Southern Views

Rupert Murdoch, the founder and chairman of News Corporation, knows well that privacy is a valuable commodity. That’s why his organization invaded the privacy of victims of crime by hacking into their cell accounts. One man’s privacy is another man’s profit.

(Photo by DonkeyHotey / Creative Commons)

It’s also why the American subsidiary of News Corporation, News America Marketing, has spent over two million dollars trying to get a whistleblower, Robert Emmel, to shut up about the underhanded strategies News America used to do a Tonya Harding on its competition. Also why it’s paid out $655 million to settle lawsuits and keep the documentary evidence of the shenanigans secret. Not to mention, as did the Guardian, getting the courts to enjoin Emmel from talking to the press and/or violating the non-disclosure agreement he signed (agreeing to surrender one’s right to speak is not to be deprived of a right; it’s the beauty of consent). Thus, News America can honestly assert:

“There have been three very public lawsuits about these matters and at no time during any of these legal proceedings was any evidence produced to support Mr Emmel’s claims.”

Right, the evidence was quashed. That’s what settlements are largely about–keeping misbehavior secret, as ACORN discovered in trying to wrest evidence of wrong-doing by banks and mortgage companies, until the latter got tired of paying up and determined to destroy the nuisance.

For a year before he was sacked in November 2006, Emmel began compiling documentary evidence that he suggested backed up the allegations, and posted it to public bodies and individuals including the US securities and exchange commission, two senators, two Senate committees and the New York attorney general.

It is not known what happened to Emmel’s allegations within the regulatory bodies he approached.

It may not be known, but if Matt Taibbi’s report is to be believed then what he sent to the SEC probably got shredded.

I suspect that privacy didn’t become a really valuable commodity until the law decreed, on the one hand, it has to be respected as a right, and, on the other, that public officials aren’t entitled to have their official actions go unchallenged and unquestioned. And, as so often happens, new standards of behavior gave rise to new evasions. So, we have Congress embracing “privatization” to free themselves from having to account for how the country’s assets and resources are managed and we have the SEC reclassifying information, they choose to ignore, as non-documents destined for the shredder, while the executive agencies go on a classification binge and stamp everything secret in the name of national security.

FIOA, I would wager, is more of a threat to the petty potentates of the old guard and spawns even more resistance than universal suffrage. Because, it really doesn’t matter how many people go to the polls, if our agents of government can successfully hide what they’re about. Not to mention that having kerfuffles, like Murdoch’s media empire likes to offer up, serves the ultimate aim to disguise, distract, dissemble and disgust to the point where popular government doesn’t have a chance.


Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."