Last night I was watching the 1976 film All the President’s Men, based on the story of two journalists from the Washington Post who brought down President Nixon by exposing the Watergate scandal.
I found it ironic that I was watching this on a day when the headlines were full of a scandal based on a totally different sort of journalism.
The film is a classic mainly because of its subject matter and it was fascinating watching the portrayal of the journalists, trying to put a credible story together (without the benefit of the internet) and how the editors insisted on verification after verification of the information they had before printing what they already knew to be true. You don’t have to be a political historian to know how that story ended and it would be interesting to see how this saga plays out.
In Parliament, there was no shortage of outrage; from the leader of the opposition’s ‘These events show a systematic set of abuses which demonstrate the use of power without responsibility,’ to the Prime Minister’s ‘Everyone in this house and the country will be revolted.’ There was an abundance of expression of outrage and disgust, mixed in with a little political point-scoring. The real question is though, where will all this outrage lead?
For my part, I sincerely hope it leads to the dismantling of the whole Murdoch empire, bringing back some sort of diversity and accountability to journalism and the rest of the media, government and even the police. You might think my view is extreme and far fetched but considering the situation I think that is the most desired outcome. Leaving aside the obvious obnoxious unethical and criminal activities, the obvious disregard for people’s privacy or compassion for their tragedies, there is the outrageous fact that one individual can impose the results of their spurious ethics on a whole nation!
For all the denials and moral indignation coming out of News International, the fact is the buck, as they say across the pond, stops with Rupert Murdoch. As Chris Bryant MP said in Parliament at an emergency debate held to discuss the scandal, ‘ We have let one man have far too great a sway over our national life; at least Berluosconi [who owns about 75% of the Italian Media] lives in Italy. Murdoch is not resident in this country, he does not pay tax here and has never appeared before a select committee of this House. No other country would allow one man to garner four national newspapers, the second largest broadcaster, a monopoly on sports and first view movies. America, the Home of the aggressive enterpreneur wouldn’t allow it, we shouldn’t.’
My outrage though is fuelled by the fact that though everyone talks with moral outrage, morality has been systematically eroded in our society and the goal post of what is moral has been moved so far as to be out of the staduim altogether. We are said to be living in a secular society, but all our laws and morality are based in Christianity, therefore if we are now living in a secular as opposed to Christian Society, where is the ‘secular morality’? Of course there is no such thing! There is only morality which is based in Christianity and the more we erode Christian values, the greater the decline in morality.
So when the Prime Minister says, ‘ We also need to inquire how we improve the ethics and morals of the press in this country and make sure they improve for the future.’ I say inquire of the Lord, who will no doubt direct us to the Bible where there is great advice from the Apostle Paul, ‘…I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best not the worst; the beautiful not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.’
If the journalists and we as the readers of the material they produce follow this advice, we wouldn’t be in this mess!