Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How the Journal editorialists measure Murdoch

Felix Salmon and Joe Nocera have effectively exposed the moral bankruptcy of the Wall Street Journal editorial board's aggressive defense of Murdoch and News Corp.  But leaving aside the apologists' they-did-it-toos and  it-wasn't-so-bads and we-know-our-boss-for-an-honest-man modes of denial, let's focus for a moment on the editorial board's expression of its true credo (my emphasis):
Our readers can decide if we are a better publication than we were four years ago, but there is no denying that News Corp. has invested in the product. The news hole is larger. Our foreign coverage in particular is more robust, our weekend edition more substantial, and our expansion into digital delivery ahead of the pack. The measure that really matters is the market's, and on that score Mr. Hinton was at the helm when we again became America's largest daily.
To be fair, this market fundamentalism from the Journal's opinion wing long predates the Murdoch takeover.  In an odd way, it suggests good faith in their defense of bad faith practices The market was measure for every scandal the Journal editorialists explain away even as the paper's top-notch reporters were breaking them. They pooh-poohed, in turn, the equity research scandal, the options back payments scandal, the insurance broker kickback scandal, and the subprime mortgage scandal. They were relentless in defense of corrupt investment bankers and analysts, corrupt insurance brokers, corrupt top executives and boards, and corrupt mortgage underwriters.

In Murdoch, the Journal opinion staff -- in marked contrast to the reporting staff -- got the paymaster they deserve. With a consistent if not exactly clear conscience, they can now defend corrupt media moguls and editors.

What these market fundamentalists never recognized is that a corrupt market is the measure chiefly of corruption.  They will never acknowledge that Murdoch has corrupted not only journalism but democracy -- cheapened discourse and relentlessly innovated new techniques in sophistry to fool more of the people more of the time than was previously possible, as well as pursuing without inhibition old-fashioned (data) theft, bribery and extortion to corrupt government at the highest level in the UK, and to a perhaps lesser extent in the US. New Corp. has thus undermined authorities who, when they do their jobs, enable markets to measure qualities other than rapaciousness and the ability to cater to people's basest instincts.

The story of News Corp. is the story of capitalism's Achilles Heel, the real rope with which it may yet hang itself. Regulatory capture, thy name is Murdoch.

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