On one occasion in New York, I listened to a speech by Mr. Rupert Murdoch in which he said something to the effect that at Oxford he had received a second-rate education in a third-rate country. Quite a few in that audience had been to Oxford and thought well of England, so a sort of shudder went through the room. Success of course led him to talk like that quite often and openly, making him unpopular, the envy and the hatred all mixed up. Right now, England is having its revenge on the man.
A miasma of accusation is sweeping the country. Murdoch journalists evidently hacked into private telephones, which is forbidden by law. Money has passed between such journalists and the police, which is also forbidden by law. So far, ten journalists have been arrested, and two senior police officers have resigned. There seems to be evidence of lying and prevaricating. Gagging orders have been placed on lawyers to prevent them from revealing what they know. Two committees have been set up to investigate, and parliament was recalled for a debate. One of the arrested journalists was the chief of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron, and he was obliged to resign. The issue enlarges into party politics.
Mr. Murdoch may have been far and away the richest and most influential media baron, but his competitors are showing neither respect nor mercy.
Photographers are sure to have caught him looking all his 80 years, badly dressed, harassed, past it. Questioned by one of the committees, he often hesitated, and of course the cameras dwelled on his apparent failure to find the answer he needed. At that committee some intruder threw a carton of some kind of cream in his face, and he could be made to look ridiculous for that — he seemed like some malefactor put into the stocks in a medieval village to be pelted with rubbish. He also apologised for his papers’ misdeeds, and the Daily Telegraph then ran the exultant headline in gigantic type, “Murdoch eats humble pie.” As for the BBC, it makes no pretence at objective reporting, glorying in one program after another in Mr. Murdoch’s predicament, exaggerating it with speculation that places him and all who come into this story in the worst possible light. Neither they, nor I, are in possession of enough hard facts on which to base a properly judged conclusion.
I have often wondered how people in the past joined in witch-hunts, suspending reason and passing sentence of death on the basis of prejudice and mass hysteria. Now I know how it happens.