So much for Elisabeth Murdoch’s high-falutin’ McTaggart lecture about profit being “our servant not our master” last Thursday. While criticizing her younger brother James over his botched job as chairman of News Corp.’s UK newspaper business, News International (she wanted him out), she had offered only praise for her father:
“My dad had the vision, the will and the sense of purpose to challenge the old world order on behalf of the people. But back even then, I understood we were in pursuit of a greater good, a belief in better.”
Apparently this “pursuit of a greater good” means that, when Rupert Murdoch’s in a tiff about criticism about his company, he orders that photos of a naked Prince Harry be published in his tabloid The Sun “against the wishes of the Royal Family because he wanted to send a warning shot to Lord Justice Leveson,” according to sources in the Independent.
On Thursday (same day as his daughter made her speech), Murdoch reportedly told NI publisher Tom Mockridge to publish the photos “amid suggestions that The Sun and other papers did not carry the photos for fear of recriminations in the Leveson report.”
The images had appeared on Wednesday on celebrity gossip website TMZ and, after St James’s Palace asked the Press Complaints Commission that it did not wish to see the photos published, all British papers abided by this request. Then on Friday, The Sun published the infamous photos of the man who’s third in line to inherit the British throne playing strip pool with strangers in his hotel suite in Las Vegas.
NI has been mum about whether Murdoch intervened but a “well-placed source” tells the Independent that he said the following to Mockridge in a phone call Thursday:
“There is a principle here. I know this is about Leveson but this is humiliating. We can’t carry on like this. We should run them, do it and say to Leveson, we are doing it for press freedom.”
Following weeks of testimony (included that of Rupert and James Murdoch) earlier this year, Lord Leveson is to publish a report this fall and is expected to ask for tougher regulation of the British press. ”There are fears that The Sun’s actions may force Lord Justice Leveson to come down harder on newspapers,” says the Independent.
Murdoch’s Last Stand?
Publishing the photos despite the request not to was characteric Murdochian defiance but the bravado (if it can be called that) of the act is undermined by this being the age of the internet. The photos have been quite widely distributed; it’s not as if The Sun published anything exclusive.
Indeed, the ease with which information, images, everything is disseminated via the internet has raised other issues. This Sunday morning, British culture secretary Jeremy Hunt (who is under fire for being himself too close to James Murdoch regarding News Corp.’s failed attempt to buy a larger share of BSkyB television), said that “Personally I cannot see what the public interest was in publishing those.” Max Mosley, who won a breach of privacy suit against the NoW, said that publishing the photos of the naked prince was
“100 per cent not in the public interest. It is theft. It’s his privacy … and they’ve stolen something from him. If they were an honest newspaper, they wouldn’t have published them.”
Well, it’s probably fair to say we know they’re not “an honest newspaper.” Hunt also said that “in the end that is not for politicians to tell editors what to publish.”
But publishing the photos the day after Elisabeth Murdoch’s lofty talk about “integrity and moral “purpose” has (for the nth time) put the amorality of the Murdochs quite on display. Based on his Twitter feed, Rupert Murdoch is feeling a bit sore about the whole business:
“Prince Harry. Give him a break. He may be on the public payroll one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las Vegas.” [Meaning?: Poor me. Give me a break. I may be raking in untold sums for publishing salacious news but the public love it, I can do what I want because people buy it.]
“We needed to demonstrate no such thing as a free press in UK. Internet makes a mockery of these issues. 1st amendement please.” [Meaning?: Freedom of speech means freedom to do whatever will garner the most profit and the internet could eat into mine.]
Murdoch’s tweets, that is, reveal that the once and present (but maybe not future) media emperor, the self-proclaimed defender of “press freedom” is feeling a bit over-judged these days.
The Telegraph says that more than 850 complaints (most about invasion of privacy) have been filed about The Sun’s publication of the photos of the naked prince and an unnamed young woman and that investigations are to follow.
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Photo by Gwydion M. Williams