In an earlier article "When Criminals Rule The World" I expressed the view that “when criminals take control of the reins of power, perhaps to the point of ruling the world, then it becomes inevitable that ordinary, decent people will be criminalized”.
The examples I used were of those more obvious instances where ordinary citizens come into conflict with the state because they confront and resist actions of the state that are immoral or even illegal. But the tendency to criminalise ordinary people is deeper, more subtle and more pervasive.
It’s connected with the need of people who are engaged in or complicit in immoral behaviour to mitigate the sense of guilt. One all-pervasive, mitigating rationale, the one at the heart of the “American Dream” is the excessively-promoted notion that “anyone else in my position would do the same if they had the chance”. It’s the universal excuse. After all, if it were not for the broader complicity of Western Society in “liberating” Iraq and the shared knowledge that we desperately need cheap oil, then Tony Blair would already have faced war crimes charges in The Hague, would he not?
Another escape route for guilt is a tendency to blur the distinction in relative significance of acts of crime or immorality, equating misdemeanours and acts of opportunistic petty crime with, for example, deliberate, ongoing, systemic fraud, theft or violent murder. In this philosophy firing a missile into a home and killing an entire family is a quite reasonable and acceptable error if done in a foreign country in the course of deposing a dictator, particularly if deposing the dictator incurs massive benefits to the perpetrators while undertaking a humanitarian mission to protect the people of the foreign country. Opportunistically vandalising or looting a shop in the high street on the other hand, is a serious crime reflective of one’s belonging to a “sick and broken” underclass of society, even if this is the only available means of expressing anger and frustration over social injustice. War criminals riding on the crest of a wave of affluence secured by violence can puff up and croak like pompous bull-frogs in their indignant rage over such crimes (but let us be thankful these petty criminals have no access to apache helicopters and hellfire missiles).
In the sickening episode that is the subject of this article we have it all; the collaboration between corporations, law enforcement and politics to commit and then pass over serious breaches of the law and prevent prosecution of those responsible for crimes, rewarding the perpetrators both financially and socially – all this is both excusable and forgivable. Indeed, calling the episode “the most humble day of my life” is something admirable. However, the release of information exposing these activities, in contrast, is a serious crime that poses a threat to the very security of the social order. Those responsible must be hunted down and dealt with by the law.
The Criminal Inversion
Recently, the British Metropolitan Police Service has applied for a production order against The Guardian newspaper on the basis of the Official Secrets Act seeking to force them to reveal their sources for stories that uncovered the Milly Dowler scandal.
The police are seeking “evidence of offences connected to potential breaches relating to Misconduct in Public Office” not by News of the World, of course, but by reporters at The Guardian who exposed the scandal.
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists commented that: “Journalists have investigated the hacking story and told the truth to the public. They should be congratulated rather than being hounded and criminalised by the state."
This, obviously, is not the view of the UK Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), who describe the exposures that triggered the Milly Dowler Scandal as “gratuitous release of information that is not in the public interest”. This, of course, after paying a contradictory lip service “tribute to the Guardian's unwavering determination to expose the hacking scandal” and the “important public interest of whistle blowing and investigative reporting”. This critical word “gratuitous” is very useful. The violence done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is of course very “purposeful”, only things not done “in the public interest” are ever qualified to be treated as serious crimes.
But on sober reflection, the situation could not be more clear; just who the criminals are and who the law enforcement instruments of the state is protecting (the criminals or the public) is quite the opposite of what it should be.
The Milly Dowler Scandal
"It is an outrageous abuse and completely unacceptable that, having failed to investigate serious wrongdoing at the News of the World for more than a decade, the police should now be trying to move against the Guardian. It was the Guardian who first exposed this scandal." - Tom Watson, the former Labour minister who has been prominent in exposing hacking by the News of the World.
The serious “Official Secret” exposed here is that the News Corporation empire, in its UK province, has enjoyed both political protection and immunity from the law.
Phone hacking is illegal; a relatively benign if potentially virulent crime, but illegal.
It has been practiced by News of the World (NotW) as a means of obtaining celebrity gossip since the late 1990s when Les Hinton was head of News International and has allegedly been discussed (at least) at the level of editorial meetings; referred to by the euphemism of “practicing the black arts”. However, any assumptions about the benign nature or acceptability of phone hacking should have been put thoroughly to rest at NotW in 2007 when NotW journalist and Royal Editor, Clive Goodman was jailed for four months and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months, after admitting intercepting voicemail messages on phones of royal family aides. That should have seen the last of phone hacking at NotW; not so!
When rival newspaper The Guardian (well, you wouldn’t expect to read it in The Sun, would you?) raised allegations in 2009 of a “huge mobile phone-hacking operation” by NotW involving a list of at least 3 to 4,000 phones the suggestion that the practice continued at NotW was not followed up by the MPS, who controversially declined to re-open investigations, claiming there had been no new evidence. Yet fully 2 years later, in July 2011, The Guardian was able to reveal that NotW had not only hacked into the voicemail messages of missing (in fact murdered) school girl Milly Dowler but also deleted messages in order to free up space for new messages. When this action created the erroneous impression that Milly was still alive, knowing at the time from the inside the true cause of this wrong impression it should have been cause to pause and reflect at NotW; not so! NotW cynically exploited the situation by interviewing Milly’s parents on the subject.
What the Guardian story of 2011 reveals is not evidence of new events involving phone hacking (the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone occurred in 2002) but new evidence of past events of more than 7 years prior, which indicated far greater seriousness of the crimes involved, evidence that should have and could have been (and possibly was) uncovered by a proper police investigation at the time.
Andy Coulson, who was editor of NotW at the time of the 2007 investigation, was forced to resign over the controversy but immediately went to work for David Cameron as his communications director, apparently retaining his NotW salary, suggesting that he was serving a dual role. Similarly, former NotW executive Neil Wallis, who had been questioned by police investigating hacking in the initial investigation, was hired by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson as an adviser. His assistant, John Yates allegedly also procured a job for Wallis's daughter. Far from suggesting that association with events involving serious crime is a disqualifier for public office, this suggests that politicians are open to affording protection and support to people involved and exposed in their corrupt dealings with media and police. In a world run by criminals other criminals become rising stars.
When the scandal was finally exposed in 2011 Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and assistant commissioner John Yates both resigned, Yates asserting that his conscience was clear, but both men should be subject to serious examination as to why they (controversially) refused to reopen their investigation in 2009. The “too busy” excuse is completely inadequate.
However, the brazenness of the Murdoch press, suggesting a confidence in operating with impunity from the law, also extended to stealing and using, confidential information from British Telecom, mobile phone companies and the DVLA. Some 23 NotW journalists hired Steve Whittamore, a Hampshire private investigator who ran a network of specialists who stole this information for a fee a total of 228 times. Even the Prime Minister was not out of reach.
Still further, the comments of Harold Evans, former editor of the Sunday Times suggest that collusion in the unholy alliance of media, politics and law extends beyond NotW as others in the media oligopoly of the world have followed their lead. He observes that: “It was notable that newspapers were amazingly slow to follow the Guardian's hacking stories until the Milly Dowler scandal made coverage inescapable. I do not hear much of a din about this assault on sources. Maybe the news travels slowly in some parts of the media. The Murdoch press and the collusion with police and governments has now been exposed for the shoddy conspiracy it was.”.
The Murdoch Media Empire is widely loathed in the Western World for its leading role in corrupting politics and degrading democracy in the US, the UK and Australia. The Criminality of the Murdoch Empire is consistent with the immorality and fraud that it has practiced over more than three decades involving support for violent, illegal wars based on lies and misrepresentation, corrupt dealings with politicians and governments to influence legislation and regulatory and economic policies to its own advantage and that of other corporations achieved through suppression of opposing political viewpoints, non-reporting of significant issues, facts and events and misleading and deceptive or downright dishonest reporting that has consistently misled the public not only about the nature and implications of world events and issues but also as to the nature of public opinion about them.
Throughout this time governments, induced by the corporations that have pushed up their campaign costs to the point that only parties and candidates with corporate backing can participate, coerced by the same corporations threatening to move investments off-shore and protected from public wrath by the cooperation of corporate-owned media have steadily enslaved the individual citizen to the will of corporations and the privileged elites who own them. They have shifted the burden of taxation to low-income individuals away from wealthy individuals and corporations by reducing company taxes, introducing regressive, indirect taxes such as VAT/GST and cutting the once-progressive direct taxes for high-income earners. At the same time they have shifted spending away from public services such as health care and education in favour of infrastructure, aid projects and bail-outs that benefit corporations. They have privatised assets such as highways and public transport, energy and water utilities and communications infrastructure creating vast monopolies that are able simply to monitor average family surplus income and adjust their charges to fully absorb earning capacity or even systematically push the average family into increasing debt with compliant consumer “watchdogs” either co-opted or intimidated.
The wars of the past decade, themselves a system for the transfer of public funds into corporate profits through vast investment in war, have been nothing less than pillage and plunder on behalf of resource companies premised on grotesque lies, lies that were energetically facilitated and promoted by corporate media, the like of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
None of this would have been possible without the support of a corporate-owned media oligopoly exercising control of information sources and the opinion-shaping discussion and entertainment system underpinning these pseudo-democracies. In this process the Murdoch Empire has played a significant role and their behaviour has been ruthless, immoral and cynical reflecting an unprincipled criminal mentality.
Icing the Cow-Pie
In the world according to the corporate media the unpleasant truth is an official secret. Order is being restored and we are, as usual, “moving on” in this fantasy in which, according to Rupert Murdoch “Our business was founded on the idea that a free and open press should be a positive force in society” and the BBC, expressing their reverent compassion for him on the “humblest day” of his life - “He was humbled, shaken and sincere. This was something that had hit him on a personal level. He apologised many times and held his head in his hands” – urge us to believe that he and his NotW executive were unaware that their journalists engaged in criminal activity on their behalf without ever mentioning it to them.
When pressed on the incredibility of the assertion that he and Rebecca Brooks didn’t know, James Murdoch immediately leapt to the assertion that “This company has been a great investor in journalism, a great investor in media in general and it’s something that we believe very strongly in” as if to imply that these investments were made for the good of journalism and the betterment of informed democracy. Aside from evading the question, this assertion is itself a lie. Investments in media serve to attract the returns of power, which derive from the ability to manipulate public perception and play a lucrative role in the manufacture of consent. The tools of this trade, the selective publishing of information, of disinformation and the insidious infusion of opinion with fact or distortion have long been signature practices of the Murdoch media empire that have attracted public scorn.
It is through the very practice of these arts of media deception that some sections of the media would have us persuaded of the fantasy that police chiefs, presumably on the advice of people recruited from the scene of the crimes decided that they had more important things to do than to fully investigate and that an aspiring Prime Minister, also having recruited from the same crime scene, was guilty of a “lapse of judgment” and that he was just a little naïve in his wish to give a good fellow a second chance.
So as David Cameron shouts ever-louder his denigrations of the morally inferior sub-class of British society with the cultivated plum-in-mouth English of his Eton accent and Charles and Camilla are wheeled about in the manner of a cultured, mature couple of solid character from the aristocratic classes, issuing condescension and charitable advice about the management of society’s youth, the icing oozes and drips down over the putrid clod of corruption that the greed and power-lust of the political, capitalist and aristocratic classes have inflicted on British society in their collusion with the media and the Murdoch empire in particular.
Wealth has been massively concentrated into fewer and fewer hands of people who lack the imagination, intelligence and wit to employ it productively. They invest in property left to stagnate in the expectation of capital gain and investments so speculative they could only be called gambling while actively-producing businesses wilt and shed staff because they can no longer deliver competitive returns on capital.
We repeat the history of the previous century, page for page and line for line in a re-run of the Great Depression as we lurch toward the fulfilment of Marx’s prophecy and the natural end-game of unbridled Capitalism.
When criminals rule the world and all of its realities are “official secrets” we have little chance of intelligently re-shaping the way we live in the world, to conserve and restore its perilously displaced natural balance, without chaos, war and suffering on a vast scale in the transition. But the transition is upon us, “official secret” or not.
Manage the Damage
Rupert Murdoch has dealt with the Dowler scandal in the preferred manner of wealth: sprinkling some cash on the victims. It’s just small change for the Murdochs, of course, but a life-changing sum for the Dowlers that would make their hearts race and overshadow all concern for the matter of ethics and decency that was absent from NotW’s treatment of their late daughter in the face of a price tag. Aside from reinforcing their faith in the principle that money is the solution to all problems this brings a double added bonus for the Murdochs. Not only does it serve to put the matter to rest in the minds of a goldfish public and take the heat off the evident criminal activity of their media empire (there has been media silence from July to October) but it also allows them to indulge the power of wealth and throw their “get out of jail free” card on the table with some gusto. More insidiously, it casts their scandalous disregard for morality and decency regarding the missing-possibly-murdered girl for the sake of a lucrative “news” story in the frame that “anyone else in my position would do the same if they had the chance”. If only poor people could fly in the face of a £2M offer and tell the Murdochs to “stick their filthy money!”.
For a time it seemed that foiling the B-Sky-B deal was enough to call off the hounds and all that was left for the Murdochs to do was to face off any damage to the share-price and keep the shareholders calm – after all, this was getting close to David Cameron and in any event, after the Milly Dowler episode is concluded, who in British politics really gives a hoot about Gordon Brown’s privacy issues?
But now the word is out, the content of the Wall Street Journal is not the only thing about it lacking substance; it seems the circulation figures reveal that the only people willing to buy it are the executives of other companies owned by the Murdoch Empire. And in the midst of all this that wretched Tom Watson is now carping about NotW hacking into computers as well and these treacherous lawyers, paid to do the empire’s legal dirty-work, are now ratting on the executive: they think they have a meeting agenda document which suggests a certain email may have been discussed which could have led James to be aware of criminal practices in the empire. The Murdochs’ troubles seem endless, anybody and everybody in the game sniffs a settlement payout of some order in the making.
We will not soon be seeing any dramatic reform of global media and its role in democracy, or the sordid, corrupt arrangements it shares among the power institutions that implement the order of our “civilisation” with its economic system owned and operated by psychopathic criminals obsessed with violence and wealth. But as the petty squabbles among the power players shift the window we get occasional glimpses that show us the inner workings of Sodom and Gomorrah where the people who want real change and real justice expose “official secrets” and pose a threat to “national security”.
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|Allen L. Jasson|