Is Murdoch now getting advice from Gaddafi?

News Corp is not Rupert Murdoch,” says Murdoch.

In this gesture of mock humility, I don’t think the News Corp CEO is suggesting that, for the good of the company, he’s ready to bow out. It’s much more like Muammar Gaddafi saying that he can’t step down from power in Libya because supposedly he’s not the head of state.

News Corp “is the collective creativity and effort of many thousands of people around the world, and few individuals have given more to this company than Les Hinton,” said Murdoch just as he dumped the Dow Jones CEO.

Murdoch ditched News of the World in order to protect News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, but then he ended up getting rid of her too.

Having now got rid of Hinton, Murdoch is probably nursing the fantasy that he won’t have to axe his son and heir apparent, James, but as Jack Shafer notes, James’ departure is all but certain.

Next week, Murdoch and his son James, who paid settlements to phone-hacking victims, will appear before a parliamentary committee after first declining the request. After saying he’s sorry, Murdoch will say he’s sorry again and again and again. James, who isn’t any sorrier than his father, will say the same thing, but it won’t work, because he paid hush money and is therefore a part of the scandal. As the Telegraph reported this week, as long as Brooks stayed on the payroll, she shielded James from some of the more vociferous attacks. She, after all, was News of the World editor when Dowler’s phone was hacked. But Brooks’ resignation exposes James Murdoch to the fury now, which he can’t possibly endure.

Rupert knows this, and knows that he must soon sacrifice his favorite son. Murdoch’s predicament illustrates why no parent should have only one offspring—a backup unit must be kept at all times in case something dreadful happens to the child you’re depending on. It’s Murdoch’s good luck that he has two children who can replace James while he does his time in Siberia. Both Elisabeth, a media tycoon in her own right, and Lachlan, the eldest son and previous heir apparent, could take James’ place in the News Corp. hierarchy. Neither carries any phone-hacking scandal taint, and both are ambitious. Where did Elisabeth stand on the Brooks question? According to a Telegraph report, she told friends that Brooks had “f***** the company.”

Would Murdoch really sack his son? I don’t see why we should rule out infanticide in this case. Writing in the Financial Times this week, former media tycoon and convicted felon Conrad Black held that “Murdoch has no loyalty to anyone or anything except his company. He has difficulty keeping friendships; rarely keeps his word for long; is an exploiter of the discomfort of others; and has betrayed every political leader who ever helped him in any country, except Ronald Reagan and perhaps Tony Blair.”

Murdoch biographer, Michael Wolff, says Elisabeth Murdoch was misquoted. “She said: ‘James and Rebekah fucked the company,'” Wolff tweeted.

Matt Wells writes:

No relationship is safe, no loyal bond strong enough for Rupert Murdoch who – looking more than the sum of his 80 years – is mounting a final battle to save the company he built from nothing.

His decision to throw Les Hinton to the wolves is his most dramatic move yet. For more than 50 years, as a journalist and then an executive, Hinton loyally served the Murdoch empire from its roots in Australia to the height of its power in New York.

Now, in a desperate effort to save News Corporation’s most valuable assets – its 27 US broadcast licences and the 20th Century Fox movie studio – Murdoch is prepared to sacrifice one of his closest allies.

The problem for Murdoch is that every time he ditches a key executive, the flames of scandal flick ever closer to him.

Murdoch’s despotic tendencies were on full display in an interview he did for his paper, the Wall Street Journal, where he took the opportunity to say what an admirable job he has done so far in handling the crisis.

Alex Klein writes:

“In Interview, Murdoch Defends News Corp.” proclaims a much-buzzed headline on the Murdoch and News Corp.-owned Wall Street Journal. It’s a stretch of a title. The 700-word piece is less “interview” than stenography, a generous opportunity for the mogul to swagger, project confidence, and bend the truth. There are a lot of so-sad-it’s-funny quotes, but the best by far is Murdoch’s promise to institute a “protocol for behavior” at all of his newspapers. This meaningless pledge falls right in line with a great deal of bad News of the World commentary that misconstrues the paper’s sins as journalistic overreach or inappropriateness. Stealing, bribing, and hacking aren’t a ‘best practices’ issue, like misattributing a quote or wearing hawaiian shirts to work: they’re illegal. Beyond breaking stuffy American ethics protocol, News International broke real British law. So unless the first bullet-point in News International’s new “protocol for behavior” is “Don’t commit crimes. Also don’t cover up crimes by committing more crimes,” I’m not quite sure what he and the Journal are playing at. The dishonest two-step from illegality to immorality is even reflected in the Journal’s own reporting, which frames the issue as one of “dubious reporting tactics.” And as Media Matters has pointed out, it took the paper a whole week — and a couple of buried NOTW stories — before it reported that its own publisher and Murdoch friend Les Hinton has a starring role in the scandal.

Larry Flynt fears that Murdoch’s lack of concern for the public interest now puts every publisher at risk:

One cannot live off the liberty and benefits of a free press while ignoring the privacy of the people. People such as Murdoch and I, as heads of publishing conglomerates, have a responsibility to maintain and respect this boundary. While Murdoch may understand the significance of what we do under the umbrella of free speech, he may fail to recognize the liability attached to publication. Simply put, he publishes what he wants, apparently regardless of how he gets information and heedless of the responsibility associated with the power he wields.

Murdoch’s enterprises have consistently published stories about people who did not give permission to have their private lives dissected in the media — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. News Corp. employees allegedly hired known criminals to obtain private information about former British prime minister Gordon Brown when his infant son was given a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis. News Corp. employees allegedly hired investigators who hacked into the phones of victims of the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the July 7, 2005, bombings in London. And News Corp. employees allegedly paid police officers for illegally obtained information about the queen. Meanwhile, Roger Ailes, chief of Murdoch’s Fox News, runs a well-oiled propaganda machine.

So it only seems fair that Murdoch was forced to close the News of the World tabloid, that he has had to abandon his bid for British Sky Broadcasting and that his reputation, not stellar to begin with, is forever tarnished.

No matter how offensive or distasteful some people may find Hustler magazine and my other publications, no one has appeared unwillingly in their pages. I do not create sensationalism at the expense of people living private lives. Yes, I have offered money to those willing to expose hypocritical politicians — one of those offers, in 1998, resulted in the resignation of Bob Livingston, a Republican congressman from Louisiana who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton despite his own extramarital affairs. I focus not on those who are innocent, but rather on those who practice the opposite of what they very publicly preach. This may be considered an extreme or controversial practice in getting a story, but it is far from criminal.

On a daily basis, and in ways that the general public does not even recognize, our right to privacy is disappearing rapidly. Our political leaders allow companies such as Google and Facebook to continually infringe on this right. Both of those companies serve as data mines, selling information about their users. Facebook, behind a mask of individual privacy settings, has almost single-handedly killed privacy; founder Mark Zuckerberg has actually stated, according to reports, that he doesn’t believe in privacy. The government needs to get back to its roots: protecting the privacy of its citizens while encouraging the individual freedoms on which this country was founded.

Freedom of the press and the right to privacy do not have to be combatants. The people have tasked members of the news media with the duty and the responsibility to provide information. As publishers, we must find the boundary, push it, but refuse to cross it — never selling out our readers and never publishing what we cannot verify.

If the allegations are true, Murdoch did not just cross the line — he erased it. By doing so, he has placed all of us who enjoy freedom of the press at grave risk.

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