quinta-feira, 5 de abril de 2012

Rupert Murdoch and the conspiracy machine

"The result is a lattice of mutual dependencies, networks of power in which the dominant currency is information - or, more accurately, ideological signification. The dependency is, in effect, one between different sectors of power which monopolise and strategically disburse different kinds of information. The journalistic dependency on the aforementioned sources is only reinforced by the existence of a competitive newspaper market, where a number of papers vie for access to the same streams of information. And in a context of declining profitability and reduced readership such as has been the case in the UK market for some time, there is a premium on the novel, dramatic, and thus far occluded. At the same time, the institutions they depend upon have a definable interest in creating illicit flows of disavowable information, whether to create issues around which they can mobilise opinion and organise existing projects, or to vilify and disorient opponents.

"We have seen that this is particularly so of the police, whose role in dispensing law also gives them a privileged position in defining a wide range of social situations. The information upon which criminality is determined, court action proceeds and wider social and political issues are identified, to a large extent flows upward from officers involved in routine 'enforcement'. It is a logical entailment of this role that police will seek to directly define issues pertinent to their role via the media. Importantly, there are no clear boundaries between licit and illicit conduct in this regard. A witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry from Jacqueline Hames, a Metropolitan Police officer and former presenter of the BBC program Crimewatch, suggests that this indeterminacy could be settled by better training and a wider awareness of guidelines. But this is a 'technological' solution to a non-technical problem: the same professional autonomy that allows police to define the situations they work in - to 'work up' charges where they are so motivated, to stop and search, to detain without charge, to deploy strategic violence and then write up the reports which rationalise their approach in the language of bureaucracy – empowers the police to define their relations with reporters.

"This brings the media into the field of 'parapolitics', an area in which the exercise of political and ideological power is conducted in forms and according to hierarchies not formally recognised in the 'public' sphere. 'Parapolitics' is a term that is usually associated with researchers into 'conspiracy theory', a field that is blighted with kookiness, silliness and 'infotainment' posing as revelation.  But when theory becomes scandalous fact, there is no reason to be coy. The networks of mutual dependency that I have described are effectively a 'conspiracy machine', an ensemble of mechanisms that are apt to produce constant flows of illicitly obtained information, and the constant maintenance of relations which keep the flows going. The staggering range and depth of the Murdoch empire's involvement in criminal enterprise at various levels over many years, of which it is prudent to assume we know only a fraction, would have been impossible to sustain otherwise.

"And this enjoins us to re-phrase familiar questions in a different light. It is common, for example, to despairingly ask how we can root out the culture of corruption and sleaze in journalism. Or, one might ask, how far up the chain does the corruption go? As if, were we to identify Rupert Murdoch as conspirator-in-chief, a knowing agent of political corruption, the problem would be resolved.  In reality, despite Murdoch's hands-on approach to running his tabloids, and without wishing to foreclose future investigation, it is highly improbable that the Dirty Digger personally would have dug in the dirt. The real question, for those who do not want this situation to be endlessly repeated, is: what sort of media would behave differently?  And, as a corollary: what sort of society would give rise to a better media?"

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