Rupert Murdoch can't escape his nemesis, Nick Davies of the Guardian.

Media criticism.
July 5 2011 7:15 PM

Rupert Murdoch Meets His Ahab

Nick Davies and the Guardian spear the media mogul.

(Continued from Page 1)

In his 2008 book, Flat Earth News, Davies writes extensively about the British press's routine law-breaking—phone-hacking, bribery, and illegal invasion of privacy as well as the outsourcing of the dirtiest of dirty work to third parties. What has kept Fleet Street's dodgy methods safe, Davies writes, is a sort of honor among thieves. Because most newspapers have depended on these dubious methods, none dared accuse the others of misconduct.

The Davies exposé has the U.K. press corps screaming for blood. Of the deletion of Dowler's voicemails, the Telegraph's Damian Thompson writes, "If this is true, someone should be shot at dawn." Ian Burrell goes after Rebekah Brooks—the editor of the News of the World during the Dowler investigation and now chief executive of Murdoch's News International—in the Independent: "She has some explaining to do now." In his Guardian blog, Roy Greenslade calls for, among other things, a boycott of the News of the World, for reader pressure on the newspaper's advertisers to pull their ads, and a public inquiry. Ford has suspended its advertising, the Telegraphreports.

Brooks emailed her employees today stating it was "inconceivable" that she knew of or approved the hacking of Dowler's phone, which doesn't exactly sound like a denial. Either way, she is in trouble. As hacking victim Hugh Grant put it on BBC Radio 4 today, Brooks and Andy Coulson—who resigned the editorship of the News of the World after the scandal first broke in 2007—are "the worst editors in the history of journalism—or liars." (See this Reuters "Who's Who" for a guide to the phone-hacking scandal.)

Advertisement

I can't think of any jam that Murdoch has gotten into that's tighter than this one. As long as the victims of the phone-hacking were rich people and big shots, Murdoch didn't have to worry too much about public opinion dragging him and his newspapers down. But Dowler's parents are neither rich nor big shots.

And Murdoch's world of trouble seems to be growing. As I write, Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison is reporting that Coulson authorized News of the World payments to Scotland Yard; the Guardian is reporting that police are investigating "every high-profile case involving the murder, abduction or attack on any child since 2001" in response to the Dowler revelations; and the Telegraphis reporting that Scotland Yard is investigating whether the phones of the families of the victims of the July 7 subway and bus bombings were hacked. The Telegraph story, which is notably slim on specifics, includes this titillating quotation from a "senior police source" that said, "Basically every major crime story, every major news event, there was some sort of hacking involved. … It was systematic."

Murdoch's instinct, of course, will be to sacrifice Brooks, but I doubt that the mob that is gathering will be satisfied with one body. They'll want strong, tough, old meat, too. Something that's fit for grilling on the barbie.

******

I hope we hear from Murdoch soon. He has a great way with a phrase. Send recipes for grilled Murdoch to slate.pressbox@gmail.com and monitor my Twitter feed for a prayer for Rupert's soul. (Email may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Track my errors: This hand-built RSS feed will ring every time Slate runs a "Press Box" correction. For email notification of errors in this specific column, type Davies in the subject head of an email message, and send it to slate.pressbox@gmail.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 1:52 PM Julian Casablancas’ New Album Sounds Like the Furthest Thing From the Strokes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.