Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hacking shows state's corrupt underbelly

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal shines a spotlight on the sinister side of the tabloid media, the police and Parliament at a time when these institutions are already in crisis and increasingly discredited.

Coinciding as it does with deepening economic and financial problems, the hacking saga sums up all what is rotten and threatening about British capitalist society.

The fact that the News of the World was hacking phones of murdered children, and families of people killed in the London underground bombings or in the Afghan war, is not separate from, but all of a piece with their POLITICAL position.

The paper offer regular doses of jingoism and racism. They support the cuts absolutely, and would like them to go further. They are anti-union to the core, and they supported New Labour on the basis that they were too. When the economic crisis got out of control, they quickly switched back to the Tories.

NoW's circulation is falling by more than 5% year on year, but in spite of that, their revolting agenda has had incredible power over British politics. Members of Parliament have been "gelded" by fear, as Tory Zac Goldsmith put it in Parliament yesterday.

Ed Miliband may have called for a public enquiry - an old political trick to kick an issue into the long grass - but it was a different story on the evening of June 11, when he and his ex-Rupert Murdoch hack adviser Tim Baldwin joined Cameron and leading figures from big business, politics and the state at Murdoch's annual summer party. Champagne and oysters were on the menu.

The police and undoubtedly New Labour knew as long ago as 2005 what was going on. But the police investigation was mysteriously restricted in terms of resources. A nod and wink between ministers and Murdoch, whose papers at that time supported the Blair government, seems a plausible explanation.

Prime minister Cameron is squirming on the hook too, hoping to survive a scandal that couldn't be closer to home. Andy Coulson, NoW's editor during the period under investigation, was his communications advisor. And Cameron is also part of a wealthy social set in Oxfordshire which includes Rebekah Brooks, former editor of NoW, and the odious Jeremy Clarkson. They all have regular drinkies together.

Culture and Media Secretary Jeremy Hunt was due to give the nod for News Corporation, News International's parent company, to buy a majority holding in BskyB tomorrow. Now even some City dealers are asking for a pause - they don't want the sale going through when NC shares fell by more than 3% in the US and Australia yesterday.

The revealing of these corrupt relations continues the unravelling of the credit-fuelled boom, of New Labour's rule and everything that went with it: the obsession with celebrity; vulgar displays of wealth; get-rich-quick fantasies that led to the impoverishment of millions through debt.

There are plenty in the Tory Party itself who would like to see this scandal sink Cameron himself. They want to see coppers focused on beefing up the methods developed during the miners’ strike and indeed at Wapping, when Murdoch smashed the print unions with their help.

Stop bugging models and footballers and start bugging those involved in opposing the state - that's the desire at the top of the state. There are reports that the army is stepping up riot control training. All state forces are being told, get ready for resistance in myriad forms – from riots against supermarkets and food prices to strikes and occupations.

And on the other side, we see the difficulty the state has in operating in secret in the digital age. The new generation don't buy these newspapers, and they don't buy their political line either. They get their news on the net, from their peers on Facebook, on YouTube, Twitter and WikiLeaks.

Using these new methods of communication, with all their problems, the mass of the people bypass the reactionary media and develop their own views and understanding. This is laying the groundwork for bold and independent political initiatives aimed at creating a real people’s democracy based on self-determination in every sphere, to take society forward.

Penny Cole

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