Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21: blowing the big story

We'll just skip over the story about how a province that can afford to build a hundred million dollar hockey rink and can afford to give billionaires a break on their energy costs can't afford to raise the minimum wage for lousy jobs. The warning is clear. If you want to make a living, don't waste your time in New Brunswick.

We'll even skip over a pretty sensible editorial about increasing the density of housing in downtown Moncton to encourage more people to live there: (though one has to wonder how moving Moncton High out to the boonies helps such a plan).

The big story is about Rupert Murdoch and The News of the World. The Moncton T&T, like newspapers all over t he world,is getting all excited aboujt it, but it's missing the real point of this story. And there's a reason. The Moncton Times and the private news media in general prefer to miss the point.. This is not just a scandal concerning hacking into the phones of  royals, or exploiting the vulnerable. It's much bigger and dirtier than that. And it affects almost all of the world's private news media.

Our modern newspaper originated in 1890s with the development of cheap production methods. Prices dropped; and circulation soared. For the first time, the newspaper became not only hugely profitable, but it had an unprecedented power to influence events.

One of the first to realize this was William Randolph Hearst who used his newspapers not only to make himself rich, but to manipulate public opinion into supporting a war based on a lie that Spain had sunk an American warship. The paper gave Hearst a base so strong that he would likely have become president had a romantic affair not come to light.

Our own Max Aitken went the same route. The British prime minister in World War I was so concerned about Aitken's influence and his obvious ambitions for political power, that he used Aitken's  vanity to take him out of the picture. He named him Lord Beaverbrook. It sounded good; but it took him out of the fight for electoral power.

Almost every daily newspaper and every private radio or TV station is a tool used by its owner not only to make a profit, but to maniulate public opinion for the owner's benefit.

This shows itself in the Moncton T&T everty day. For a strking example, think back to the last copy before the recent provincial election.  The paper summed up its election coverage by interviewing the Liberal and Conservative leaders. Only the Liberal and Conservative leaders. Of course. It didn't matter to the owner which of them won. But it would certainly matter if any other party got substantial support.

Similarly, a poll showed that Tommy Douglas was the most admired politician in this country's history. What's interesting about that is that no daily newspaper in this country ever supported him in its pages.  They supported Brian Mulroney - even when it was obvious what he was. But not Tommy Douglas.  Of course not. Douglas had a big following among ordinary Canadians - but none among billionaires who could make money out of health care and free trade.

Murdoch has been the classic example of the newspaper owner who wants both power and money. He has used Fox News to raise hatred of Moslems to hysteria levels. He used his influence and power to get Tony Blair into the prime minister's office. Once there, Blair became Britain's George Bush, and retired from office as a multimillionaire. George Bush, himself, became a multimillionaire while in office. And I believe it has not been unknown for former NB premiers to become very wealthy.

Murdoch has debased and corrupted not only  the police and the government but journalism, itself. Still, that doesn't make him different from most other private news media, just better at what he does.

Be assured that most news media will not push this story beyond the simple sleaze and greed it appears to be. The private news media are not anxious to open their own operations to public doubts. Nor does Murdock have to worry about the House of Commons asking too many questions. He knows too many of their secrets.

For a start, Murdoch and the Blair government were intimate friends through the Labour reign, and equally so now with the Conservatives. Neither party is anxious to explore this relationaship. The same situation exists in the US in the unlikely case the US should open an enquiry into, say, Fox News.

As well, people who can hack private conversations of the royals, can also hack secret conversations of politicians.  J. Edgar Hoover used his FBI to get information on criminals. He also used it to get information on presidents and congressman. Ever wonder why he was never forced to retire?

Murdoch almost certainly has the goods an anybody of power. They aren't going to push him. Nor will the rest of our corrupt and manipulative private news media.

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