Rupert’s Empire: “Hack Work”

(h/t commentor R-Jud)
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In the August 1 issue of the New Yorker, Anthony Lane has a most informative article on “a tabloid culture run amok“:

… Whatever the case, the last laugh has been his. Murdoch knows something that his assailants will seldom concede, and that renders their call for radical change, in the rapport between governance and the media, both tardy and redundant. The change has already happened; culture, media, and sport are not in Murdoch’s pocket, but the British, not least in their yen to watch soccer and cricket on Sky, have reached into their pockets and paid for his feast of wares. The country is in uproar just now, but outrage en masse functions like outrage in private: we reserve our deepest wrath not for the threat from without, which we fail to comprehend, but for forces with which we have been complicit. The British press has long revelled in the raucous and the irresponsible; that was part of its verve, and it was Murdoch’s genius, and also the cause of his current woes, to recognize those tendencies, bring the revelry to a head, and give the people what they asked for. He reminded them of themselves.
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Look at an average copy of the News of the World, from March 27th, well before the latest outcry. There are only scraps of news here, and almost nothing of the world. No woman in the first six pages wears anything warmer than lingerie. An entrant from a televised ice-dancing contest is granted a double-page spread to muse upon his newly transplanted hair. And the column on the op-ed page is by Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator—a respectable weekly journal, loosely tied to the Tories, with a strong showing in arts and books coverage. Over the course of four decades, under Murdoch’s approving gaze, the lowbrow has paid no more attention to the highbrow than it ever did, while the highbrow has paid both heed and obeisance to the low—submission, in the weird wrangling of British class consciousness, being preferable to condescension. The most telling piece in the Guardian, in the wake of the hacking scandal, came from a former editor of the paper, Peter Preston, who analyzed the sales figures and showed that more ABC1 readers (that is, those with better education, employment, and pay, and thus close to advertisers’ hearts) read the News of the World than the Sunday Times—more, indeed, than the Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, and the Independent on Sunday put together. Murdoch must have closed the Screws with a pang…

(If you don’t click the link, you will also miss an excellent Sorel cartoon.)

Over in the Guardian, ‘media critics’ Roy Greenslade and Michael Wolff play Statler & Waldorf:

Roy Greenslade: As bad as things appear to be, Rupert Murdoch could be seen to be a tremendously beneficial owner of media in Britain. He’s poured money into the Times and the Sunday Times, and kept them afloat when few other people would have done so. He launched satellite TV, increasing the range of channels available to everyone. This must surely be something to appreciate about the man.
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Michael Wolff: If you like the direction, reach and power of “big media”, you can hardly find someone who has been more beneficial than Rupert Murdoch. The downside, however, is to use it to further his own interests, create a power base, an independent state of his own. Murdoch loves newspapers. But one of the reasons he has loved newspapers is they can be very powerful and they give him a power he can use.
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RG: Isn’t it always the case that small media, if it’s successful, is going to become big media? We would say in terms of business, if we believed in capitalism, that branching out is a natural consequence. So Murdoch, as a newspaper owner, gains power, and we know there’s this amazing reciprocal relationship that goes on. He uses his political power to further his business interests, and he uses his business interests to further his political power. The point is, is there any proof that his use of political power has had any effect on the democracies of Australia, Britain, the United States? Especially the US, where it seems he has very little political clout.
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MW: Let’s take the present presidential election cycle, in which you have a list of candidates in the Republican party. [You look] at these people and think, “how did they get here? These are the strangest group of national candidates ever assembled, how did this happen?” The answer, most obviously, is because of Fox News. It has two million viewers who want to be entertained by politics, who need exaggerated figures to entertain them. You can only be a viable Republican if you speak to the Fox audience. They demand exaggerated figures, therefore we have conservatives who are unelectable in America…

It’s an epic tragedy! It’s a pie-throwing, crowd-pleasing farce! And it’s got real potential to run long enough for syndication. Just yesterday, the NYTimes reported that “a reassuring, one-paragraph letter from a prominent London law firm named Harbottle & Lewis” clearing Murdoch’s News of the World has “come under scrutiny“; it may be that a truly caring legal representative would have felt it wise to point out that bribing the police force was, however business-savvy, probably illegal.

Also, Gawker reports that the New York Post has “instructed its reporters not to destroy any documents ‘pertaining to unauthorized retrieval of phone or personal data, to payments for information to government officials.'”

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions…








Tea Party Republican Defaults on Child Support

A debt is what you owe, and renouncing it doesn’t make it go away:

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children, according to documents his ex-wife filed in their divorce case in December.
“I won’t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grandkids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money!” Walsh says directly into the camera in his viral video lecturing Obama on the need to get the nation’s finances in order.

Walsh starts the video by saying, “President Obama, quit lying. Have you no shame, sir? In three short years, you’ve bankrupted this country.”

Walsh admits he is not wealthy. Some of his financial problems — including losing his Evanston condo to foreclosure — were documented before his out-of-nowhere victory last fall in the 8th Congressional District in Chicago’s north and northwest suburbs. But court documents examined this week by the Chicago Sun-Times during research for a profile on the increasingly visible congressman showed his financial issues also included a nine-year child support battle with his ex-wife.

Before getting elected, he had told Laura Walsh that because he was out of work or between jobs, he could not make child support payments. So she was surprised to read in his congressional campaign disclosures that he was earning enough money to loan his campaign $35,000.
“Joe personally loaned his campaign $35,000, which, given that he failed to make any child support payments to Laura because he ‘had no money’ is surprising,” Laura Walsh’s attorneys wrote in a motion filed in December seeking $117,437 in back child support and interest. “Joe has paid himself back at least $14,200 for the loans he gave himself.”

Walsh’s attorneys responded in court filings: “Respondent admits that funds were loaned to his campaign fund. . . . Respondent admits that the campaign fund has repaid certain loans.”

I don’t watch cable news/opinion anymore, so I missed Walsh’s performance. His approach is trickling down to the local level, though. As a leader of the Tea Party, his words must have weight. My husband attended one of those small town “business” forums yesterday, and a Republican county commissioner opened the event with a joke comparing Obama to Pinocchio. So much for the mythical Chamber of Commerce Republicans that exist only in the imagination of national pundits. My husband said the joke fell flat. Most people were confused rather than amused. Of course, the people in that room probably didn’t watch the “viral video” of the Tea Party star, so they may have wondered why a county commissioner opened a non-partisan community event by calling the President a liar.

Real life is different than cable tv or reality shows.

Maybe after today, when the Tea Party members get their asses in line, follow orders, and vote to pass Boehner’s bill we can all stop pretending they are a separate and distinct political movement and instead call them what they are: the very worst of the Republican Party. The dregs. The Tea Party is what’s left after the folks who had any interest in responsible governance, public service or rational thought left the Republican Party.








Memo to Hyperventilating Wingnuts

Cease your worrying and nattering — the question of whether xenophobic loners will have the freedom to cut-and-paste 1500 page racist missives in Norway after this weekend’s slaughter has been answered by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg:

At a press conference at his Oslo residence, Stoltenberg underlined his commitment to openness, defending freedom of thought, even if includes extremist views such as those held by the 32-year-old who confessed to Friday’s bomb blast and to the shooting massacre.

“We have to be very clear to distinguish between extreme views, opinions that are completely legal, legitimate to have, [and] what is not legitimate is to try to implement those extreme views by using violence,” he said.

Degrease your slippery slopes, burn your strawmen for heat on a cool night, and get back to the simple, rewarding work of hating anyone who doesn’t share your beliefs or skin color. Your rights are protected, even if your hearts’ desire is to deprive everyone else of the same freedom you enjoy.








Just Kill Me Now, I’m Begging

It never, ever fucking stops:

Is the old John McCain back?

The fiery, independent version of the Republican senator from Arizona took to the floor of the Senate Wednesday morning. Demanding “straight talk,” Mr. McCain accused conservatives of abandoning reason by opposing the House Republican leader’s plan to resolve the debt crisis.

No matter what happens, any bill that is passed, Reid’s, Boehner’s, whoever, we are getting an austerity packed, conservative shit sandwich. Period. The choices on the table are armageddon, right wing bullshit from Reid, really right-wing bullshit from Boehner. Yet here is Michael Shear, who should know better, pushing the notion that independent mavericky centrist John McCain is somehow the portrait of moderation for yelling down the crazies who want the country to burn.

The “old John McCain.” Just shoot me. Make the pain stop.

How did we get such a horrible media?

But on Wednesday morning, it looked like the maverick had returned.

Tire swings and barbecue for everyone. Fuck it.








Open Thread: “Illegitimists”

While scrambling to produce her usual trademark defense of rightwing authoritarianism in Norway and elsewhere(she prefers bothsides to the general wingnut wurlitzer hoocoodanode), Anne Appelbaum coins a new identifier that I think might actually be useful:

… In contemporary America, we also have people who are—and I am inventing this word here—illegitimists: They believe that the president of the United States is illegitimately elected, or that the country is ruled by a cabal that is in turn controlled by some other sinister force or forces. In the past, left-wing illegitimists were quite common, and in fact Marxism is a classic, paranoid version of this creed…
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There is also a right-wing version of this argument… More recently, right-wing illegitimism has taken the form of birtherism. The attempt to prove that Barack Obama isn’t American-born was, at base, an attempt to prove that he is illegitimate and that he therefore deserves to be removed from power—somehow. Birtherism is also linked to other forms of illegitimism, such as the belief that Obama is a Muslim, and is thus controlled by international jihadists, or the belief that he is “Kenyan” and thus motivated by anti-colonial hatred of white people in general and Americans in particular. It is not accidental that the one note of sympathy for Breivik in the U.S. media came from the lips of birtherist and illegitimist Glenn Beck, who helpfully compared the young Norwegians murdered by Breivik to “Hitler Youth.” Presumably if they are Hitler Youth, then they deserved to die?

Let this be our motto: Illegitimi non carborundum!