The Murdoch-Greenspan Nexus

by Henry Farrell on July 15, 2011

Rupert does his first post-crisis interview, with “the Wall Street Journal”:, naturally.

bq. In an interview, Mr. Murdoch said News Corp. has handled the crisis “extremely well in every way possible,” making just “minor mistakes.”

Indeed – News Corporation has done a quite wonderful job handling the mess – with a few, notably rare exceptions.

Should anyone be interested I did a “Bloggingheads”: yesterday with Felix Salmon on the Murdoch scandal and a few related topics (this in turn led to a couple of talking-heads type appearances on BBC channels today, but I really can’t think I said anything in my allotted 90 second slots that’s surprising enough to be worth hunting down).



Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 3:36 am

With notably rare exceptions, every phone in the world has gone untapped by Murdoch.

This is too easy.


M 07.15.11 at 6:24 am

That’s such an incredibly bad quote to have given out.

Firstly, as this all started years ago, the mistakes have been huge for it to have got this far. Further the MET say news international were actively trying to impede the investigation.

But mainly, it will now be understood by most people to be saying the hacking was a minor mistake, it’s too subtle and complex a message to try and communicate in the modern media. Which is hilariously tragic.

This was clear on newsnight last night where a us senator had to have the point explained quite slowly to see the true intent.


Ginger Yellow 07.15.11 at 7:46 am

With few, notably rare exceptions, News International has a successful Sunday paper stable in the UK.


paul h 07.15.11 at 8:22 am

With, notably rare exceptions, the News of the World is the biggest selling weekly newspaper in the UK.


P O'Neill 07.15.11 at 9:15 am

Your BBC slots can’t have been less value-added than Gillian Tett (FT) on Today this morning who declared that the US moves against News Corp. are mainly politically motivated, as proven by the fact that the Congressmen requesting investigations are all Democrats. She went uncorrected by the host. Maybe the NUJ strike was hurting the fact-checking.


maidhc 07.15.11 at 9:23 am

No one ever mentions the founder of the dynasty, Sir Keith Murdoch. But his career illuminates that of his son. He was also a pal of Lord Northcliffe, so this is a story that goes a long way back.

This snippet is amusing:

he spent the rest of the war encouraging a patriotic spirit, and attacking the Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin

Rupert supported Labor under Gough Whitlam in the 1972 election, interestingly. He’s sometimes less predictable than his underlings.


So, since the Sun is going to publish on Sundays now, doesn’t NI have the same number of UK Sunday papers as before? Is it just like renaming NotW as the Sunday Sun, or is there more of a difference?


Andrew F. 07.15.11 at 10:23 am


Front page headline of the WSJ’s Marketplace section reads

Murdoch Defiant as FBI Acts;
U.S. to Probe 9/11 Claim; News Corp. CEO to Face UK Panel.

That the WSJ is owned by News Corps shouldn’t be taken to mean its coverage is directed by Murdoch. Some of the cosmetic changes to the paper annoy me, but the content remains quite good (excepting the usual zoo of the Editorial page).

And if any of those involved tried to hack any victims of 9/11, they’ll be in for an extended all expenses paid vacation in the United States once the UK is finished.


Darius Jedburgh 07.15.11 at 10:30 am

…once the UK is finished.

I know the scandal is bad but that’s a bit apocalyptic


logern 07.15.11 at 10:30 am

“The full text of News International CEO Rebekah Brooks’ resignation letter” which wasn’t “I’m melting” but actually somewhat longer.


PHB 07.15.11 at 11:52 am

Has NI announced that the Sun will publish on Sunday yet? I hadn’t heard that.

I know that it is very likely that Murdoch will try but at in current circumstances I can’t see how he can do so.

The evil man is not looking so healthy these past few weeks, he looks about ten years older. The scandal seems to be taking its toll.

What I don’t get about the BSkyB deal is why it is seen as such a good financial deal. Freeview means that every house in the UK already has plenty of choices for TV channels. Internet distribution is going to eat into satellite. Seems to me that he is buying a cash cow that is starting to run dry.


Cian 07.15.11 at 12:01 pm

Because Sky is basically better than the alternatives:
their technology is very good (their PVR is easily the most usable that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot)
Better content (for example, they have a monopoly on HBO content)

Also they own Sky Sport, which is a cash cow (it has a monopoly on an awful lot of the sport people care about), and their movie channels are also very popular and very successful.

And to be fair to Murdoch (both of them), one reason that BSkyB is successful, is because they’ve invested heavily in making it a good system.


ajay 07.15.11 at 12:52 pm

In an interview, Mr. Murdoch said that “the situation has developed not necessarily to the advantage of News Corp.”

And if any of those involved tried to hack any victims of 9/11, they’ll be in for an extended all expenses paid vacation in the United States

It would be funny as hell to see the Obama administration prosecuting someone else for invasion of privacy and illegal interception of phone calls. Reminds me of Admiral Tug Benson, the Lloyd Bridges character from “Hot Shots!” – “You endangered the lives of some damn fine pilots out there today. Well, that’s my job.”


Ben Alpers 07.15.11 at 1:28 pm

@ajay: As Founding Father John Quincy Adams once said, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.


Henry 07.15.11 at 2:16 pm

bq. And if any of those involved tried to hack any victims of 9/11, they’ll be in for an extended all expenses paid vacation in the United States once the UK is finished.

I’m fairly skeptical myself about this one. The sole evidence for it at the moment seems to be a Daily Mirror story quoting someone as saying that a mate of his was contacted by reporters asking for access. I suspect that this story is going to evaporate on further investigation by the FBI, and worry, that if it is, it will be trumpeted by Murdoch US as some kind of general exoneration. Where there is more likelihood of stuff going down imo is on the FCPA issues. Clearly, this isn’t the kind of crime that FCPA was intended to prevent. But it doesn’t seem to me to be that much of a stretch from the language of the law. A lot depends, of course, on whether the DOJ is going to want to take this up or not – one would imagine that lots of people on the right will attack them if they do.


Chris Williams 07.15.11 at 2:41 pm

I would expect the NotW to have been far more sleazy on the left coast than the right: that’s where their stories are. Trouble is ‘hack hacks thesp’ is only news when it’s part of a public onslaught driven by ‘hack hacks victim’, so the potential to damage NC is pretty slight.


elm 07.15.11 at 3:01 pm

So, since the Sun is going to publish on Sundays now, doesn’t NI have the same number of UK Sunday papers as before? Is it just like renaming NotW as the Sunday Sun, or is there more of a difference?

I believe The Sun publishes more photographs of breasts, I believe that’s the main difference.


dsquared 07.15.11 at 3:02 pm

I suspect that “9/11 victims” here will end up being found to refer to widows of firefighters, about whom the NY Post did seem to have quite a sickening obsession at one point (basically, all about how they were spending the compensation cheques they received on consumer goods, which was in some way an immoral thing to do. There was a lot of crap about breast implants). I would not be at all surprised if the odd voicemail blag went on there, but of course the “Merry Widows” and “Jersey Girls” were the subject of enough misogynistic hate at the time that I am not 100% sure that they would get all the sympathy later.

I’d also note that as of late 2001, mobile phone penetration in the US was still actually not that high compared to the UK – those “pagers” were still popular.


Alex 07.15.11 at 4:08 pm

PHB: The answer is “football”. Also, as pointed out, they’re pretty good from a technical point of view.

But the big differentiator is the footy near-monopoly.


philofra 07.15.11 at 5:00 pm

Why “The Murdoch-Greenspan Nexus”? Where is the connection between the two, unless its about two men who had their heads in the sand?

Perhaps the connection has to do with “irrational exuberance”, a phrase Greenspan frequently used and is a behavior Murdoch has mostly certainly engaged in. It has been said that Murdoch never grew up, hence his boyish exuberance. I don’t thing Greenspan ever grew up until the finance crisis hit him, and then I don’t think he ever grew up. He still believes in the same things, uncontrolled free markets. Murdoch certainly bought into that mantra.

Both mean seemed to have once ruled the world. But no longer.


elm 07.15.11 at 5:10 pm

philofra @19

Greenspan recently used the phrase “with notably rare exceptions” to discount failures of free-market policies, which fits nicely with Murdoch’s “minor mistakes”.


JGabriel 07.15.11 at 5:24 pm

With notably frequent exceptions, News Corp. properties have been remarkably ethical in their journalistic practices.



philofra 07.15.11 at 5:29 pm


Yes, “with notable rare exception”.

Both men were entrenched in certain business models and had problems with currents that didn’t apply to them. A commentator said that Murdoch is probably at a loss of what to do because he has never been in this position before. He has lost control of the situation.


Hogan 07.15.11 at 7:07 pm

ajay @12

Or the Delta House officers in Animal House:

“He can’t do that to our pledges!”

“Yeah! Only we can do that to our pledges!”


Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 7:18 pm

Henry, yes, the 9/11 victims thing could be a honey pot like the Rather memo. That would explain King pushing it. But the resignation of Brooks, less than a week after NOTW was closed, evidently, according to the consensus here, to prevent precisely that, suggests to me something big is still below the surface of the water. My guess is Brooks saw she was the firewall, the one who would be sacrificed to protect the Murdoch family. She didn’t like this role and is now talking about cooperating with the investigation. The other reason I’m somewhat skeptical of the honey pot theory is that it seems likely the FBI will trip over something once it starts investigating, even if that particular angle cannot be confirmed. Do we really think Murdoch was pulling all this in England and staying clean in the US?


John Quiggin 07.15.11 at 7:36 pm

There were quite a few UK citizens among the 9/11 victims, and it would be unsurprising if the UK arm of News had tried to hack the phones of UK-based family members.

My impression is that each of the national arms has its own specific pathologies, and that there probably wasn’t any (or at least not much) phone hacking in the US or Australia.

As regards Brooks, I think the timing is just standard crisis management. The closure of NOTW was a failed attempt to kill the crisis early. It made sense for Brooks to hang on for a while, to cover for the next in line (Hinton) who in turn is covering for James and then for Rupert, that is, for Newscorp as a unified media empire.


Steve LaBonne 07.15.11 at 7:43 pm

Even the NY Post barely pretends to do any actual reporting, let alone Faux News. So I don’t know why Murdoch’s US properties would need to do any hacking; they generate their copy by just making shit up.


Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 8:24 pm

According to the agonist, a Reuters story originally said this (tried to link, but two links in one paragraph seem to be getting messed up, as least in preview):

“On Thursday, an influential Saudi investor in News Corp said he agreed [that Brooks should resign].”

So Rupert takes orders from the Saudi’s? How would that play on Fox? Wonder why Reuters dropped it. Seems if they thought they could not stand behind it, they should issue a retraction, rather than just changing the story.

Well, the Guardian identifies the man:

“But later that day the corporate death knell was sounded for Brooks after the second largest shareholder in News Corporation gave an extraordinary interview to BBC’s Newsnight (interview starts 26 minutes in) from his yacht in Cannes: “For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go,” declared Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal Alsaud.”

Why has it never been an issue that the second largest shareholder (probably after Rupert) in NI is the nephew of the Saudi king? Because liberals feel that going there would validate xenophobia? Fox viewers deserve to know this, so they know they are getting BS’d, as the station does take a clear anti-muslim and anti-arab stance. Whether we agree with those viewers on whether such ownership is objectionable is another question.


Henry 07.15.11 at 8:30 pm

bq. Why has it never been an issue that the second largest shareholder (probably after Rupert) in NI is the nephew of the Saudi king? Because liberals feel that going there would validate xenophobia? Fox viewers deserve to know this, so they know they are getting BS’d, as the station does take a clear anti-muslim and anti-arab stance. Whether we agree with those viewers on whether such ownership is objectionable is another question.

Jon Stewart did an entertaining number on this, AFAICR


Scott 07.15.11 at 9:04 pm

But the Saudi angle helps to explain why News Corp publications and platforms have such a denialist attitude to global warming.

Ms. Brooks is in an interesting position. I await her evidence to the House of Commons committee on Tuesday with interest. How big was that termination settlement? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.


Scott 07.15.11 at 9:06 pm

The Guardian just reported that Les Hinton has resigned. He’s Rupert’s man at the Wall Street Journal, but he was chair of News International until 2007.

Are the rats deserting a sinking ship, or are they taking a bullet for their Leader?


John Quiggin 07.15.11 at 9:07 pm

Scratch my para 3 – Hinton just resigned as well.


nick s 07.15.11 at 9:22 pm

Henry, yes, the 9/11 victims thing could be a honey pot like the Rather memo. That would explain King pushing it.

I don’t think so. While King is a gobshite with a crush on the IRA, his district includes lots of people with NYPD/FDNY connections. Though I’d agree that Newscorp has shown a willingness to fight hardest where it feels that it has a defence — and while Murdoch has brought in British and Australian editors for the Post, I’d agree with John Q about regional pathologies.

Why has it never been an issue that the second largest shareholder (probably after Rupert) in NI is the nephew of the Saudi king?

Because a 7% stake (behind the Digger’s 39.73%) isn’t enough to drive home the issue, even if it’s three times the value of the next largest institutional investor?


P O'Neill 07.15.11 at 10:36 pm

It’s worth Googling the Fox News Prince al-Waleed thing, the challenge being to find a Jon Stewart link that will work outside the USA. But several times Fox News has unwittingly proved that Fox News is a Saudi-backed terrorist entity.

Also, there aren’t that many nephews of the Saudi king, but it’s not quite as exclusive a title as it sounds.


bert 07.15.11 at 11:01 pm

At the risk of prompting them to block up the back door I use, google “modify headers”.


Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 11:04 pm

Nick, Talil says “heave” and Murdoch throws Brooks overboard. If i had a media megaphone, I could certainly make hay of that. And, in case you missed it, I’m not pushing the honey pot theory either, just acknowledging its possibility.


Martin Bento 07.15.11 at 11:10 pm

Richest person in Saudi Arabia is pretty exclusive, though. Implies a certain influence. Especially as the sources of his wealth are not entirely clear, and some think he is a front man for the money of others.


bert 07.15.11 at 11:14 pm

#2, #5:
A friend in the BBC says an edict has gone out to programme editors warning against any suggestion of victory dancing.
This is secondhand gossip, understand. But a look at James Murdoch’s Edinburgh speech from a couple of years ago shows why it’s plausible. The speech is also highly entertaining for other reasons.


logern 07.16.11 at 12:56 am

@24 Do we really think Murdoch was pulling all this in England and staying clean in the US?

Well, there’s the “I’m going to fly a plane full of drugs one time, so I can finance a legitimate business” model possibility. I don’t know I would believe that, but I suggest it.


JP Stormcrow 07.16.11 at 1:51 am

32: Why has it never been an issue that the second largest shareholder (probably after Rupert) in NI is the nephew of the Saudi king?

This got some (limited) play during the Cordoba House/Park51/”9/11 mosque” story. I saw it mostly at Media Matters and Jon Stewart, but for instance, “News Corp’s number-two shareholder funded ‘terror mosque’ planner”.


Andrew F. 07.16.11 at 3:59 am

Henry @14: Well, the DOJ isn’t shy about using the FCPA, but based on what little I know of the scandal so far, I agree that it would be a stretch in this case. Still, depending on what certain US citizens knew, and how involved they were in any bribes, there’s certainly a potential case here. Certainly worth an investigation, in cooperation with the UK.

Now, as to the 9/11 rumors, even if the investigation into the rumors of hacking 9/11 victims shows those rumors false, an investigation can easily turn up evidence of other criminal acts. Criminal acts like this by large organizations, much less media companies, are matters of serious concern. They cannot be countenanced because rational self-interest is what prevents large organizations from engaging more frequently in abuses. So when a large corporate player falls prey to a criminal temptation that other large players might fall to as well, prudence and justice – hell, prosecutorial ethics – demand that the hammer come down on that large corporate player.

I would not expect Murdoch to be given any quarter by the Department of Justice.

The institutional weight towards aggressive prosecution will be enormous and unrelenting. Multiple agencies, a massive coalescence of investigatory power, and career prosecutors who view this as big game will generate a very large amount of momentum.

I also doubt there was much hacking in the US – but that might be American blindness on my part. I don’t see the environment in the US that allowed the tabloid’s operations to survive in Britain. I can’t see the police as being quite so willing to help, nor the crimes continuing so long without arrest.

I have to say… my primary gripe with Murdoch right now has to do with what he’s done to the WSJ. But as I learn more about the scandal in Britiain, I see my primary gripe may have a challenge.


Martin Bento 07.16.11 at 6:19 am

Here’s a question related to all this cell phone hacking: how did Andrew Breitbart get access to Anthony Wiener’s racy phone messages? It was not a typical Breitbart production. The usual drill is that O’Keefe stages some situation and represents it dishonestly to discredit a liberal person or organization. Here the situation arose spontaneously when Wiener accidently tweeted a picture publicly. A few days later, however, it turned out that Breitbart had access to much more damaging images that he had sent. Had Breitbart simply been sitting on those? Wiener was unlucky enough to misvet a correspondent who was an ardent Republican? Why did whomever Wiener sent them to decide to send them to Breitbart instead of selling them herself? It is possible, of course, that Wiener just sent them to the wrong person, but let us remember that O’Keefe was caught trying to bug Mary Landrieu’s phone. Of course, for O’keefe/Breitbart to be doing such things doesn’t mean that FOX people were doing them. OTOH, Murdoch clearly had people with the expertise to pull this off, whereas O’Keefe effort shows some sort of intent, but was not professionally executed. While I don’t thinking hacking into Wiener’s phone would necessarily be the kiss of death politically, it does have legal implications, and bringing Breitbart into this would be very interesting.

No, hacking into Wiener’s phone is not what I meant by something big still under the water.


Martin Bento 07.16.11 at 6:28 am

Before someone comes out with the standard tropes: yes, the previous comment is pure speculation, and I’m not claiming otherwise. You need to be able to speculate beyond the facts you have to see where you may need to investigate further. You don’t pretend your speculations are more than that, but you don’t refuse to speculate either. Had Nick Davies not followed suspicions he could not initially prove, none of this would have come out in the first place.


Lee A. Arnold 07.16.11 at 6:36 am

I think I just got banned from making comments at the Wall Street Journal! It was under reports about the U.S. debt ceiling stand-off. Badge of honor, baby, badge of honor!

I was very polite. I had been presenting the Teabags with facts, running different strategems to see what they came up with. The whole place is entirely steeped in Tea. In fact it may be Tea Party Central. These people probably think the Journal is still some high watermark of informed opinion, still skating in its elder days as it were, because in the comments sections you will find an unusually advanced amalgam of semi-literacy, delusion, misdirection, misinformation, stupidity, and vile snark. It is absolute heaven if you are into a rhetorical analysis of the American pathology! Otherwise, just don’t bother to go there. It is a nightmare. The Murdochfoxification of the Journal is complete. I doubt whether Wall Street itself pays much attention to the rag anymore. They like to claim their subscription base is growing, but that may be Teabags. Everyone I have spoken to back on Earth seems to be letting the subscription lapse.


Guido Nius 07.16.11 at 8:47 am

42: it is entirely possible that the sexual dirt that gets exposed after hacking is an interesting commercial by-product but essentially still just a by-product.


Chris E 07.16.11 at 10:01 am

Here is Murdoch answering questions on Fox about the hacking scandal:


Chris Williams 07.16.11 at 10:07 am

Hmm . . . I think that the immediacy of global media might put RM in a bad position next week. In order to save himself from the wrath of the British public he’s got to be utterly contrite and forlorn in front of the select committee on Tuesday. But this line – “we committed horrible crimes and covered them up” – isn’t going to look good in the US and elsewhere, unless he can _also_ be putting out the line that bad as it was, it’s just a little local difficulty confined to the NotW.

But if he says anything to the US that can be interpreted as downplaying the enormity of it all, the British media are going to be all over him. Twenty years ago you could probably have got away with a different habitus for each continent: now, not so much.


bert 07.16.11 at 12:14 pm

bq. #44: the sexual dirt that gets exposed after hacking

Are you referring to the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex?

What might a breitbart be? I breitbart. You breitbart. He, she, or it breitbarts.
I breitbarted him all night with a nine-inch breitbart.


bert 07.16.11 at 1:02 pm

Officers at the scene say the accused had been interrupted while breitbarting a defrosted chicken.

Chris, the TV pictures from the committee are likely to become central to both the consensus view and the collective memory of this thing.
The practical effect in the US may be more important, because in the UK matters already have forward momentum with the criminal and then judicial inquiries.

Murdoch and the others giving evidence will need to pitch it very carefully.
His multi-newspaper printed apology hasn’t hit the right note.


skidmarx 07.16.11 at 2:03 pm

@Steve LaBonne – There are a lot of people in the UK who would have assumed that about the NoTW.


Harold 07.17.11 at 12:21 am

Here is a link to remind us of the close ties between Robert Murdoch’s Fox News and the Bush administration, beginning with Fox News’s Tony Snow, who became Press Secretary:×1499159

and here is John Dean on the coverup (1st installment of 2 articles):


Andrew Burton 07.17.11 at 3:25 am

This piece by Georgina Prodhon and Kate Holton at Reuters asserts that living on the edge was baked into the NotW business model, with the editors keeping a very firm grip on budgets and on the sourcing for stories. Ethical conduct wasn’t discouraged, it was affirmatively weeded out.

This comes across as similar to what we learned about Enron: the way the company was actually run and the way it was portrayed (Fortune Most Innovative Company 6 years running, management gurus like Gary Hamel swooning at their feet) were 180 degrees apart.

The notion that Brooks and Coulson ran an unsanctioned operation is ludicrous. Rupert Murdoch has always been portrayed as the consumate micro-manager. So there’s a huge amount of untreated sewage under all of his properties. The mechanism by which it becomes exposed to daylight, with all the noxious consequences, isn’t yet clear. In the US it may not be phone hacking, but some other nexus of “reporters,” law enforcement officers and politicians.


Matt McIrvin 07.17.11 at 3:53 am

I’d also note that as of late 2001, mobile phone penetration in the US was still actually not that high compared to the UK – those “pagers” were still popular.

True on the first point, at least. My recollection was that by that time, most people who would have carried pagers in the mid-Nineties had gone over to mobile phones. But maybe that was a couple of years later.

Not everybody else had. My wife tried unsuccessfully to persuade me to carry one through the early 2000s; I had this mortal fear of getting spammed with telemarketing calls everywhere I went (this was before the national do-not-call registry, so landlines had essentially no defense, and that was what I was used to).


maidhc 07.17.11 at 9:27 am


Martin Bento 07.17.11 at 5:04 pm

Another One Bites the Dust:

Rebekah Brooks arrested.

Jeez, things are moving fast.


JP Stormcrow 07.17.11 at 10:33 pm

Still going. Stephenson out with a barb, ‘Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge, been in any way associated with the original phone-hacking investigation,’ he declared.


Ian 07.18.11 at 9:35 am

Being from the UK I am only mildly surprised about the existence of some strong beliefs and viewpoints that other countries are unlikely to be affected/infected in the same way as the UK.

Do many motivational factors for politicians, policing, media and corporations not align on so many points in the area of information that a great deal of the I scratch your back you scratch mine sort of mentality exists? It would seem very strange to me in any society if they did not.

Add to that mix a pressure causing organisations to look for ways to protect themselves and a generally toxic mix is very much bound to exist. Get over the denial, this is something which we all recognise in some ways, and deny in others, but certainly have to deal with in todays information environment.

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