Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sorry seems to be the easiest word

I'm fed up with pictures of Brooks
so here's one of my ex-wife
There is no way anyone should accept the apologies of News International for the phone-hacking scandal. If we are to believe that these apologies are genuine, then we have to accept that every member of the company's management has suddenly acquired an understanding of what it means to be a decent human being – something none of them appears to have understood two weeks ago.

Reports from the Dowler family suggest that Rupert Murdoch appeared genuinely upset by what his lieutenants had done to them. This is entirely plausible. However much we might like to demonise him, Murdoch is a human being. Confronted by a family that has suffered the cruellest of tragedies and by the realisation that his company compounded that tragedy, he would be inhuman not to react with a degree of genuine remorse. Pretending that he's a monster, devoid of any humanity, is a cop-out.

But that doesn't excuse him.

Neo-Nazis have been known to excuse Hitler by arguing that he didn't directly order the Holocaust. That doesn't excuse him either (although it does beg the question of whether those Neo-Nazis actually approve of the Holocaust. If they do, why do they try to excuse Hitler at all? If they don't, why do they identify with the Nazis in the first place?). The point is that Hitler created the regime under which such a policy was considered acceptable. Hitler was culpable.

Similarly with Murdoch: he might not have known about the individual cases of phone-hacking and might well have disapproved of hacking Milly Dowler's phone if he had known about it. But he spent decades building the kind of organisation where this was considered a natural way of getting a story. Clearly nobody who knew about it thought it was wrong within the culture of News International, and Murdoch bears ultimate responsibility for that.

All this comes into focus when one studies Rebekah Brooks. She has spent more than half of her life and almost all of her working life within News International, so she is totally infused with its culture. She is, in effect, the creation of the Murdoch machine. Like a Galapagos tortoise, she has evolved in an isolated eco-system and has therefore evolved into a separate species, perfectly adapted to her environment. I have no idea what sort of creature she might have become in another environment, but at NI she has become completely the creature of Murdoch's world. Now the world can see what sort of creature that is.

Her rise to the top of the NI food chain shows that she is the ultimate creation of NI, and so it's no surprise that most of the group's offences were committed by divisions of the company over which she had some form of authority. Who created that eco-system? Rupert Murdoch.

Brooks has claimed to have no knowledge of what happened under her leadership, which makes her either a liar or a thoroughly incompetent manager, considering that the huge costs of these operations would have had to be approved by someone high up in the organisation. The third option is she ran things like the secret service – as they said in Apocalypse Now: "This mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist." Regardless, she is culpable under any of these scenarios. 

She is responsible for her own actions, for her own inactions and for what happened while she was in charge, and this principle was admirably stated only last year by the paper she used to edit and was in charge of till Friday:
[She] still REFUSED to accept any personal blame… Instead she pointed the finger at others - including her own STAFF. … She arrogantly brushed aside suggestions that she should take responsibility … [saying] "I did not have any personal dealing with the case."
You're the Sick Joke, Shoesmith
, The Sun, 16 September 2010
Murdoch is culpable because he slowly and painstakingly created the environment that created Rebekah Wade/Brooks. After four decades, an apology isn't enough. 

Moral: If you play Frankenstein, don't be surprised if you create a monster.

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