When the Phone Hacking trial ended, and several former loyal servants of the Murdoch empire were taken down to be sent to prison, or at least given a suspended sentence, that was thought to be that. The late and not at all lamented Screws, run for so long as a borderline criminal operation, had closed. Sources were duly shopped to the Police; the stables had been cleaned. But the hit jobs to order just kept on coming.
The low-level political nastiness is so much routine, and so hypocritical: while obedient hack James Lyons has penned a particularly vacuous attack on the Labour leadership for today’s Sunday Times, making claims of anti-Semitism on the single-sourced say-so not of anyone involved with the Chakrabarti report, but a friend of someone who made submissions to it, the Murdoch mafia have previously played the other side of the field.
They had no problem with continuing to give a Sunday column to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog when The Great Guido’s Parliamentary sketch writer Simon Carr was indulging in anti-Semitic tropes to attack Ed Miliband (covered by Zelo Street HERE and HERE). The control which the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker exercised over the Fawkes blog will become clearer over time.
What is also going to become clear in the coming months is the number - that’s number, as in plural - of senior Tory MPs over whom the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks is able to exercise control. One recent unexpected political intervention can be traced back to Ms Brooks, and while Young Dave may have shuffled off to the back benches, she still has a hotline to the heart of the Cabinet.
And the idea that it wasn’t an organisation wide thing, but only restricted to the UK, has been shown to be bunk by the latest revelations about the bizarre world of Roger Ailes, former CEO of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). It has now been revealed that Ailes was running his own dirty tricks operation, not out of some secret hideout, but from the News Corp building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in New York City.
The response to this news? Exactly the same as with phone hacking and other “dark arts” in the UK - nobody knew it was happening. As Ms Brooks and Neil Wallis, two of those who got off, said in their defence, so the Murdoch head office minions are saying now. Fox News brought in $1 billion a year in profit, so what Ailes was spending on private detectives and attack publicity was a mere “rounding error”.
In the UK, it was the Guardian and those of like-minded enquiry that the Murdoch dirty tricks operation latterly targeted; in the USA it was potentially hostile biographers, Gawker, and those who made accusations of sexual harassment. The Murdoch empire is now claiming to be surprised at some of the names it finds on its payroll in the wake of Ailes’ recent removal from office. But anyone familiar with the UK operation will recognise this.
It wasn’t one rogue reporter. It wasn’t one rogue newspaper. It wasn’t one rogue division of the company. The ethical, moral and eventually criminal rot was company-wide.