Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Is This What Accountability Looks Like?

The recent cluster of testimony by the Murdochs in front of Parliament is, well...very funny.  Both weird funny and ha-ha funny, I guess:
Rupert Murdoch has said he cannot be held responsible for the scandal at the News of the World, saying he was let down by "people I trusted".

James Murdoch, chairman of News International, said the firm failed to live up to "the standards they aspired to" and was "determined to put things right and make sure they do not happen again".  He added: "I would like to say just how sorry I am and how sorry we are to particularly the victims of illegal voicemail interceptions and to their families."
While I'm not surprised that they resorted to the passing-the-buck apology tactic, it is always disappointing to see.  There's no real self-accountability here by the Murdochs and company here.  That alone is quite reprehensible, and it's easy to argue that considering how long the hacking was going on, well...if the Murdochs aren't directly responsible, then they're also terrible at administrating and managing the people around and under them.

The totality of the testimony itself, though, is truly astounding.  TPM details the sort of hilarious dodging that we've come to expect from CEOs, politicians, and everyone else.  And yet every time it happens, I can't help but be disappointed by the overwhelming cowardice on display.  On top of that, just like other famous denials - former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' cavalcade of "I don't recalls" comes to mind - it's either going to be a joke of epic proportions or the unraveling of a terrible web of obstruction.

But as always, no one is "aware" of anything.  Certain things "were not known."  Things may have happened, but they only happened in the passive voice, so who really knows who's responsible?  Whoever it is, it's certainly someone else that should have been responsible.  We did everything we could, why won't anyone believe that?  After all, as TPM notes again:
One Committee member asked Rupert Murdoch if he felt responsible for the breaches within NOTW, to which he replied "no." He added that he blamed "the people I trusted to run it and the people they trusted," and argued that "News Of The World is less than 1% of our company. I employ more than 53,000 people around the world," and therefore he cannot necessarily know everything that is going on. 
Ha ha ha, how could we possibly have known what was going on at a company we owned?  We're not responsible for the actions of our own properties, or for hiring the people who are!  That would be ridiculous.  What do you think this is, a multinational corporation worth billions of dollars with a high-profile, influential owner who does things (as detailed here earlier)?  We're just a humble news organization with lots of properties that need our expert attention.  Murdoch seems less Lex Luthor now, and more Sergeant Schultz. 

If things are bad for the Murdochs' image here, then news is almost certainly worse for now ex-News International head Rebekah Brooks, who may or may not have attempted to destroy or remove evidence. And her own testimony is replete with the same sort of dodging as the Murdochs - if perhaps regarding more specific allegations of wrongdoing. Of course, a Parliamentary inquiry and a court are not the same thing, so this might be expected.  One can almost sense a bit of desperation.  Regardless of her actual guilt or innocence, it seems like a given that Brooks is going to be the obligatory single high-profile official person who takes the fall for News Corp.

Meanwhile, there's Fox News' coverage of the scandal over here in America, which takes spin and obfuscation to Herculean levels.  I mean, anyone can get hacked, right?  Why aren't we talking about all these other businesses who got hacked, instead of this company that was engaged in hacking?  Obviously they're the exact same thing, right?  What is the internet, anyway?  Here's a commercial!

If we're all lucky, Murdoch, Fox, and News Corp's various other organs will lose a lot of credibility from all this at the absolute minimum.  Of course, that should have happened already - that they ever had credibility is mindboggling considering the absolute mockery of news that Fox et. al. have engaged in for years.  If it takes this sort of truly insane criminal activity on their part to bring themselves down, though, then that's fine too.  In the meantime, we can all wait and see how hilarious it all gets before the News Corp house of cards folds in on itself once again.

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