Rupert Murdoch, the man who single-handedly created the most powerful media conglomerate in the world, is currently experiencing a nightmare. Not only is his empire under siege but his competitors are literally baying for his blood, inciting the public and indulging in an unprecedented campaign to demonize him. They are also denying the presumption of innocence before being tried. Moreover, there is enormous hypocrisy from other newspapers who have been engaged in similar transgressions being at the forefront of calling for the dismantling of Murdoch’s media holdings.
That being said, the behavior of the senior management and journalists employed by News of the World was utterly unconscionable and represents a disgrace to all canons of journalism. Those involved deserve to be punished with the utmost severity.
Despite the proliferating media feeding frenzy, which journalist Melanie Phillips describes as a Robespierrian moment comparable to the death of Princess Diana, there is, as of now, no proof that Murdoch was even aware of the events taking place. True, even in a major conglomerate like the Murdoch media conglomerate, lapses of this nature should have been prevented and even if Murdoch is personally exonerated, it will impact adversely on him and his senior management. However, he has expressed contrition, apologized for what took place and, in fact, closed down the newspaper involved – a weekly Sunday tabloid, with the largest circulation in the U.K.
While the News of the World was unquestionably a scurrilous broadsheet, one must not overlook that the Murdoch media empire also includes some of the finest daily newspapers in the world such as the Wall Street Journal, the London Times and the Australian.
The hysteria and hatred directed against Murdoch personally is transparent, primarily motivated by politics. He is repeatedly being accused of distorting the news. Yet, when it comes to media prejudice, it is noteworthy that the BBC, by far the largest and most powerful media outlet in the world, renowned for its bias and selective reporting, has never been subject to anything remotely compared to the witch hunt facing Murdoch. Yet the BBC is at the forefront of the campaign personally attacking him.
Over the years, Murdoch has emerged as a bastion against post modernism. In a world dominated by moral equivalency, he has promoted the values of Western civilization. One could even argue that it is primarily due to him that the delusional far left failed to take virtual control of the British media.
For Israel, a major erosion of the Murdoch media would have highly adverse repercussions. In an era in which the liberal global media has increasingly turned against Israel, most of the Murdoch outlets maintain a fair and evenhanded approach.
Murdoch, whom I met personally on a number of occasions, is himself unquestionably a genuine friend of Israel. In fact, he has frequently been falsely described as Jewish by hostile Muslims and other extremists.
While always sympathetic to Israel as the plucky underdog, the turning point in his relationship was 1982, when Ariel Sharon hosted him with a group of editors on a helicopter tour where he witnessed “the vulnerability of the country” in terms of defensible borders.
His friendship towards Israel was publicly displayed when he was honored in 2009 by the American Jewish Committee and more recently in 2010 by the ADL. At the AJC meeting he stated: “In the West, we are used to thinking that Israel cannot survive without the help of Europe and the United States. I say to you: maybe we should start wondering whether we in Europe and the United States can survive if we allow the terrorists to succeed in Israel… In the end, the Israeli people are fighting the same enemy we are: cold-blooded killers who reject peace… who reject freedom… and who rule by the suicide vest, the car bomb and the human shield”.
If Murdoch is found to have been aware of the transgressions, his reputation will be destroyed and he will face major punitive sanctions. But as of now, while his enemies continue baying for his blood, most Israelis will be hoping that despite the criminal nature of the News of the World scandal, Rupert Murdoch and his senior management will be exonerated of direct malfeasance and his media holdings will remain substantially intact.
This column was originally published in Israel Hayom