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Showing posts with label News Corp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News Corp. Show all posts

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Hackergate Debate 20 July 2011 - a selection of questions

This is a selection of questions from the early part of the debate. It is almost exclusively confined to Labour questions, since virtually all of the Tory questions were of the "How wonderful you are David, Labour was twice as culpable, why are we discussing this at all?" variety.

I share the view that Labour were at least as culpable with Murdoch, however, they are not the Government - the Tory-led Coalition is, and the exposure of the shameful behaviour of News International and Cameron's cosy relationship with it came from an indefatigable Labour MP, Tom Watson, and of course, The Guardian newspaper.


Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hackergate - What did Cameron say to Rebekah and the Murdochs on BSkyB?

I have unqualified admiration for the ingenuity that David Cameron deploys to avoid answering a straight question. He avoided it when it came from Ed Miliband, and here again he ducks and weaves around four other attempts to get the truth.

But in his evasion, he has in fact given his answer, and everyone now knows the truth about his relationship with Coulson, the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks, despite his current desperate attempts to distance himself from his former neighbours and cronies.


Hackergate–the emails that implicate David Cameron and No. 10 Downing Street

What will Jim Hacker - Baron Hacker of Islington KG PC, BSc (Lond.) Hon DCL (Oxon.) say? We know what Sir Humphrey said ...

Hackergate - Delegation and abdication

Yesterday’s select committee enquiries revealed rather more than most media commentators seemed to think, and that perhaps says a lot about the nature of press and media comment in the UK today.

There were many fulsome tributes paid to the reputation and integrity of those on the receiving end of the interrogation, especially the senior police officers, tributes that came mainly from themselves. I use the word fulsome in its correct meaning as excessive, cloying or insincere, not in the sense used by our semi-literate journalists and media pundits. I must invoke Shakespeare yet again: Hamlet asks his mother the Queen how she likes the play, to which Gertrude replies “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”, using protest in the contemporary sense of affirm or profess.

My experience of true integrity in my life is that no man or woman of integrity ever asserts their own integrity - they demonstrate it by their actions and leave it to others to judge it.

The other fascinating aspect of the two enquiries was the way in which those being interrogated chose to interpret their managerial roles, especially in relation to decision-making, delegation and the acceptance of assurances. Without exception, they appeared to adopt instinctively -and perhaps unwittingly - what I call analogously, and with no suggestion whatsoever of criminality, some of the Mafia Godfather principles of management.

The Seven Godfather Principles of management are designed as a firewall against accountability or responsibility for personal actions to an external authority. They are not, of course, the actual operating practices or principles of Mafia Dons and capi de regime - they are designed for external perception and consumption only. They are -

THE 7 PRINCIPLES

1. I believe implicitly everything I am told by my subordinates and professional advisers, and never feel any requirement to check, cross check or verify the veracity of what I am told.

2. I delegate responsibility absolutely and completely, and any failure by the person to whom I delegate is entirely down to them, not to me.

3. I never monitor employee performance or compliance with policy or procedural directives, but I punish failure instantly when it is pointed out to me by third parties, or events leave me no choice but to recognise it. I am never, ever reluctant to blame others for failure.

4. I ensure, by whatever means possible, that I am never told anything that in any way could call my decision-making into question at a later date, or make me accountable or responsible for the actions of a subordinate.

5. When receiving advice to aid my decision-making, I require a single recommended course of action for me to take, even if the adviser has identified a range of options. I dislike intensely having to choose between a range of options, because such a choice would make me responsible, instead of the adviser.

6. I always recognise as mine decisions that produce successful outcomes. I never recognise as mine decisions that produce unsuccessful outcomes - they were, effectively, the decisions of my advisers, which I accepted because I had no choice but to do so, because I trusted the adviser absolutely and uncritically.

7. My memory is strangely and bafflingly selective - I have total recall, usually backed up by detailed documentation and contemporaneous notes, of anything that supports my decisions and my integrity, but I am frequently unable to recall matters that could call my decisions or integrity into question, I never take contemporaneous notes on such matters, and documents relating to them unaccountably disappear.

-------

Since none of those appearing before the committee were criminals, and indeed, were people of the highest probity, reputation and integrity - we have their unequivocal word for it - we must accept that the apparent adoption of some of the above principles - inferred from their answers to questions - actually  did reflect their true management behaviour and operating principles, or at least that of some of them.

But this leads me, at least, to the inevitable conclusion that, if they actually did operate in this way, they would have be grossly incompetent and unfit for the high offices they occupy, since the Godfather Principles set out above are a denial of all modern management standards of competence and accountability.

I am therefore faced with the paradox that, if I am to retain faith on the police and in the Press, neither explanation satisfies me.

Even more worrying is that David Cameron and his government appears to either want us to believe that they are operating under such principles, or worse still, actually are …

Since most journalists and media commentators are direct professional contributors, and with few exceptions, have never managed large-scale operations, we can expect little insight from them on such arcane matters - as they used to say in the auld Glesca, “they couldnae run a menage …”

I await today’s Parliamentary debate with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

News of the World: a note of distinct unease among the unionists - and others…

I never went to university, having been forced to leave school at fifteen to earn a living to support myself and my widowed mother. The Glasgow of 1950 was an unforgiving place to someone of my class and economic circumstances. But over the years, especially during my management consultancy years, I have had contact with universities, enough to realise that the groves of Academe are as rife with feuds and petty politicking as industry and commerce, and that such behaviour often rages unabated, unchecked as it is by any accountability to shareholders, give or take the odd undergraduate riot.

So I took some amusement from reading in today’s Scotsman of the behaviour of sundry professors at the University of Abertay, and the clear evidence that fancy dress doesn’t protect one’s back from being bitten.

But what caught my attention was a little piece tucked away up in the corner of page 7, at the end of a four-page coverage of the phone hacking affair. It is by a sociology lecturer at Abertay University, one Stuart Waiton, and it is entitled Analysis: NotW closure an act of liberal intolerance.

I wouldn’t exactly describe it as an analysis, more a little anti-liberal rant. Stuart is fond of inverted commas, which doubtless in the flesh he would offer as raised eyebrows while twiddling two raised finger as enclosing quotes to what he says. Paraphrased, his piece comes down to saying that the News of the World closure is a bad thing, brought about by “right thinking” people, the “liberal” elite - a “tolerant” group, driven by snobbery and fear of the “mob”. He dismisses the idea that the “right” is all powerful in our “neo-liberal” world as a myth. The quotes are all from Stuart, who clearly deeply distrusts “right thinking” people, “liberals” and their “tolerant” pretensions.

Tell it as you see it, Stuart. The only obvious omissions from your piece are references to the silent majority and an attack on The Guardian. It’s safe to assume that Stuart and I would not choose each other as drinking companions. Sociology must be an interesting discipline at Abertay, in among the coup plots, the spying, the allegations of the incompetence of the university court, the grievance letters, the resignations - a rewarding research laboratory right on a sociologist’s doorstep, with the conflict doubtless being exacerbated and its extent exaggerated by tolerant, right-thinking liberals and the mob.

For the record, Stuart: Rupert Murdoch took the decision to close the NotW, not tolerant, right-thinking liberals or the mob.

However, this strange little outburst, and a piece on essentially the same theme on page 29 by Allan Massie - who could not easily be mistaken for a liberal - gave me cause for wider consideration about just what is happening here …

The phone hacking crisis has been building for some years, but the accelerated pace of events over the last week, the enormity of the revelations, and the magnitude of the impact on the hitherto seemingly impregnable News International monolith have been welcome to many - including me - but deeply threatening to some.

Professional journalists have been uneasy over the closure of The News of the World, and are worried about just what form regulation of the press might take. These fears are entirely understandable, and in some respects, well-founded. When journalists of the reputation and calibre of Harry Reid and Tim Luckhurst call for a period of sober reflection before rushing into regulation of the press - as they did last night on Newsnight Scotland - we must listen and take account of their views.

But the collapse of the News of the World, the sudden ebbing away of power from the Murdoch organisation, the threat to the BSkyB takeover, the serious questions over the behaviour of the Metropolitan police, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron towards News International are of deep concern to other groups, with very different motives, sharing very different fears about the pattern of recent events and the forces that precipitated them.

The Guardian newspaper played the central role. This venerable news organ, once The Manchester Guardian, with a formidable reputation beyond its regional origins, was a formative influence on my political thinking throughout my youth and during my middle life. It is of course the bête noire of the right, infested as it is by tolerant, right-thinking liberals.

Throughout my career in business, espousing liberal - with a small l -values and ideals was treated with deep distrust by my main employers, and reading the Guardian newspaper was regarded as clear evidence of pinko-lefty tendencies and general unsoundness. One employer objected to my bringing it into the senior management/directors dining room, the existence of which, in itself, was evidence of their non-liberal values!

The forces in our society that were hostile to liberal values had initially seemed to me to be the forces of the right in politics, e.g. the Tories, and amoral big business, the military/industrial complex, and fundamentalist religious groups. However, this distinction - which had been blurring for decades - became irrelevant from Tony Blair onwards, as the Labour Party effectively became - and remain - the Tories Mark II.  Since the Liberal Democrats were becoming increasingly illiberal and undemocratic, especially in Scotland, it seemed at one point as though the game was lost to the forces of the right, and liberal values were in total retreat. The only gleam of hope for me was the SNP win in 2007.

In the absence of any effective opposition to the juggernaut of right-wing values and the increasing dominance of war, the military/industrial complex and the nuclear deterrent as the operating principles of the United Kingdom, those of a liberal persuasion in Scotland had the Scottish National Party, whereas the the people of England were left with no real political choice except the feeble, vacillating Liberal Democrats, who experienced a dramatic but short-lived revival of their electoral fortune before the 2010 general election, but then promptly betrayed their mandate utterly in coalition.

In short, the forces of reaction, anti-liberalism, anti-democratic values, anti-Europeanism, power and privilege were incarnate in the UK, in its three main political parties  - Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats - and the ever-present, ever-powerful unelected British Establishment.

The only possible response of the people to this denial of their democratic rights and freedoms was to operate outside of the perverted democratic process, through alternative media, friendly mainstream media and the power of social networking. Since the UK is not yet a totalitarian dictatorship, it has been possible to do this effectively without the use of violence, although inevitably some mass demonstrations had egregious episodes of violence by a tiny and unrepresentative minority. This has been in marked contrast to the so-called Arab Spring - a spontaneous wave of people power, with violence as its only route, provoking even more violent responses, with as yet unresolved and unpredictable outcomes.

The Scottish Parliamentary elections exploded into the complacent UK Establishment  consciousness in May of this year, delivering an unequivocal mandate to the Scottish National Party, and the ability to call a referendum on Scottish independence.

In the space of 24 hours, the possibility of the break-up of the UK, the removal of the nuclear bases from Scottish waters and Scottish soil, the removal of Scottish armed forces from Westminster control, the removal of Scottish oil revenues, Scottish tax revenues, Scottish whisky duty revenues - all of these things became a frightening reality for the UK Establishment and Westminster.

The present outbreak of consensus between the three UK parties, their enthusiastic but belated condemnation of Murdoch, News Corporation, News International, Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks, the police and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all, is an attempt to mask their complicity in what had gone before. This entire web of corruption and influence was and is the UK in all its sordid operating reality - a conspiracy of the rich and powerful - and those politicians who aspire to be both - to exploit the ordinary working people of this kingdom in its four component parts.

It was forced upon them, as was the exposure of the expenses scandal, of the cash for influence scandal, of the revelations of egregious incompetence of the Ministry of Defence, of the sordid machinations of the UK’s complicity in illegal and/or misconceived wars by the actions of those organs of the Press and media that remain beyond their influence and control - and most of all by the people, in their campaigns, in their use of the new media, and in their overwhelming disgust for what is being done to them in  the name of democracy.

And the Scottish manifestation of this deep unease with the true voice of the people, and their aspirations for a real democratic state has been to give a powerful mandate to a party they believe in. This mandate cannot be attacked directly by Scottish unionists, but they have targeted it obliquely by every avenue open to them, questioning the reasons that led them to decisively reject the unionist parties, trying to pretend that the electorate were fools and had been manipulated, that the turnout and the proportion of the vote was not a real mandate - the list of ‘charges’ is endless.

But in the phone hacking scandal, the unionists have taken to attacking the people themselves as deluded, complicit, as bringing it upon themselves.

Allan Massie, Defender of the Union par excellence, closes his otherwise bland piece - which contained no new insights, and says little that has not already been said - with an extraordinary final paragraph.

“Nobody owns the moral high ground in the present kerfuffle - and this includes the public with its appetite for salacious gossip. Of one thing we may be sure. If the Press is curbed, the appetite for such gossip and slanderous comment will not disappear. Already you can find more - and nastier examples of it on the so-called social media. The public indignation now being expressed is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass.” 

In other words, it’s all the fault of the people - they are not driven by revulsion at the hacking of the phones of murder victims and their families, of the families of servicemen and woman killed in the UK’s foreign wars, nor at the manifest corruption of the Metropolitan Police Force, nor of those at the heart of government. The people are themselves to blame for bringing all this upon themselves and will do so again - their moral outrage is hypocritical.

I have this to say to Allan Massie - in choosing between the culpability of those who create, feed and profit by depraved appetites and those who suffer from them, the line of argument that chooses the victim is despicable: we have heard it articulated over alcohol abuse, over rape, over drug addiction, etc. and it is usually accompanied by a wish to avoid any form of legislation or practical action that would ameliorate the abuse, substituting instead moral posturing and an attack on the victim rather than the perpetrator.

Any commentator who values his or her reputation for objective comment, as I am sure he does, should consider vary carefully using any argument that contains a hint of this. In his unionist campaign to prevent Scots from achieving their nation’s freedom from and independence of the UK, Allan Massie should be alive to these dangers of unwitting association with the more extreme examples of this blame-the-people mode.

He says that nobody owns the moral high ground. I agree with him on that at least.

But some of us are on higher moral ground than that occupied by the present London-based UK political parties and by the British Establishment, and that higher ground is increasingly occupied by the people, especially the people of Scotland.

I invite him to join us on it - it will be worth the climb …

POSTSCRIPT: As of this afternoon, News Corp has withdrawn its bid for BSkyB.