If you fuckwits are more concerned with “perception” than the actual “case” you ain’t seen nothing yet!
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Battery at 12% and I need to check out. This pudding is getting cold!m.guardian.co.uk | Jul 22nd 2011
Britain’s image as the land of Harry Potter and royal weddings has taken a hammering as the US media have lapped up every detail of the phone-hacking scandal. The home of chivalry emerged as a country of amoral hacks, craven politicians, corrupt cops and evil private eyes. A country where journalists are prepared to hack into the phone of a murdered child in the hope of selling a few more copies and the people in charge of those hackers are bosom buddies with the prime minister. So bad has the scandal become in the US that it has earned America’s most dreaded suffix, becoming “hackgate.” On the satirical Daily Show, Jon Stewart pretended to be sick when told of the Milly Dowler story and attacked the “epic bribery and influence-peddling scandal consuming Britain’s political, law enforcement and journalistic establishment”. Actor Alec Baldwin said David Cameron should resign. The Brits took a bashing at the serious end of the news spectrum, too. According to the New Yorker magazine: “The list of the complicit starts with the first policeman who was offered money, but it extends to David Cameron.” Keith McNally, London-born boss of some of New York’s most prestigious restaurants including Balthazar and the Minetta Tavern, said the role of the Murdochs had been overshadowed: “Most Americans I’ve spoken to are more surprised by the corruption in the British police force. However, what’s odd is how everyone here appears to share an unambiguous loathing for Rebekah Brooks.” But has the sceptered isle been permanently tarnished? At the New York outpost of the UK’s tourist board, a spokeswoman said hackgate had failed to eclipse the afterglow of the royal wedding. “There’s certainly no evidence to suggest visitors are staying away from the UK because of the hacking scandal,” said Kathleen O’Connell at VisitBritain. Then again, one New York recruitment consultant who specialises in finding domestic staff for the super-rich said Brits did not have a good reputation even before the scandal. “People have this idea that Americans want Mary Poppins to be their nanny, but it’s a myth,” he said. “If I ask my clients if they want a British nanny, they’ll say no. They think she’ll be down the pub getting drunk.” Australia The Murdochs’ grilling before the Commons select committee ran until 3am in Australia, yet news channels stuck with it. The airing of grubby revelations seemed far removed from the local media landscape, where there is far less of an appetite for sex and sleaze. Yet at the centre of it all, of course, is a man who began his empire in Adelaide. Rupert Murdoch, his foes and his allies are always a talking point in Australia, but broadcaster Richard Glover pointed out: “Nothing I’ve seen in the British press comes close to admitting the obvious: at least part of the blame lies with the British public. They’re the ones who’ve been buying this paper [the News of the World] and others like it for years. With every purchase, they have endorsed and encouraged this kind of journalism.” There was some bemusement about the behaviour of the politicians on the select committee and the foam pie security lapse. Michael Gawenda, director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University, described the MPs as a “gaggle of politicians full of confected moral outrage and anticipatory excitement at the thought of bringing down an emperor”. He added: “How many of them challenged Blair and later Brown and then Cameron when they were fawning all over Rupert and his editor minions? Can the inquisitors, hand on heart, every one of them, say they never ever sucked up to a Murdoch editor? I assume they would have preferred to fawn over Rupert but weren’t important enough to get to him.” Russia It was a telling moment this week when Aram Gabrelyanov, one of Russia’s most powerful media tycoons, joined the Russian chat show Hard Day’s Night for a discussion of the phone-hacking scandal. Gabrelyanov, who is close to the Kremlin and controls Russia’s two most trashy red-tops, Zhizn and Tvoy Den, told the show on Moscow’s TV Rain that he felt sorry for Rupert Murdoch. “I think it’s a big political game,” he said. “I don’t believe that nobody in Britain knew that tabloids were listening to people’s phones.” That focus on the old question “Komu vygodno?” (Who benefits?) — rather than the ethics of the hacking itself — reflects the state of Russia’s media. Newspapers here often publish kompromat: confidential material leaked or sold by the security services to blacken political and business rivals. Gabrelyanov condemned the hacking of “ordinary people” but freely admitted that his own reporters paid police for information. This wasn’t against the law because the transactions weren’t “legally drawn up”, he said. His journalists have big salaries – $11,000 (£6,700) per month, about 14 times the average Russian income – so they just give officers cash out of their own pockets. That is fine, That focus on the old question “Komu vygodno?” (Who benefits?) — rather than the ethics of the hacking itself — reflects the state of Russia’s media. Newspapers here often publish kompromat: confidential material leaked or sold by the security services to blacken political and business rivals. Gabrelyanov reckons. The idea that it was a surprise that British media had indulged in devious information-gathering stuck in the craw of Alexander Prokhanov, the well-known editor of nationalist newspaper Zavtra. “Our liberal public is always poking us in the eye with the western way of life, its standards, its western culture,” he said. “‘As it’s done in civilised countries,’ they always say, implying that we are savages. In fact, in the last three decades, the west has become deformed; it’s no longer the west of Churchill or the Victorian epoch.” Others, however, praised the official scrutiny over hacking. “What is happening in Britain with News Corporation is not a shameful thing as some people are saying,” Valery Draganov, an MP with the ruling United Russia Party, told the Guardian. “On the contrary, it is virtuous when society and parliament act together immediately to get to the bottom of such a matter. It’s a good example for us.” Vasily Gatov, a media critic, said the pursuit of wrongdoing in London contrasted sharply with the persecution of honest, independent journalists in Russia. “For now,” he wrote, “the News of the World hearings are for us nothing more than a news zoo, another life; the distant thunder of a possible – but, it seems, inaccessible – future.” India The empire, it appears, does not want to use the phone-hacking scandal to strike back. Despite widespread coverage, no analyst or academic, or even a super-nationalist politician, has scoffed. Shock and dismay, yes, but no real denunciation. If anything, there’s been applause. “We’re watching history being made,” said Sanjaya Baru, former press adviser to the Indian prime minister, during live TV coverage of Wednesday’s committee hearings. “I really have high regard for the way in which the British parliament and the media and the political class have dealt with this. “To imagine that this man [Murdoch] who only called on heads of government wherever he went could actually be summoned like this and be made to answer questions …” Murdoch met prime minister Manmohan Singh on his last visit to Delhi, and News Corp owns TV channels in India – but not newspapers. Even so, the NoW scandal has had little resonance in India, believes former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, except in relation to the ethics of news gathering. “But it’s now getting into a phase – with David Cameron in the spotlight – where it might impact the political situation,” he said. “This’ll be worth watching.” Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, co-author of a Press Council report on media corruption, hopes “what happened to Murdoch will have a salutary effect on Indian media owners”. He said it had been a real eye-opener: “One knew a section of the British media was indeed corrupt, but the sheer venality is shocking.” For historian Mariam Dossal, the revelation of the extent of corruption in Britain was “unbelievable”. “A global media corporation that has no allegiance to the country is shown to follow such questionable practices even in relation to the police, undermining security,” she said. But will the Murdochs take responsibility? The Hindu newspaper is doubtful, and refers readers to Steve Bell’s cartoon in the Guardian to reinforce its belief that in the end only “pawns will be sacrificed”. France The phone-hacking scandal has allowed French newspapers to reclaim some moral high ground ceded by the increasingly sordid revelations in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair. The reporting of what is being referred to as the affaire des écoutes is not without a certain schadenfreude. “The fall of the house of Murdoch” proclaimed the left-wing daily Libération. “Day after day, the whole British power apparatus is called into question and shaken by the phone-tapping scandal at the News of the World,” read the paper’s editorial. It said the “press à la Murdoch”, the tabloids who were “great givers of lessons, great moralisers of public life” had used an “underground network of private detectives or bought police officers”. “Scotland Yard, an institution the other side of the Channel, comes out of the scandal sullied … but it is the entire political class that is the most denigrated. The Conservatives but also Labour have let Murdoch’s titles prosper, hoping to win good grace with the press magnate and maker of prime ministers. They let him take a hegemonic position in the British media.” It concluded: “And old Murdoch and his puppet son didn’t even have the courage yesterday to admit their responsibility.”The right-of-centre Le Figaro carried a news story that the Murdochs had made an “honourable” mea culpa before parliament, but went on the attack in a hard-hitting editorial on Thursday. “Times are hard for the British elite. After the bankers, whose sloppiness is implicated in the financial crisis, and the MPs, pilloried for their expenses abuses, so it’s the turn of the media and Scotland Yard hit by the phone-bugging scandal that has shaken Rupert Murdoch’s empire,” it wrote. “So rightly proud of their democracy, the English, flabbergasted, are discovering the exorbitant power of a certain gutter press.” Pakistan The power of Rupert Murdoch’s media punch has been keenly felt in Pakistan, where one sensational scoop last summer dealt a blow to the national passion: cricket. The News of the World spot-fixing expose ruined the careers of three cricket stars and instigated criminal proceedings now under way in an English court. However, the demise of the paper, and its owner’s ballooning political woes, has attracted surprisingly little schadenfreude among Pakistan’s cricket fraternity. “Frankly speaking, we don’t have anything to say,” said Nadeem Sarwar, a spokesman for the Pakistan cricket board. The muted reaction is partly due to a recognition that the story exposed long-suspected corruption. “Few people said ‘the News of the World got its comeuppance’,” said Osman Samiuddin of cricinfo.com. Pakistanis are largely fond of Britain – as opposed to a widespread hatred of America – but the hacking scandal has sullied the reputation of media and politicians in the former colonial power. “It may not be a stretch to say that Murdoch had most of Britain’s politicians in his pocket,” declared the Express Tribune in an editorial. “Politicians and media moguls should not be in bed together.” Mostly, though, Pakistanis have paid little attention to the scandal. “The story had little traction here,” said Dr Maleeha Lodhi, a former High Commissioner to London. One reason may be the bewildering complexity of the story; another is that Pakistanis have other preoccupations: since early July political bloodshed has left over 150 people dead in Karachi, the spy-v-spy wars with America have deepened and top economic officials have resigned. Some commentators have found rich parallels between Murdoch’s plight and the local media. Cable television has exploded in popularity in recent years, widening freedom of expression but also dominated by a clutch of powerful press barons who blatantly use the platform to pursue their personal agendas. “Some of our stations are running amok,” said Abbas Nasir, former editor at Dawn newspaper. “We need credible voices to sit together and draw up an independent code of ethics.” Germany The normally staid and humourless Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung printed a picture this week of a fry-up on its front page with the headline “Great Britain can also be this lovely”. The conservative paper asked how a UK “so proud of its traditions” could allow things to get so out of a hand. Instead, it should have kept things orderly, like the ingredients in a classic English breakfast, it claimed. For the most part, the German media’s coverage of the unfolding phone-hacking scandal has been sombre and serious. The major news outlets have diligently featured all the latest resignations, revelations and pie-throwing incidents at the top of their coverage. Pages and pages of print have been given over to the accusations of police corruption, the ramifications for Murdoch’s business empire and the possible political fallout for Cameron. And there has been much revolutionary talk as well. “The end of the British Establishment” was a recent headline in weekly Die Zeit, while the “British spring” was the take in Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, which also declared on its front page: “The British can now only trust their queen.” Bernd Becker, a lecturer at Berlin’s Humboldt University, was previously a government official and was delegated to work at No 10 Downing Street in the late 1990s. “I experienced the beginning of the Murdoch era under Blair and Campbell and I wasn’t very surprised at how it all developed,” he said. He argues that the reason that Germans are so fascinated by goings on of the past two weeks is that it goes beyond a mere case of dubious links between “the usual suspects,” journalists and politicians. “It is the involvement of the police and the deep corruption that seems to be going on there that has astonished people.” In particular the high esteem with which Scotland Yard is held in Germany made the recent disclosures all the more shocking. Hans-Ulrich Jörges, chief columnist at Stern magazine, argued that the scandal had unveiled “the most shocking example of the perversion of a media company in a long time”. The press, as the fourth estate, is supposed to act as a check on those in power. “But instead Murdoch’s company tried to control them,” he told the Guardian. Jörges thinks British society tolerated the power that Murdoch wielded over its politics for far too long. “I think Great Britain is now in the process of freeing itself from this nightmare and I hope it succeeds.” Nigeria There is no doubt that the phone-hacking scandal is causing Nigerians to reconsider their views of Britain – a country where three serving Nigerian state governors have been arrested in recent years on allegations of money-laundering. “We’ve always suspected that the British are not as clean as they appear. This is just a confirmation,” said Simon Kolawole, editor of the daily newspaper This Day. “However, I am bit surprised that the police could be this vulnerable. The extent of the compromise shatters my confidence a bit about the integrity of British institutions.” For Sunday Dare, former editor of weekly news magazine The News, “the preacher has been caught pants down and thus loses the legitimacy to chastise or be preachy. We now know that violation of ethics of the journalism profession is more prevalent in [Western media], and what we have in Africa is nothing compared to the sophisticated and systematic violation of media ethics and individual rights all in the race to make millions…” But Kolawole adds a note of caution. Nigerians, he says, cannot afford to “be too judgmental. Let’s face it, the British system will take care of itself. Justice will be done at the end of it all. You cannot predict that about our own system.”
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