independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Kevin Myers: Despite everything, Murdoch is going to get his way -- again

TO judge from the manner in which various British columnists have been dealing with Rupert Murdoch and his chief executive Rebekah Brooks, they apparently think that News International will emerge battered but unbroken from the 'News of the World' phone-hacking scandal.

And what journalist wants to be excluded forever from the possibility of employment by Sky News, 'The Sunday Times', 'The Times', 'The Sun', 'The Sun on Sunday' -- or whatever confection replaces 'The News of the World'?

Such exclusion would be a particularly unappealing prospect for these poor hacks as they toil within the galleys of a globally declining newspaper market, knowing either that their ships might sink or their skippers may throw them over board. Only the foolhardy or the brave would denounce the nearby argosy, SS Murdochia, sound as an iceberg, on which they might one day seek refuge.

Moreover, there's been a sisters-together rallying behind News International's CEO, Rebekah Brooks, who was famously arrested on suspicion of assaulting her then husband Ross Kemp. Her fellow media haquette Janet Street-Porter told a sympathetic BBC 'Women's Hour' that her friend Rebekah was made of strong stuff and would come through this trying time, a finer and better person. Quite so: and pray tell me, please, of the reaction on BBC 'Women's Hour' if such allegations had been made about Ross Kemp?

Perhaps it was a combination of self-interest and sisters together which explains the astonishingly toxic bilge that appeared in the British editions of 'The Daily Mail' on Monday. Both Beth Hale and Melanie Philips attacked the comedian Steve Coogan, the actor Hugh Grant and the Formula One impresario Max Mosley, who have recently all been loud in their loathing of 'The News of the World'.

Hale disparagingly referred to Coogan and Grant as "middle-aged" -- a term which also applies to Rebekah Brooks, although in these Elysian days of gender equality, happily no one, of course, would ever dream of making such an ageist and sexist remark about a woman.

Max Mosley, a Formula One chief, was denounced by both Philips and Hale for his taste in sado-masochistic sex. Steve Coogan's crime was -- according to Philips -- "sexual excess", which is something that Philips herself is unlikely ever to have encountered. And Hugh Grant's episode with a prostitute was, of course, sanctimoniously recycled. (I might add here that all the accusations concerned activities between consenting adults).

Philips puffed: "The notion that people who use prostitutes, indulge in sado-masochistic orgies or engage in serial lewd behaviour should become the moral arbiters of the nation is clearly ridiculous."

No doubt it would have been, if only Philips or Hale had also managed to make a single mention of the names Murdoch and Brooks in their gleeful denunciations of the sexual pasts of these three relatively powerless men. But of course, they didn't.

Indeed, one can scan the entire range of bylined columnar furlongs about News International in non-NI British newspapers and, with the honourable exception of 'The Guardian' -- which has had a particularly good war so far -- and 'The Independent', one finds no critical mention of Brooks and Murdoch.

Why? Is it possibly because they are figures of awesome, even global, media power? These gallant columnists clearly don't intend to make enemies of the skippers of a cruise-liner on whose sun deck they might one day hope to be lolling.

They therefore conveniently ignore the abominable possibility that loyal lieutenants of that same cruise liner had hacked into the mobile phone of a missing teenage girl, (who had, in fact, been murdered) and into the phones of servicemen killed in action in Afghanistan, which is as non-consensual as you can gave get. Thus a tale nearly as old naked self-interest: when in doubt, shoot the messenger.

YET in a way, News International is less a ship than a surreal Shakespearian composite, an Elsinore on acid. Rupert Murdoch is a Richard III, capering grimly on the battlements of his castle and drowning the occasional innocents in a butt of Wapping Malmsey. But suddenly, he appears as a genial old Lear, rewarding the loyalty of his lovely daughter Cordelia: yes, Rebekah Brooks, who -- miraculously -- also resembles a winsome Ophelia, wide-eyed and floating red tresses. Next moment, she stalks the stone corridors like Lady Macbeth, garrotting sentries. And lo! Here comes David Cameron, who thinks he is Henry V at Agincourt, but in reality is a sleekly podgy Juliet in a schoolboy production at Eton, opposite a Romeo played with reptilian bravura by James Murdoch, Rupert's son. Enter stage left that sinister buffoon Piers Morgan, half-Iago, half-clown, bladder in one hand, a freshly sharpened bodkin in the other.

But the deeper reality of News International is actually neither ship nor Shakespeare, but Jane Goodall. It was she who observed the astonishing power of dominant males in chimpanzee society.

So what are we, but chimpanzees that talk and -- happily for NI -- occasionally read, and like any social primates, we inevitably defer to Towering Alpha-Males. Which is why, sooner or later, Rupert Murdoch, the most personally irresistible Towering Alpha Male of this era, is probably going to get his way -- AGAIN.

Irish Independent

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