Calhoun’s Can(n)ons for July 22, 2011
Lay down with dawgs, git up with fleas
It does no good to point with bony fingers and say, “Shame! Shame!” The toffs sniffed in distain, but the rest of England loved their sleazy tabloids and fed the beast daily. They devoured their Peep and Sneak scandal sheets that ridiculed and exposed the ruling class and boot-licking politicians while always featuring a big breasted tootsie tucked in for sheer titillation.
And it does no good to only point with bony fingers at the unwashed and unbooted tabloid-buying public. The pols and police were in bed with Murdoch as well – Bobbies bribed to betray their profession, politicians, first seduced with promises of his newspapers’ support, then later blackmailed and cowed into silence when they discovered the old man now owned them, lock stock and barrel. Ya gotta dance with them what brung ya.
And Americans can’t draw their skirts aside and claim purity either. Murdoch’s M.O. was a known quantity when he came to town and started buying up whole media empires. It does no good now to point with wagging fingers and say, “We’re shocked – SHOCKED! – to find that Fox News – which gets a license to use the public airways by pretending to be a “news” channel – is really little more than the media arm of the Republican Party.” Or that we’re dismayed by what has become of the once mighty and respected Wall Street Journal. Or demand that the FCC should have invoked the “good character” clause before giving Murdoch free use of the very lucrative public air ways. The FCC? Pluzzeee. Dawgs, fleas. Git one, git the other.
And nobody can pretend that Murdoch’s troubles are simply sui generis. He is an unprincipled man who exemplifies better than most the rotting, celebrity-addicted, greed-addicted, wholly unprincipled popular culture he lives in. But he’s not alone. His cohorts on Wall Street, for example, are brother wolves. And all of them are given an unbridled license to hunt by the Pols in their pockets and by the very citizen-sheep who are on their dinner menu.
And it does no good to profess shock that things for Murdoch have come to this pretty pass. When you keep moving the Line of Outrage closer and closer to the edge, it should come as no surprise that one small misstep will finally send you over the cliff. Even in a sleazy culture addicted to daily outrage, apparently (miraculously?) there are still a few things that can spark some semblance of decency. And hacking the cell phone of a murdered child seems to be one of them.
And don’t waste your time thinking that somehow Murdoch’s fall will mean that things in the media world will change. Or think that the feel-good scenario of repentance and remorse will result in the public rousing themselves from their self-chosen cultural wallow of greed, corruption and lust to somehow become a better, wiser society. It won’t. Corporate media in America is no different than Murdoch media in England – its prime duty is to protect its business interests and enrich its stockholders by any means necessary, not to use its power and influence to accurately inform and educate a citizenry so they are better able to govern themselves.
So, even if Murdoch’s entire empire falls into ruin, nothing will change. His malign influence in the public square will continue for years. It’s become a familiar M.O. in Corporate Media America, where journalistic ethics are seen as a mook’s game in a pandering race to the bottom, which is where the real money is. As media columnist Tim Rutten noted, in England as in America, “Eager for the highly partisan Murdoch papers’ support and fearful of the retribution that seemed to follow anything the company’s editors or executives construed as opposition to NewsCorp’s interests, Britain’s Parliament and political establishment cowered while unprincipled journalists attenuated freedom of the press into grotesque malevolence and corrupt officials made public accountability a dead letter. It was mutually beneficial little arrangement for as long as it lasted, but like any relationship built on fear, it was bound to come apart – with a vengeance.”
So, put away the wagging bony fingers and try to avoid reveling in all this Murdochian schadenfreude. The sad truth is this: In a democracy, we get the media we deserve. That media shapes the information we receive, which then gives us the government we deserve. In short, we have met the enemy. It’s not Murdoch. It’s us.