Rupert Murdoch, a Secret Chomskyite? How Marxism is Influencing the News of the World Phone Hacking Scandal
Another momentous day looms, while what David Cameron calls a 'firestorm', unleashed by the Murdoch hacking scandal, burns out of control. It looks already to have claimed the scalp of another senior police officer; it has made Cameron cut short his African visit and James Murdoch looks set to leave the BSkyB board. In the US, it appears the DOJ are already in contact with British police: US DoJ sounds out Serious Fraud Office on News International
The interest of the Washington-based DoJ stems from the US nationality of the News of the World's and News International's parent company, News Corporation.
It is illegal for any US company to pay bribes to overseas officials, under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
I'll update this section as I can: but while the daily drama unfolds above the line, follow me below the line to explore the bigger ideological battle going on - and how this morning one of our senior politicians has finally been brave enough to stand up to the modal monopolies and restrictive practices affecting not only the media, or politics, but also our whole Anglo Saxon financial system.
Just in case anyone's in doubt about the connection between news coverage, media ownership, and political pressure, check out the career of one Rupert Murdoch, who has always cannily touted his 'anti elitist' rhetoric to secure his dynasty. Murdoch is a Chomskyite: he believes can manufacture consensus, and in the UK, Australia and the US, he's pushing back with the same theme: in the Australian:
"What we are witnessing in Britain is a media coup led by a tiny gaggle of illiberal liberals".
Or, as dweb8231 diaries today in 'Unsigned WSJ Editorial Attacks Guardian and BBC', the ideological is at the forefront in the minds of the editors of The Wall Street Journal:
"We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw."
Ideology often sounds like a dry thing, and having been immersed in the Marxist critical theory for years, I find it often too jargon filled and despairing to actually motivate people. But there's little doubt about the analysis, as this crisis has laid bare.
Newscorp have always clothed their commercial interests in the language of freedom and free markets. I've already diaried in detail his son's James ideological speech two years ago when he laid out his plan to defeat the BBC quoting Orwell and Darwin. The vested interests defending closed markets and privilege are very passionate about their ideas - for obvious reasons. But until recently, Britain has lacked a passionate voice that could connect to the wider population about the abuse of power here.
But as Yeats once said "Great passion leads to abstraction". In a crisis, an idea - a portable, simple, killer idea - can be much more powerful than spin, image manipulation or the optic of lobbying. Finally, this morning the leader of our opposition has attack Murdoch's crude monopoly power with passion and force.
Some key quotes while I wait for the full transcript and or video:
"Down the ages, it is large concentrations of power that lead to abuses of power and neglect of responsibility. In the banks, they were too big to fail. And the same is true in our media."
"It is not healthy for consumers, who see choice constrained. It is not healthy for our democracy, where we see too much power in one set of hands. It is not healthy for a country that believes in responsibility all the way to the top of society."
"It is one of the great failures of our politics that this power went unchallenged for so long."
Just so you know - Ed Miliband has done well during this scandal.Two weeks ago there were questions about his leadership. He seemed adrift, returning to old triangulating ways of New Labour, hitting out at benefit claimants and strikes. But when the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone was revealed, he made an amazingly brave step. He did what no politician has dared to do in thirty years, and directly confronted Murdoch and his minions at News International: at every stage he's led the debate - the call for Brooks' resignation, the setting up of a public enquiry, an end to the Newscorp take over of BSkyB, and even today calling for Parliament to be extended till Wednesday. At every stage he has been on the front foot - and has transformed from what someone called an 'insignificant flea' to a 'killer bee'. And today he has made a bold connection
What is the reason for this? One of the top left wing thinkers here, Anthony Painter, puts it down to his background: Ed is the son of the Marxist Thinker Ralph Miliband who believed in an early version of Chomsky's manufacture of consensus. Painter thinks The phone-hacking crisis calls for Ed Miliband to prove his dad wrong.
Ralph Miliband spotted the dangers of corporate power subjugating the state. We have to hope he was wrong about its inevitability. In fact, let's prove that he was wrong. If there is one person who stands at the edge of this Rubicon it's Ed Miliband. After this morning's press conference, there is little doubt that he is now setting the political pace of this issue. He's found his voice, and it's a determined one. His challenge is now to use his voice wisely -- to break up a concentration of over-weaning media power.
(Of course the family background doesn't explain why Ed's older brother, David Miliband, more senior in both years and experience, and originally expected to be a shoo-in for Labour Party leader, was much more entrammelled in the New Labour courtship of News International. Had he been leader now - and he was but for a whisker of votes - this saga would be almost as difficult for Labour as for the Tories. As a reader on the New Statesman blog puts it:
It's the Blairites - Tony Blair, David Cameron, Peter Mandelson, George Osborne, and Michael Gove etc - who are going to be most affected because they are closest to News International. No more "heir to Blair" talk! These are the losers.
I voted for Ed in the leadership campaign this time last year, having rejoined the Labour Party after a 15 year absence. One of the reasons I did so was that Ed, out of all the viable candidates, had an analysis that addressed the fundamental problems of the economy. We'd been too reliant on banking services as a sector of our economy, and ridden an asset bubble which had created an unhealthy dependence of property prices and private debt. Only Ed seemed to get that the days of Thatcher/Reaganomics were truly over, and the left needed no longer triangulate around some unassailable truth or all powerful sector.
I think he's shown exactly the same kind of insight and leadership when it comes to the other bastion of privilege in our country: the media industry, and its distorting influence on the political process. In simple words, and without the alienating jargon the left often uses, he's managed to sketch out a connected vision of how unaccountable power has built up in both politics, media and finance.
It sounds abstract: but it isn't. As Yeats said: "Great passion leads to abstraction." And in a major crisis nothing is as powerful as a big idea.