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Murdoch’s media mates only shoot the messenger


Rupert Murdoch (L), the chief executive officer of News Corp

Rupert Murdoch (L), the chief executive officer of News Corp

Oli Scarff

Rupert Murdoch (L), the chief executive officer of News Corp

To judge from the manner in which various columnists have been dealing with Rupert Murdoch and his chief executive Rebekah Brooks, they apparently think that News International will emerge battered but unbroken from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

And what journalist wants to be excluded forever from the possibility of employment by Sky News, The Sunday Times, The Times, The Sun, The Sun on Sunday — or whatever confection replaces The News of the World?

Such exclusion would be a particularly unappealing prospect for these poor hacks as they toil within the galleys of a globally declining newspaper market.

Moreover, there's been a sisters-together rallying behind News International's CEO, Rebekah Brooks, who was famously arrested on suspicion of assaulting her then husband, Ross Kemp.

Fellow media haquette Janet Street-Porter told a sympathetic BBC Women's Hour that her friend Rebekah was made of strong stuff and would come through this trying time a finer and better person. Quite so.

Perhaps it was a combination of self-interest and sisters together which explains the astonishingly toxic bilge that appeared in the Daily Mail on Monday.

Both Beth Hale and Melanie Philips attacked the comedian Steve Coogan, the actor Hugh Grant and the Formula One impresario Max Mosley, who have recently all been loud in their loathing of The News of the World.

Hale disparagingly referred to Coogan and Grant as “middle-aged” — a term which also applies to Rebekah Brooks. Mosley was denounced by both Philips and Hale for his taste in sado-masochistic sex.

Coogan's crime was — according to Philips — “sexual excess”, something Philips is unlikely ever to have encountered. And Grant's episode with a prostitute was, of course, sanctimoniously recycled. (I might add here that all the accusations concerned activities between consenting adults.)

Philips puffed: “The notion that people who use prostitutes, indulge in sado-masochistic orgies, or engage in serial lewd behaviour should become the moral arbiters of the nation is clearly ridiculous.”

No doubt. If only Philips or Hale had also managed to make a single mention of the names Murdoch and Brooks in their gleeful denunciations of the sexual pasts of these three relatively powerless men. But, of course, they didn't.

Indeed, one can scan the entire range of by-lined columnar furlongs about News International in non-Murdoch newspapers and, with the honourable exception of The Guardian — which has had a particularly good war — and The Independent, one finds no critical mention of Brooks or her boss.

Why? Is it possibly because they are figures of awesome, even global, media power? These gallant columnists clearly don't intend to make enemies of the skippers of a cruise-liner on whose sun-deck they might one day hope to be lolling about.

They, therefore, conveniently ignore the abominable possibility that loyal lieutenants of that same cruise-liner had hacked into the mobile phone of a missing teenage girl (who had, in fact, been murdered) and into the phones of servicemen killed in action in Afghanistan, which is as non-consensual as you can get.

Thus, a tale nearly as old naked self-interest: when in doubt, shoot the messenger. Yet in a way, News International is less a ship than a surreal Shakespearian composite; an Elsinore on acid.

Murdoch is a Richard III, capering grimly on the battlements of his castle and drowning the occasional innocents in a butt of Wapping Malmsey.

But, suddenly, he appears as a genial old Lear, rewarding the loyalty of his lovely daughter Cordelia: yes, Rebekah Brooks, who — miraculously — also resembles a winsome Ophelia, wide-eyed and floating red tresses.

Next moment, she stalks the stone corridors like Lady Macbeth, garroting sentries. And lo! Here comes David Cameron, who thinks he is Henry V at Agincourt, but in reality is a sleekly podgy Juliet in a schoolboy production at Eton, opposite a Romeo played with reptilian bravura by James Murdoch, Rupert's son.

Enter stage left that sinister buffoon Piers Morgan, half-Iago, half-clown, bladder in one hand, a freshly sharpened bodkin in the other.

But the deeper reality of News International is actually neither ship nor Shakespeare, but Jane Goodall. It was she who observed the astonishing power of dominant males in chimpanzee society.

So what are we, but chimpanzees that talk and — happily for News International — occasionally read and, like any social primates, we inevitably defer to Towering Alpha-Males.

Which is why, sooner or later, Rupert Murdoch, the most personally irresistible Towering Alpha Male of this era, is probably going to get his way — again.

Belfast Telegraph