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July 19, 2011 / Toby Dayton

The Ultimate Schadenfreude

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post (April) and even longer since I’ve written regularly. I have missed it quite a bit, and for the past few months I’ve made and broken a handful of commitment to myself start blogging again. And while I’m not sure it will be any different this time, today’s Wall Street Journal editorial has compelled me to sit down and write my fist post in months.

I’ll leave the politics aside (sort of), and I have no ability or intention to get into the actual details of the phone hacking scandal that is, justifiably it seems, decimating News Corp. My comments relate entirely to the WSJ editorial, for it so perfectly typifies Murdoch’s crumbling empire. In the face of one of the worst cases in recent memory of a media company overstepping boundaries (legal, moral, ethical, and otherwise), the editorial devotes a scant 3 sentences at the very end to actually addressing the horrendous infractions, and what a mockery those sentences actually are in any event. The first 14 paragraphs are spent blaming others, praising News Corp. publishers, bragging about the WSJ since Murdoch’s purchase of the paper, slamming the Bancrofts, blasting the liberal media, the Obama Administration, critics of News Corp., and anyone that might throw a stone at the media in any form. It is egotistical, hypocritical, and vacuous nonsense of the highest order and should serve only to throw gas on the raging fire that is engulfing the company.

In slightly more detail, the editorial makes the following points:

Paragraph 2 – Scotland Yard failed to pursue bribery charges. And this failure is worse than anything anything News Corp did.

Paragraph 3 – British tabloids are awful to begin with, and we did nothing worse than anyone else.

Paragraph 4 – The BBC and The Guardian also try to gain political influence. Why are they escaping similar scrutiny?

Paragraph 5, 6 & 7 – Les Hinton, former Publisher of the WSJ, is a hero and his judgement is sound.

Paragraph 8, 9 & 10 – Rupert saved the WSJ from the greedy Bancrofts who were only interested in dividends and were not investing in real journalism. Criticism of News Corp. stems only from petty competitive rivalries. And how about Julian Assange and Wikileaks – isn’t that far worse than what we did?

Paragraph 11 & 12 – The Obama Administration (There it is!!! It actually took longer to get Obama in there than I would have guessed) and Attorney General Eric Holder are disregarding the Constitution and the First Amendment in their knee-jerk, pile-it-on persecution. The Foreign Bribery Law has no precedent in non-government contract-related cases.

Paragraph 13 & 14 – If this goes any further, media’s freedom to pursue news by any means necessary, specifically via bribery, is in jeopardy. And besides, everyone buys stories, right? We just got caught. Does a civicl society really want government intervention into media practices?

And finally, in Paragraph 15 – “Phone-hacking is deplorable, and we assume the guilty will be prosecuted.” As if ‘The Guilty’ have nothing whatsoever to do with News Corp. And then comes the most offensive part of the entire editorial….”More fundamentally, the News of The World’s offense – fatal, as it turned out – was to violate the trust of its readers by not coming about its news honestly.” Really? That’s the infraction? Not coming about [your] news honestly? What about violating others’ right to privacy, both private and public citizens. What about breaking the law? How about interfering in a criminal investigation? Moral corruption? A complete lack of ethics and integrity? And those are just the big headlines as we know them now. Their will undoubtedly be other bombs dropped as this story unfolds, but equally as important are the thousands of examples already known and those yet to be uncovered of the twisted, warped, and corrupt culture that permeates News Corp. As the editorial rightly points out, in perhaps its only truthful moment, “The Schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw.” It is. And like so many others, I too will very much enjoy watching New Corp implode. Most people love watching the bad guy lose, as they almost always eventually do. And Rupert Murdoch is one seriously bad dude.