Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Over the years, it's been revealed that the voicemail of royals and celebrities has been hacked into by people in the employ of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World. In Britain, this became a mid-level scandal at best. But now it's been revealed that the voicemail of a teenage murder victim, Milly Dowler, was hacked by the News of the World, and that the paper's practice of deleting messages, to free up voicemail storage space, led her family to believe, falsely, that she was alive. And now it's known that other victims of News of the World phone hacking include the families of two other murder victims, as well as relatives of people killed in the London terrorist bombings of July 7, 2005.

Appalling? Sure. But Slate's Jack Shafer is impossibly naive if he really believes that Murdoch himself is in serious trouble:

I can't think of any jam that Murdoch has gotten into that's tighter than this one. As long as the victims of the phone-hacking were rich people and big shots, Murdoch didn't have to worry too much about public opinion dragging him and his newspapers down. But Dowler's parents are neither rich nor big shots....

Murdoch's instinct, of course, will be to sacrifice [Rebekah] Brooks [the editor of the paper when the hacking took place], but I doubt that the mob that is gathering will be satisfied with one body. They'll want strong, tough, old meat, too. Something that's fit for grilling on the barbie.

How can Shafer believe that Murdoch's downfall is even a remote possibility? This is an era of absolute lack of accountability and total moral moral hazard for the powerful and politically connected. Awful as this is, people with Murdoch's wealth and clout who've done far worse in recent years have paid no penalty whatsoever -- and I mean all of them.

Yes, I see from The New York Times that

Ford Motor Company, meanwhile, suspended advertising in The News of the World.

But Murdoch isn't going to feel too much pain:

Ford said it would be using "alternative media within and outside News International Group instead of placing Ford advertising in the News of the World" while it awaited the outcome of an internal investigation.

So some of the money is just going to other Murdoch papers.

That's how these things work. Many companies that boycotted Glenn Beck's Fox News show just shifted their ads to other Fox shows; Beck is gone, but Fox still thrives. And celebrities don't (or don't dare to) bear grudges against Murdoch: one of the celebrity hacking victims was Gwyneth Paltrow, and she's now a recurring guest star on Fox's Glee.

It's 2011. All of Western society agrees on one thing: The fish never stinks from the head.

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