That said, Rupert Murdoch's abrupt termination of this long-time media cash cow is another piece of cynical self-serving on the part of a man who wields far too great an influence on both sides of the Atlantic--both in the minds of those who eagerly consume his tendentious drivel, from The Wall Street Journal to Fox News, and in our political and economic life. In keeping with Murdoch's intemperately rapacious history, this action was clearly profit-driven, motivated by his move on British Sky Broadcasting and the prospect of expanding the scope of his equally deplorable alternative rag, The Sun. The News of the World--along with its entire crew (except for his protegee, the editor)--had apparently become an expendable embarrassment.
I suppose in part because the reach of my own influence is so small, I find it hard to understand the power- and money-hungry mind. Is building an empire comparable to, say, building a readership? I can boast my own little empire of blogs--three of them, currently, more or less active. I know my ego would not be averse to having a few more readers. Well, a lot more. But it's not something I need enough to change what I'm doing, let alone cater to the proven tastes of others. I also lack that tenacious, purpose-driven gene that leads to a certain kind of success. Persistence is a little different from unalloyed ambition. A man like Rupert Murdoch, it seems to me, is prepared to do literally anything to get his way--an attitude that gives permission to those who serve his interests to follow his example.
The current scandal surrounding the tactics of The News of the World can surely come as no surprise. The politicians who are currently throwing up their hands in horror have for the most part benefited from the Murdoch machine, whether directly or indirectly. On the political front, famously, he giveth... and he taketh away. The media, both print and broadcast, are almost universally infected by his example of bias and sensationalism. It's what sells. We love dirt. We are addicted to tales of violence and exploitation. We love to see the mighty brought low. We are delighted when we see those we have elevated to celebrity status dragged down into the mud with the rest of us. It's all human stuff.
But what's also human is the restraint that serves to hold us back from the worst of our inclinations. Call it conscience. Call it shame. Call it fear of consequences. Call it, at its best, compassion. That's the gene that seems to be lacking in Rupert Murdoch and his ilk. The lust for power and--notably, today--for money seems to recognize no boundaries, no legitimacy for the rights of others. It has reached the point where the rest of us simply allow ourselves not only to be governed by these people, but to be seduced by their example. We are inclined, in certain aspects of our lives (taxes, people?) to do not what we know to be right, but what we can get away with. We do what's expedient to serve our own narrow interests.
So... if "getting the story"--and selling newspapers--means hacking into the cell phone of 13-year old murder victim, so be it. If re-election means voting to cut off funds for cancer research while lining the already well-lined pockets of the super-rich, so be it. Because this, friends, is the "news of the world." And I'm sad to have become so cynical.