Sunday, July 31, 2011

An American Low Down On Murdoch's Crumbling Edifice

Rupert Murdoch's "humble" moment at the DCMS select committee hearing earlier this month ( expansively spreading his hands along the table like a nervous novice trying to learn stride piano in a New Orleans bar) only served to shine an unflattering & unforgiving light upon his rotten empire. The New Yorker magazine takes a look at the phone-hacking scandal, setting out the context & background for a US readership ( ).
Anthony Lane's piece goes through instances where Murdoch's papers lied, deceived & manufactured stories to boost circulation figures. Lane doesn't mention Hillsborough when describing Kelvin MacKenzie, but nonetheless pens a damning portrait: "When it comes to ethical discrimination, MacKenzie makes [Piers] Morgan look like Ronald Dworkin. Students of of the period should consult 'Stick It Up Your Punter!,' by Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie, much of which is consumed by MacKenzie's reign. Here you will find, for instance, details of the interview with Marcia McKay, the widow of a British sargeant who died in the Falklands and was honored with a posthumous Victoria Cross, the highest British award for gallantry -- an interview compromised by the fact that she never actually spoke to the Sun. Or, there was the mission to out Peter Tatchell, the Labour candidate for the London constituency of Bermondsey, who was finally snared by the headline 'RED PETE "WENT TO GAY OLYMPICS" '. MacKenzie was informed that Tatchell had not, in fact, attended the Gay Olympics in San Francisco, but, undaunted, the editor simply inserted the claim between single quotation marks and ran it anyway. It suited MacKenzie's bellowing homophobia, which, in turn, was consonant with his racial fears. 'Botha has said the days of white power are over in South Africa. What he doesn't say is what's going to happen when the darkies come down from the trees, ' he said. That was reported in the New Statesman, in 1985, by Peter Court, who had briefly worked as a graphic designer for the Sun."
MacKenzie has been conspicuous by his silence since his brilliantly-timed Guardian article which sang the praises of Murdoch just days before the Milly Dowler revelations ( ).
Must be getting uncomfortable for him in that sewer as he continues to hunker down & hope that he can soon surface.   

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hailing The Arrival Of An ASBO Neighbour For The Three Graces

Reduced to a Dad's Army state of panic about whether to don their helmets, the hacks on Oldham Hall Street can, perhaps, console themselves with the knowledge that Trinity "Smoking" Mirror's look into the hacking claims are a "review" rather than an "investigation". That's despite the rumours & suspicions that are circling overhead ( ).
Relax, lads, nothing to worry about, I'm sure. Now, anybody available to write a few hundred words about how great the new Museum of Liverpool is? There is? Fantastic!
Let the honour fall to Susan Lee with this third-rate "it looks great, my boss said so, so there!" scrawl ( ).
By way of a badly-needed alternative appraisal (David  Fleming originally wanted to feature Hillsborough & the James Bulger case in the carbuncle), Wayne quoted an Observer review of the monstrosity the other day ( & ).
Perhaps it doesn't really bother the "local" press what the city's waterfront looks like; the mood music now emanating from the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo suggests an increasing indifference, bordering at times on hostility, to UNESCO over the port's World Heritage Site status. The Janus-faced antics of the papers that claim to speak up for Merseyside tell you everything you need to know about their respect & appreciation of the port's history (ask them about the Manchester Dock & they'll assume you're referring to the Ship Canal). 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thatcher's Involvement In Hillsborough Cover-Up To Be Made Public

It's been a long, long battle for the Hillsborough families, but another chink of light has this evening opened up for them. The Information Commissioner has ruled that Documents concerning Thatcher's discussions in the aftermath of the disaster should be made public ( ).
The BBC report states:
"The Information Commissioner has now ruled that releasing the files would be in the public interest."
The BBC put in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request around the time of the disaster's 20th anniversary & the institutional tardiness of the response has been duly deprecated. "The Commissioner has also strongly criticised the Cabinet Office for its 'unjustified and excessive' delays in handling the BBC's request."
Making the documents public could still have an incendiary political effect, as the report explains:
"Mrs Thatcher was briefed about the disaster in the days that followed it, and it was discussed at a number of meetings. The records to be disclosed include reports presented to her, correspondence between her office and that of the Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, and minutes of meetings she attended.
"Some campaigners for the families of the victims have suggested that Mrs Thatcher sought to avoid the police being criticised."
It's tacitly accepted in Tory circles that Thatcher felt a debt towards forces such as the one in South Yorkshire for their role in the miners' strike. Added to this was her barely-concealed antipathy to regions such as Merseyside for having the temerity to elect largely Labour MPs throughout the 80s.
The Commissioner made his judgement, according to the BBC report, on the basis that the 30-year rule for publication of cabinet papers is being phased out.
Let's hope that over the next few weeks this major element of the families' fight for justice is delivered with no delays. 

Helmets On, Lads

Keep calm & carry on, so they say. Advice those on Oldham Hall Street will doubtless receive from such equable & rational souls as Bill Gleeson & Mark Thomas. After all, it's not as though they're implicated in the claims that phone-hacking also went on within the Mirror stable. Oh, hang on, time to don those tin helmets, lads ( ):
"The six-week review is being led by Trinity Mirror's group legal director Paul Vickers and will include all of the group's national and regional newspapers, including the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, the People and the Daily Record."
Yes, that's right, it won't just be the national titles under Trinity's much-vaunted spotlight, it will also include its local rags. I'm sure Oldham Hall Street is completely innocent of any nefarious activities. However, stress levels at the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo may currently be described as stratospheric.
John Plunkett's piece for the Guardian also contains this illuminating passage:
"Former Daily Mirror reporter James Hipwell reiterated his earlier claim that hacking was widespread at other newspapers, including the Mirror. A separate report on BBC2's Newsnight alleged the use of phone hacking and private detectives was widespread at the Sunday Mirror.
"Trinity Mirror described both sets of allegations as 'unsubstantiated', saying its journalists 'work within the criminal law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct'."
Sorry to be so pedantic here, but throwing out words such as "unsubstantiated" in response to these allegations doesn't amount to a denial, does it? It reminds me of Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Charlie Whelan who would respond to potentially embarrassing or damaging claims by saying, "bollocks". Whelan would later admit that the use of such a charming term didn't amount to a denial, but could be presented as such.
In addition, it's notable that Trinity Mirror's statement is in the present tense, not past; their hacks may "work within the criminal law" now, but what about the past? Oh, & as for invoking the Press Complaints Commission, the last few weeks have demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that the PCC was always a toothless watchdog with even the likes of Cameron admitting that it should be put out of its misery.
I do hope they've got enough helmets to go around at Oldham Hall Street.

1.45pm UPDATE: Roy Greenslade notes that Trinity Mirror's wish to get to the bottom of things may not be all it seems ( ), as he asks:
"But what will [Paul] Vickers achieve? The company has stressed that it is a review, not an investigation."
Helmets off, guys.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Frank Field's Apologia For Murdoch

Never let it be said that the Oldham Echo doesn't allow its columnists to amuse readers with their comedic talents. Take Frank Field (there's a punchline waiting to strike there, but I'll resist the temptation), Labour MP for Birkenhead. Frank's made his name over the years by popping up on TV to "think the unthinkable", which has amounted to proposals on welfare that would go down very well with the Tea Party in the US.
This time, Frank's worried about the well-warranted merde deposited on the Murdoch empire; he thinks it could be bad for democracy. No, really, he does ( ):
"To prevent the crisis swirling around Murdoch's print empire in Britain contaminating his main financial base in America, I believe News Corp is ruthless enough to close all its titles in Britain.
"Some of you will say good riddance. I don't for one simple reason.
"A closure would lead to a far greater concentration of power in the Mail, the Mirror and the Telegraph empires.
"The inquiry established this week will uncover which other papers have, through phone-hacking and by using known criminals, gained personal information. If newspaper barons outside News International are found guilty what future will there be for some of the other major titles?
"And, importantly, how will a mass culling of newspapers affect the functioning of our democracy?
"So cheer if you will against Murdoch, but please have just one thought for how this terrible matter might further damage British democracy."
Frank, if you're reading this (& why not, it does wonders for the blood pressure of Messrs Machray & Thomas), you should remind yourself as a local MP just why News International is treated with such contempt & loathing on Merseyside. Need a clue? It happened 22 years' ago. Moreover, if other publishers have transgressed in similar ways to News International, they deserve everything they get. Additionally, what makes you think that the nepotistic, venal, Murdoch-dominated political system the UK has had for the last 30 years or so could qualify for that noble term, democracy? If you really think that clearing out the Augean stables of the British press "might further damage British democracy", I suggest you take a reality check; get out of the Westminster bubble for just a short while (a visit to your own constituency, even) & acquaint yourself with reality.
Failing that, you could write a column in the Sun.

Look In The Mirror

Given the light that's been shone upon the Murdoch empire's illegality & collusion in police corruption, you'd think that their rivals would follow the Guardian's lead & roundly excoriate such sewer-like shenanigans. You'd certainly think that about the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo titles, owned, as they are, by Trinity Mirror, publishers of the once respectable Daily Mirror.
Well, erm, no, not really. Aside from a characteristically Meldrewesque piece by Joe Riley last Thursday ( ), the gloating has been relatively muted.
Why's that, you may ask. Well, it could just have something to do with the fact that phone-hacking wasn't a practice confined to Wapping. It was apparently also employed by the Mirror stable ( & ).
It certainly makes for an onerous in-tray that faces Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey who, indignity of all indignities, today found herself downgraded by the Guardian in its Media 100 list for 2011 ( ). 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Praiseworthy Journalism

After a week in which the most base & venal form of journalism has been globally excoriated, it's time to give credit to the Guardian's Nick Davies whose articles on News International over the last couple of years have led to the bemusing spectacle of the Tories voting against Murdoch's BSkyB's takeover bid in tomorrow's House of Commons debate. Davies also broke last week's story concerning Milly Dowler's phone ( ). 

A View From Across The Pond

A boneheaded decision by executives at Channel 4 last year saw the dropping of daily transmissions of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It's a pity because it means all but the web & blog-savvy won't have seen this clip from Monday's programme which takes a look at the phone-hacking scandal: .

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Flushing Out The Rodents

What sort of words come to mind when you think about News International hacks? Feral? Yep. Shifty? Spot-on. Spineless? I'd say so. All of which makes it seem like I'm surveying a surrealist vista when I hear terms such as "principled", "decent" & "courageous" wheeled out by apologists for Murdoch's minions, particularly those who have scribbled their propaganda in the late, unlamented News of the World.
As that rag's editor Colin Myler led his rodents out of their Wapping hole to face the cameras last night, I have to say my sense of satisfied schadenfreude outweighed any sympathy I normally feel for workers made redundant. They knew the nature of the beast they were feeding. They shouldn't complain when the beast turns on them.
It's a sentiment shared, rather more elegantly, by the BBC's Paul Mason ( ):
"Those bemoaning the 'unnecessary' closure of the NOTW ignore the market logic. Even if the guilty parties had long ago moved on, the NOTW was essentially the same product."
Mason notes the necessity of the rag's demise "as a brand to prevent gangrene to the whole of Newscorp".
The notion of just one limb of Murdoch's corporate body being gangrenous is rather charitable, I'd say.
As the clock ticked remorselessly towards the NOTW's nemesis, its political editor Dave Wooding scrawled a self-serving, whingeing & cliche-ridden piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free page ( ) whose hysterical premise was that "the bad guys" could sleep easily from now on.
Both Wooding & Myler have links to Merseyside. They should know better than other Murdoch hacks how his empire is viewed in these parts.
Wooding wailed:
"The loss of the News of the World from our lives is a bombshell like the break-up of the Beatles, the collapse of Woolworths and the end of Concorde."
If Wooding finds it hard to find alternative employment (Murdoch's Sun on Sunday replacement won't take many NOTW staff on), he could turn his hand to comedy writing.
[Speaking of comedy, it was one of those golden TV moments on Friday's Newsnight when Steve Coogan, along with Greg Dyke, exposed & ridiculed former NOTW features editor Paul McMullen ( ). The feral-featured McMullen was reduced to making cheap jibes about Coogan's wealth & private life.]
Of course, it is nauseating to witness senior politicians across the board now join the chorus of condemnation when they were all too happy to kiss Murdoch's ring just a week earlier; Cameron, Clegg & Miliband all attended News International's summer party recently. It's touched upon elsewhere in Paul Mason's article:
"The strength of the Murdoch newspaper and TV empire was that it occupied the commanding heights of a kind of journalism that dispenses power, intimidates and influences politicians and shapes political outcomes."
That "kind of journalism" is now under the cosh as never before ( it is, indeed, Middle England's Hillsborough moment). That cosh should be wielded repeatedly & mercilessly until we know the beast is dead. The rest of the country can now look to Merseyside's boycott of Murdoch's rags as just one tactic to employ. It's a tactic highlighted just yesterday in a brilliantly observed composition by Billy Bragg ( ).

Friday, July 08, 2011

At The Click Of A Mouse

Recommended reading: Laurence Durnan, editor of Political Scrapbook ( ), draws attention to the role played by online activists in responding to the News of the World scandal ( ).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Murdoch's Attempt At Re-Branding

Murdoch's decision to close the News of the World ( ) is certainly big news. However, it should be seen for what it is: a desperate attempt to distract attention from News International's hacking operation. Moreover, don't swallow the warm words from editor Colin Myler that all revenues from the final edition will go to "good causes". As PR stunts go, it falls flatter than a pancake.
In addition, it's impossible to think that Murdoch will no longer have a Sunday title. Expect a replacement for the NOTW to be unveiled after a couple of months (Sunday Sun?) & be presented as some sort of fresh start with lessons duly learned.
Long before Murdoch's decision to ditch his squalid Sunday rag Ed Miliband told BBC News of his views on the paper.
"It [NOTW] needs to restore its reputation," he yapped cluelessly.
We all know what that "reputation" has been.
As I write, BBC News are reporting that Murdoch will, indeed, unveil a "Sunday Sun". Predictable. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hitting Murdoch Where It Hurts

I never make assumptions about any person who reads this blog, but I presume they're not regular readers of Murdoch's rags. In that context I rather suspect that calls for a consumer boycott of both the Sun & the News of the World are pretty academic on Merseyside. Far more damaging & crippling, hopefully, for News International would be a withdrawal of advertising revenue from many companies which are household names. Credit, therefore, to Sunny Hundal over at the Liberal Conspiracy blog for naming names & providing links as well as email addresses (
On a related note, BBC Sport reporter Dan Roan (!/danroan ) tweeted thus yesterday:
"The man speaking on behalf of News International, Simon Greenberg, used to do the same role for Abramovich's Chelsea FC and England's World Cup bid."
Greenberg, whose TV appearances have managed to make Ed Miliband's recent robotic I-speak-your-weight "interview" ( ) look polished & relaxed, clearly has a penchant for arrogant & deluded employers.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Middle England's Hillsborough Moment

I can't say I was totally astonished by the revelations concerning News International over the last 24 hours ( ). As Murdoch's rags have demonstrated on countless occasions over the years, no depth of subterranean intrigue has ever been considered too low for the sick, twisted bastards who do their master's work.
Roy Greenslade suggested various ways in which the general public could register its disgust at NI's antics, one of which was a boycott of the News of the World ( ). Good idea, Roy. Only thing is we've been boycotting Murdoch's poisonous rags for 22 years. 

Monday, July 04, 2011

Selective Amnesia Greets Toxteth Anniversary

I haven't always agreed with Ed Vulliamy's impressions of Liverpool over the years, but his piece for yesterday's Observer on the 30th anniversary of the Toxteth riots ( ) is to be commended.
Not to be commended, however, is a typically shaky editorial on the subject in today's Oldham Echo ( ).
The Echo asserts that the riots "created headlines around the world, and was just the start of a decade in which so many stories about Liverpool would tell of political confrontation, anger and economic despair."
Claiming a link, however tenuous, between the riots & events such as the city's local government battle with the Tories a couple of years later smacks of lazy journalism.
The Echo also goes on to deliver a breathtakingly bogus assumption:
"We were all taken by surprise thirty years ago, by what seemed to be a sudden madness that gripped Toxteth and other inner city communities around the country."
Not all of us were taken by surprise. Many older people in the city, not just in Liverpool 8 itself, expressed their astonishment that the riots hadn't occurred some years earlier, given the depth of deprivation & discrimination that was rife.
As for the Echo's coverage & reaction to the riots back in 1981, I seem to recall the paper handing its front page over to Alan Bleasedale for an anguished "calm down, lads" piece. Well-intentioned, but hopelessly naive & out of touch.
Yes, we shouldn't forget the lessons of the riots, but Oldham Hall Street ignored them at the time & downplays them today.

"In the Echo they get it wrong", Piggie in the Middle Eight by Cook Da Books ( ).  

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Read All About It

With some media commentators & journalists tweeting today that there's a state of near mutiny at the Daily Mail over its claim yesterday that striking teachers were to blame for a 13 year-old girl's tragic death, it's worth airing this little gem which has been around for a few months, but which has enjoyed countless hits in the last 24 hours: .  

Friday, July 01, 2011

Rodent On The Move: A Case For Rentokill

It's been a long time (too long, perhaps) since this blog monitored the movements & utterances --I wouldn't use the word "thoughts", that's going too far-- of Kelvin MacKenzie. However, it appears that the individual who is to journalism what a prostitute is to celibacy is leaving Murdoch's empire to join the Daily Mail ( ).
Many may well view the move as an upward one...from the sewer to the gutter; how apt for the lying rat who libelled Liverpool fans at Hillsborough*.
However, it would be wrong to assume that MacKenzie & his boss Rupert Murdoch have fallen out with each other. In fact, MacKenzie has penned a piece for the Guardian's Comment is Free page, singing the praises of the Australian businessman who eagerly adopted US citizenship in order to build his empire there ( ):
"Thank God for the Rupert Murdochs of this world. I wish there were hundreds more in our country. Unemployment would be wiped out at a stroke."
I could quote more of MacKenzie's piece, but I don't want to make you feel too nauseous.
MacKenzie's new colleagues at the Mail will make him feel at home, I'm sure, particularly on the strength of a tasteful, balanced & scrupulously impartial article today ( ).
Credit to the New Statesman for picking up on the Mail's article ( ).
It isn't often that a rat finds common cause with a pack of jackals, but something tells me they'll all get along famously.

*If MacKenzie wishes to consult the lawyers over my description of him, I have this to say: See you in court. I'd relish the opportunity to highlight your lies.