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Nonfiction Matters
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The News Corp Hacking Scandal Considered as a Fantasy Novel

Have you been following the drama over News of the World, and then more broadly the News Corp. empire? The dramatic arc so reminds me of fantasy novel: News Corp has been growing, and growing, buying up everything it wants and needs — I worked at then Harper & Row just as it was purchased and merged into HarperCollins. I recall there was a touch and go weekend where it was not clear that Murdoch could get the bridge funding he needed, but he did — then went on to far bigger things: Fox; the Wall St. Journal; a growing stake in BSkyB — a British Satellite broadcasting company, and he was just at the point of completing this phase of empire growth — fully owning BSkyB, when a slight hitch developed. This is Star Wars — the Empire has everything, all the weapons, all the money, and is just about to put the finishing touches on its complete dominance, when there is a disturbance. In the fantasy novel there would have been an earlier chapter when the empire was challenged — evidence that it had violated laws in hacking into private voice mails. The reader, rooting for the Luke Skywalker rebels would have been hopeful — only to be crushed: the investigation silenced, the police bought off, one government minister convincing another not to keep pushing. The very efficiency of News Corp in muffling its critics would be the proof of its power — nothing, nothing, nothing could stop the empire as it made its last giant purchase….

Until the scandal broke again. And now the coverup of the last round became part of the growing challenge — now the very fact that the police, and the government, and high ministers had silenced objections and protected News Corp became a sign of the corporation’s dark power. So now all teeters — the BSky B purchase on hold for now, and perhaps (though this is hardly certain) forever; one big News Corp figure after another hauled into Parliament, new investigations every day.

Where will this end? Perhaps nowhere — a few heads roll, some PR, News of the World closed, the passage of time — perhaps all will go back to where it was, and in a year or so a revamped News Corp will buy BSkyB just as it had planned. Perhaps. But the larger story, the morality tale, the conclusion of the fantasy trilogy, is that the critic, the whistle blower, the outsider, can speak up — crushed once, silenced twice, ignored a third time, but eventually heard. No one is so powerful that s/he is beyond question — even if they own newsmedia all over the world. This is a modern story of true combat between power and truth — and while young people read about the long ago and far away, they should read about the real battles taking place right here and right now.


  1. Myra Zarnowski says:

    Sounds like an idea for a book! The story arc is there, the forces of good and evil, the fascinating characters, the possible comparisons between past and present, fact and fiction, the large moral issues…. It’s all here. So, too, is the reaffirmation that a single person can make a difference–individual agency.