brooks is that – as suggested here and elsewhere -- she is acting as a lightning rod to protect his son, who is the heir to his empire.  For his part, in his own careful statement yesterday designed to draw a line in the sand, James Murdoch suggested that it was ignorance at the top of the full extent of the wrongdoing at the NoW which had unwittingly led NI to issue misleading statements.

The truth of any of these claims against the NoW has not yet been established; but if even half of them are well-founded they are indeed truly sickening. Yet as I warned here two days ago, and as Andrew Gilligan points out in a thoughtful Telegraph piece today, the jubilation by Murdoch’s media enemies may die in their throats if this scandal provides the excuse politicians have been waiting for to muzzle the press.

Already there are loud calls for a new regulatory system; today the Prime Minister said the Press Complaints Commission had failed. So it has; but what is at stake now is not just the fate of Murdoch’s empire but the freedom of the press. Yet the anti-Murdoch media are incapable of seeing this. They are simply hysterical with the delirium at having so badly wounded the man they have long elevated into a cartoon hate-figure.

Moreover, the ecstatic BBC and Guardian are hardly dispassionate observers of these events. They are direct competitors of NI and have an overwhelming commercial interest in bringing it down.

But that isn’t the worst of it.  In a western world whose intelligentsia is consumed by irrational and malevolent hatred of America and Israel and is hell-bent on undermining the west and assisting its mortal enemies, Murdoch has provided the one media voice putting forward a pro-America, pro-Israel, pro-defence of the west position -- including support for the Iraq war.

That’s why the left hate him so much. They display the same kind of frenzied, irrational obsession over Murdoch as they do over America, Israel and Iraq. When you consider the BBC’s ‘group-think’ bent journalism, or the disgusting support the Guardian provides, week in, week out, to anti-Jewish, anti-gay, women-beating hate-mongers, to see the BBC and Guardian scarcely able to contain themselves over Murdoch’s disaster is a nauseating spectacle.

The left complain that his proposed takeover of BSkyB would concentrate monopoly media power in the hands of one individual. But that one individual happens to be the only one who can prevent the left from completing its monopoly of the political and cultural debate. If Murdoch is brought down by this scandal, the danger is that there will be no protection against the left’s stranglehold on the British cultural windpipe. As the Autonomous Mind blog observes:

Sky itself could play host to current affairs and documentaries coming from a conservative viewpoint.  The BBC don’t want that and the Guardian, which influences so much BBC output, doesn’t want that either.  Which is why the phone hacking issue has been transformed by the Guardian and BBC into the campaign it really is – stop Murdoch from owning Sky.

The cynicism is sickening, but the stakes are the highest.  This is about exerting influence over the British people.  The propaganda broadcast on any number of issues, from climate change to public spending, is designed to underpin the ‘progressive’ agenda.  That influence will weaken if a conservative leaning alternative is available for viewers to choose.  Love him or hate him, Murdoch has the capacity to deliver that alternative which is why he is being assailed.

But awful thing is that, if these allegations about NI prove even only partially true, the enemies of both Murdoch and all the public causes that he champions will be correct that he presided over an organisation that debauched British public life. And so those of us who stand for the defence of free societies against its enemies both within and without will have been dealt a terrible blow.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
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Contact Melanie