The Net Closes In
Just as it seems some kind of legal injunction managed to stop the broadcast of last night's much anticipated BBC Panorama documentary on Murdoch's spying activities on other rivals, the police leap into action with the biggest number of arrests since the Hackgate scandal begun. Six people were arrested this morning in early morning raids on the very serious charge of perverting the course of justice, a common law offence which can carry a life imprisonment sentence.
Rebekah Brooks was due to answer bail this week for her previous (prearranged) arrest for phone hacking and suborning police officers. This time the raid was much more brutal. It's speculation at the moment, but the fact her husband, the race horse owner Charlie Brooks, was arrested too, suggests it might have something to do with this strange incident of the binned laptop last July, on the night of the Lulzsec hack of The Sun. But apparently one has to be careful speculating here, because of British Contempt of Court Act 1981. I draw no inferences and will remove any quotations. But I wonder if linking to the many easily accessible reports about this is also a breach. Seeking more advice. In the meantime, paras 35-36 of this legal submission from the phone hacking victims who have settled are also very interesting in terms of a potential coverup.
This is very significant, not just because of the gravity of the charges, but because it now puts the hackgate scandal right into the highest circles of power. Charlie Brooks is one of David Cameron's oldest and closest friends, and their riding trips together on an old police horse leant out from the Met, source of the Horsegate hilarity - one of the funniest ever newspaper live threads on the subject at the Telegraph website.
By cruel irony, Charlie Brooks' horseracing column, celebrating the opening of the Cheltenham races, was published this morning. The title and subhead is some somewhat unfortunate.
Cheltenham Festival 2012: this meeting is a war of attrition on many fronts The happiest moment of my year is about three hours before the first race at Cheltenham on Tuesday;
Rebekah Brooks was until July, Chief Executive of News International. Also arrested is Mark Hanna, head of security at News International. Both were answerable to News International's Chairman, James Murdoch.
The Dynasty Falling
But by far the biggest news would be the arrest of James Murdoch. Over the weekend I heard that a senior Fleet Street editor thought this was on the cards. There is also the intriguing fact that one of the six arrested this morning was 39 year old man in Hampshire. Several people online noticed James was 39. My valiant co-reporter Ceebs managed to track down several James Murdochs in Hampshire. According to Reuters:
One of the descriptions of those arrested - police declined to name them - also fitted the description of James Murdoch, but two sources said he was currently in the United States.
News Corp declined to comment on the arrests.
But even if he's not arrested yet, as the Chair of News International, he is now powerfully in the frame.
This is not only a personal catastrophe for James, but for the Rupert himself. The whole strategy of News Corp (James still sits on the board there and at BSkyB) was to sacrifice anyone (proteges like Brooks, old retainers like Les Hinton who had served Murdoch for 50 years) to protect the family. But though he wasn't chair of News International when Mulcaire's hacking was at its height, he was during the huge cover up at News International, which implied attempts to delete huge swathes of email evidence, not to mention legal threats, and even surveillance and intimidation of lawyers, police officers and members of Parliament.
James is a victim here of his legacy. By all accounts, he was a more enlightened chairman at BSkyB than his father, and - though inevitably arrogant and entitled - still a better manager. The truth is, he would probably never be in this position, for good and ill, without the family name.
Live by inheritance. Die by inheritance. In every gift there is a curse.
The hackgate scandal has, like the Dreyfus scandal in France 100 years ago, shone a torch beam into the collusions and corruptions of British society, as an overweening media monopoly inserted itself in public life, and suborned the Met police, cowed journalists, and crept its way into the heart of government. The arrest of senior News International, apart from symbolising the Fall of the House of Murdoch, finally proves that some people aren't beyond the law, and encourages everyone who has been intimidated and silenced by Murdoch's money and influence can now speak out, without fearing press intimidation and police collusion.
Whether crimes have been committed or not, is for a judge and jury to answer once charges have been brought. But some very powerful people are now subjected to the full scrutiny of the law. For this alone, it's a great moment for British society, and I hope gives Americans who object to the perverting nexus of money, media power and politics, to hope for more justice there.
8:07 AM PT: The Labour Shadow Minister for Culture and Media has now asked the Leveson inquiry to investigate the full relationship between Rebekah and Charlie Brooks, and the Prime Minister David Cameron
It is important that the police are continuing to pursue the investigation into phone hacking.
Rebekah and Charlie Brooks are, on the prime minister's own account, close friends of his.
The Leveson Inquiry – when looking into the relations between the press and politicians – will need to investigate the full extent of the relations between the prime minister and senior News International executives at the time when hacking was rife and at the time his government was considering News Corp's bid for BSkyB.
Original posted on Daily Kos
For anyone following the #hackgate FOTHOM diaries, you'll know that that the slow motion crash of Murdoch's UK Empire is still developing. But it wasn't until Rush Limbaugh's recent implosion that I began to think this isn't just about News Corp, even though it is the world's 3rd biggest media group and run as a one-man-band. It was in Meteor Blade's Nopology diary early this week, that this thought came to me:
I think there's a connection... (40+ / 0-)
between the slow rejection in the UK of the tabloid style of reasoning (basically trollery and personal insult) and the sudden turning on Rush L.
The British Tabloids and the American Shock Jocks basically thrived on the backlash against the civil liberties victories of the 60s: legislation against racial discrimination, homophobia, the rise of women in the work place and reproductive rights. For 40 years they thrived on right wing white male resentment. They had nothing to offer but trollery because they sought to to interfere with communication about race, gender and sexuality, but without an alternative agenda or real ideology, except that of opposition, reduction ad absurdum (looney left fictions about banning nursery rhymes etc) and the shock value of mockery.
This was never anything but a reactionary tribute to all the victories of the 60s. The candidacy of Sarah Palin was the ne plus ultra of this political style. Rebarbative, provocative, posited on antagonism alone, it never could offer much more than a macho guffaw and muttering of unfocused dissent.
Forty years on, the people who find this stuff amusing are diminishing. Shock Jocks have run out of positions. They can only flame out or die down.
The other connection is the rise of social media and blogs like DKos. They can organise dissent. Avaaz and 38degrees focused on the advertisers during the News of the World scandal, and when the public summoned enough outrage through twitter and email, the advertisers withdrew from the paper. That's what killed News of the World.
Thanks to new media, we really aren't passive consumers anymore, but can communicate directly with those to attempt to appease us. I guess this is what has happened to Limbaugh.
Well, great minds and all that, but there's much more on this in a great new article by Media Matters: The Self-Destruction Of Limbaugh, Murdoch and Beck
What's fascinating about their startling falls from grace is that each one represented a clear case of self-destruction. Limbaugh hand Murdoch and Beck weren't cut down by their political foes or by partisan dirty tricks. They were cut down by their own moral and ethical failings.
Meaning, Limbaugh's opponents didn't make him call Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute, and liberal didn't force him to spend days smearing the women in the most humiliating ways possible, painting her as a greedy nymphomaniac whose parents ought to be deeply ashamed. Nobody egged him on into doing that. In fact, after the initial "slut" and "prostitute" insults, liberals demanded Limbaugh stop using that kind of ugly language. If anything, Limbaugh's foes tried to save him from himself. (By contrast, many of his partisan fans immediately cheered his Fluke attacks.)
The same is true with Beck and Murdoch. Who on the left would have even dreamt up a plot to somehow to get Beck call the president a racist, or to later ramble for weeks about how pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt represented a spear tip to a looming American left-backed Caliphate uprising in the Middle East. Who even thinks like that, other than Beck?
As for Murdoch, he's cultivated a culture of corruption that's so firmly entrenched that one of his newspaper executives allegedly tried to secure a vote in parliament from a conservative politician in exchange for offering favorable coverage in a Murdoch newspaper. Again, who does that? Who works for a newspaper and doubles as a vote whip for a political party?
All of this behavior is reprehensible and of course falls completely outside the purview of journalism, as even loosely defined to include cable and AM talk shows. For the conservative media, there are no checks in place anymore. Instead, all the introspection has been eliminated and replaced by robotic, partisan defense regardless of the circumstances.
The only part where I disagree is that - while all three are guilty of hubris and over-reach - that was alwaystrue in their careers. As I've discovered while writing my book (see my sig) Murdoch has been involved in the dark arts of intelligencing and intrigue since the 60s - his father since World War I. I bet Beck has always spouted gibberish. And Limbaugh has said offensive things ever since I was unfortunate enough to hear of his existence.
What has changed to my mind is the interactive nature of new media: the fact we can all publish on blogs, can drill down through data, and redistribute information peer to peer. This is making the shock jocks and tabloid merchants look old, slow moving and dinosaur like. Their lies can be countered. Our outrage can finally be heard. It's no longer a monologue of the mainstream media, but a dialogue across many platforms.
(On that score, my diary earlier today about A Chancellor, a Dominatrix, Cocaine and a Spoiler is getting quite a bit of traction on the #Leveson strand. Expect to hear more).
Read the original diary and comments on Daily Kos
I know I'm not going to be popular burning this particular bridge, but as news comes out about Assange both claiming intellectual copyright on wikileaks, and enabling the persecution (or worse) of dissidents in one of the few remaining Stalinist states in Europe, let me say: Julian, J'Accuse.
This is nothing to do with potential rape charges, or the appeal he still has with the British Supreme court about his extradition. It has nothing to do with the wikileaks data dump of Pentagon and Embassy files, which doesn't seem to have the horrendous effect predicted. It also has nothing to do with the court martial of Bradley Manning, nor indeed the treatment (cruel to my mind) he seems to have received while held by the DOD. It has to do with his insouciance about the people exposed through his actions, and even more to do with whom he exposes them too.
Personal disclosure first. My judgement about Assange is highly coloured by a friend of mine, the sterling UK based American investigative journalist Heather Brooke, who exposed the MPs expenses scandal here, and is one of our great promoters of transparency and open government. She worked with Assange on the Guardian's (selected) wikileaks release. If she now thinks he has gone beyond the pale - I trust her, and he has.
Heather linked recently to a New Statesman article which exposed how wikileaks dealt directly with the autocratic Belarus Government in Minsk, one of Europe's few surviving dictatorships:
In December 2010, Israel Shamir, a WikiLeaks associate and an intimate friend of Julian Assange -- so close, in fact, that he outed the Swedish women who claim to be victims of rape and sexual assault by Assange -- allegedly travelled to Belarus with a cache of unredacted American diplomatic cables concerning the country. He reportedly met Lukashenko's chief of staff, Vladimir Makei, handed over the documents to the government, and stayed in the country to "observe" the presidential elections.
When Lukashenko pronounced himself the winner on 19 December 2010 with nearly 80 per cent of the vote, Belarusians reacted by staging a mass protest. Lukashenko dispatched the state militia. As their truncheons bloodied the squares and streets of the capital, Minsk, Shamir wrote a story in the American left-wing journal Counterpunch extolling Lukashenko ("The president of Belarus ... walks freely among his people"), deriding the dictator's opponents ("The pro-western 'Gucci' crowd", Shamir called them), and crediting WikiLeaks with exposing America's "agents" in Belarus ("WikiLeaks has now revealed how... undeclared cash flows from the U.S. coffers to the Belarus 'opposition' ").
The following month, Soviet Belarus, a state-run newspaper, began serializing what it claimed to be extracts from the cables gifted to Lukashenko by WikiLeaks. Among the figures "exposed" as recipients of foreign cash were Andrei Sannikov, a defeated opposition presidential candidate presently serving a five-year prison sentence; Oleg Bebenin, Sannikov's press secretary, who was found dead in suspicious circumstances months before the elections; and Vladimir Neklyayev, the writer and former president of Belarus PEN, who also ran against Lukashenko and is now under house arrest.
Did Assange at this point repudiate Shamir or speak up against Lukashenko? No. Instead he upbraided Ian Hislop for publishing an article in the Private Eye that exposed Shamir as a Holocaust denier and white supremacist. There was, he claimed, a "conspiracy" against him by "Jewish" journalists at the Guardian. Addicted to obedience from others and submerged in a swamp of conspiracy theories, Assange's reflexive reaction to the first hint of disagreement by his erstwhile friends was to hold malign Jews responsible.
His subsequent attempts to distance himself from Shamir were undermined when James Ball, a former WikiLeaks staffer, revealed that not only did Assange authorise Shamir's access to the cables -- how else could he have got hold of the documents from this impenetrably secretive organisation consecrated to transparency? -- he also stopped others from criticising Shamir even after news of his Belarusian expedition became public.
Another personal disclosure. I'm a regular visitor to Poland, and have connections to several dissident Belarus groups (through relatives) who have been persecuted, imprisoned and repressed by Lukashenko in the last 15 years. That more could be outed and endangered by Shamir and Assange puts the organisation of wikileaks beyond the pale.
I believe in transparency and openness. But I also know that knowledge is power. Perhaps Assange provides a service to well connected internet savvy people in some countries when they want to take on their autocrats, but naivete is no excuse for simultaneously revealing the secrets of persecuted minorities.
And if you're still in doubt about the character and motivations of Assange, perhaps read the Guardian book WIKILEAKS: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy. There you'll see he not only betrays Nick Davies, the wonderful investigative journalist who - against all the odds of police and political pressure and corporate coverup - exposed the Hackgate scandal and brought down Murdoch's News International - he also told David Leigh about Afghani informants being in danger:
Assange initially rejected pleas to redact documents to protect sources. At an early meeting with international reporters in a restaurant he told them: " 'Well, they're informants,' he said. 'So, if they get killed, they've got it coming to them. They deserve it.' There was, for a moment, silence around the table."
The bridge was smouldering then. It's burnt now
Originally posted on Daily Kos