Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Revolution will not be Televised (At least not by Murdoch)

I've never been a big fan of mass demonstrations; they always seemed pointless and only served to inflame the situation and in truth push the goals they were hoping to achieve further away as politicians dug in their heels, too scared to be seen as weak and bow down to the demonstrators.

The sight of thousands of people waving Socialist Worker placards annoyed me as well. In truth the Socialist Worker seems to put its name to almost any demonstration in the hope that they will get onto the TV, but as the party has very little influence in the real world of politics in which we live, it all seems rather pointless.

Not that I'm saying socialism is dead or irrelevant, far from it, I just find that sometimes people attach themselves to causes for their own gain rather than that of the demonstrators.

So with that in mind and the recent demonstrations against the spending cuts fresh in the memory you could be forgiven for thinking that as the phone hacking scandal got into gear at the beginning of last week this would also blow over and eventually subside into a wave of public apathy; not a chance.

One key factor behind the huge upsurge in public opinion was how the scandal mutated from the hacking of celebrities and MP's phones, many of whom court the very people who were turning against them in their papers, to hacking phones of victims of some of the most high profile crimes over the past decade; these violations of privacy ignited an outcry of public revulsion to a level we may never see again.

And it was this outcry that gained momentum as revelation after revelation came to light and the public began to see the full extent of what NI was up too. This, it has to said, is almost solely down to the excellent investigative work carried out Nick Davies of the Guardian, the man who continued to pursue the hacking scandal when almost everyone else turned their back on it.

We rarely see in this country, with the exception of war, such a united front from politicians and the public alike; and even conflict is no guarantee of a united front as we have recently witnessed.

But Murdoch will not go quietly, however the difference is the sheer magnitude of opposition and the fact it is coming from all angles that will have both him and his team reeling.

Today The Sun carries the headline 'Brown Wrong' and counters Gordon Brown's accusations with their side of the story.

News International has bought back $5bn of its own shares to try and underpin the value; the share price has dropped 14% since the 4th of July.

And with the possibility that both Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks may appear in front of MP's at the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, we could be set for the most fascinating reality television show in years.

However the bad news keeps on piling and today Murdoch Sr will undoubtedly shudder at the news that US senator Jay Rockefeller has called for an investigation into whether reported hacking by News Corporation targeted any US citizens and has warned of "serious consequences" should that be found to be the case.

Even in his own country Murdoch is not safe as the Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch's media empire announced it is to investigate all payments made to contributors since 2008, as the fallout from the UK phone-hacking scandal continues to widen.

Parliament, which seems to have been given a new lease of life and relevance, now lines up as one voice in its attempts to rid the country of Murdoch's methods. MP's know they have been given a golden opportunity to gain back some of the credibility they destroyed during the expenses scandal and are seizing the chance to be seen as next in line to knock Murdoch.

But with Cameron claiming that the reforms and the public enquiries that will come into play over the next few months how much will the results of these impact on the day to day running of Parliament?

In the case of the expenses scandal it was simple; don't break the rules and stop claiming expenses you are not entitled too.

In the case of the phone hacking scandal not quite so clear.

Friendships have built up over years between MP's and the media, to expect these to cease and to expect MP's to live in a bubble insulated from the influence of media is impractical. To draw a line across which MP's cannot cross will be impossible to manage and perversely could result in Parliament becoming isolated from the real world and unable to communicate effectively with the public it is there to serve.

Cameron himself has fallen foul of friendships and loyalty already and this scandal is still only in its second week; although the Coulson question has been lingering for a lot longer.

Big business has been close to various MP's for years, with lobbying companies trying to influence decisions and certain board appointments seemingly based on an endless conveyor belt of accessibility to the very people we entrust to serve our interests; how can this be reigned in?

And who exactly is going to monitor how MP's interact with the media and what amount of influence is deemed too much?

Perhaps pre-judging what may or may not happen in the next few months is futile as the sheer pace and remit of these enquiries and the criminal investigations seem to change almost daily.

With over 3800 hacking cases yet to be investigated there are sure to be plenty of revelations still to be unearthed and many more shocking disclosures along the way.

We are in an age when 140 characters and a carefully crafted hashtag campaign can, in an instant, undermine a super injunction or falsely accuse someone of a crime they did not commit, such is the pace of today's world of media. And anything that is even slightly less than truth in this case will be surely be seized upon by Murdoch's legal team; one that includes Lord Macdonald QC who was DPP during the last hacking investigation in 2005-2006.

I think the history books will look back on this event and show what is possible if the collective will of the people is channeled in such a way that politicians of all parties cannot fail but to follow; after all we put them there in the first place to represent our interests, not theirs.

It should also show that journalism is a vital part of democracy and that people such as Nick Davies, and indeed the Guardian newspaper who support was key to the story maintaining relevance, should be held up as examples of how important they are in the defending our way of life and ensuring that there is always someone who is willing to take risks in exposing the truth.

And the result is in: Murdoch has withdrawn his bid for BskyB.

You can follow me on Twitter @mcollinsblog

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