Forget what you think you know about the current furore surrounding Rupert Murdoch and News International. If you imagine that what is transpiring here in the UK will bring down News International or its illustrious leader, think again. What has started here will not conclude the story, or come anywhere close to it. The real damage will likely be done 3,000 miles away, across a vast expanse of water, on Capitol Hill.
You may recall that the story was slow to build in the UK. As long as phone hacking was confined to a few overpaid celebrities, more famous for being famous than anything else there was not too much to feel sorrow or anger over. What caused the great sea change? As soon as it was revealed that the organisation had acquired access to the phone messages of a murdered schoolgirl and of fallen members of the armed services. Once that occurred, all hell broke loose.
Well, America and Britain are not the same, as the Washington Post reminds us. In this case the Americans are not messing about with the preamble.
What will prove to be the undoing of the Murdoch empire will be any evidence that can be found that connects his business dealings to similar activity regarding fallen US armed service personnel, or worse still, victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The events of 9/11 remain an open wound in the United States; open for exploitation by politicians and the media. If the FBI establishes a link here, then what has transpired here in London this past week, will be but a sideshow to what will occur in the United States. Legal representatives from both the UK and US governments are already in conversation with regard to the situation and possible developments.
I wrote earlier today about the politics of revenge in relation to the UK. The same is true in the United Sates. With bells on.
The great danger for Murdoch is that politicians from all walks of life, from all locations and from both sides of the political aisle are lining up to call for hearings and investigations. This is not a partisan issue but rather one on which no politician dare side with Murdoch. That Peter King, the Republican from New York who recently held hearings into the role of Muslims in American society, has refused to do so, speaks volumes. King is also, for the record, a Fox News contributor.
For do not forget that Murdoch’s holdings extend to the formidable Fox News, an organisation that many would love to give a bloody nose. Its critics may well now have the perfect opportunity to deliver this right to the face of the man himself. The network’s repeated efforts to critique its opponents as unpatriotic and lacking in empathy with the military or the victims of 9/11 appears likely to boomerang back on them in a dramatic twist of fate. The very least that this could lead to is the downfall of the Fox News Network.
The folks at MSNBC must be loving it.
The scandal also threatens Piers Morgan, Larry King’s replacement on CNN, due to his past ties to the Murdoch Empire. Like Murdoch, Morgan is another foreigner making his way in a land that will not take kindly to them if they are shown to have exploited the great national tragedy in any way.
The United Sates is the land of opportunity, where fortunes and reputations can be made. However, Rupert Murdoch risks discovering that what goes up can also come down. Having rejected his Australian passport in the 1980s to comply with US media ownership laws, Murdoch may well have exposed himself and his family to the full extent of American law if the FBI investigations go forward and if members of Congress decide to hold hearings into the actions of his organisation. The resignation of Rebekah Brooks has left his son and heir apparent, James Murdoch, terribly exposed to the investigations that are sure to be announced in the coming days. Murdoch may well have purchased his citizenship, but he will find that as a foreigner, he will not have been able to purchase himself any good will when times are tough. Americans are rightly loyal to their own and Murdoch may well find this out to his great cost.
Twenty years ago, Rupert Murdoch’s great rival in the UK, Robert Maxwell, disappeared in mysterious circumstances and turned up drowned in the Atlantic
Ocean at the height of a scandal surrounding his company’s pension fund.
Dishonour, ignominy, scandal: How history loves to repeat itself
It appears that, like Maxwell, the very methods that raised the Murdoch family to great wealth and privilege, risk bringing them shame and ignominy on a terrible scale.