|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2011-07-08 18:13:00
The scandal over the phone message data theft in the UK is terrible, and one of the questions which is being asked is "who is responsible?". Who is responsible for this terrible thing happening? Who should take the blame? Who should we punish?
Well, from one angle, the Murdoch family and their News Corporation bear at least some of the responsibility, for creating a news climate where such things can happen, where they can be tried, and where they can be covered up with such success that the true depth of the scandal is only starting to become visible five or six years later. This means everyone in the chain, all the way up from the first journalist to pay the PI for information, right the way through the corporate hierarchy to Rupert Murdoch himself. They profited from the misery of others, and they haven't paid the price. Some of the responsibility is theirs.
From another angle, some of the responsibility lies with the advertisers, who are always seeking the ideal vessel to purvey their product - they want something which will attract a lot of people to see or hear their ads, but they don't want their precious product associated with anything bad. So the advertisers play their part in this, through demanding both the high circulation that the News of the World achieved, and through also demanding the cover-up of sources, and the hiding of illegal behaviour. They were willing to accept the high circulation figures, without asking what was done in the name of achieving this circulation. So some of the responsibility is theirs, also.
From a further angle, there's the responsibility of the telephone companies to provide education and data security for their users. In a large part, the crime of hacking into the message databases was caused by the lack of knowledge on the part of people who owned phones - they didn't know the pass-code existed, didn't know they could use it, didn't know they could alter it. So the pass-codes were left at their default. A simple procedural change, such as ensuring that the account was locked to external access should the user not attempt this within a month of opening their account, would have secured the vast mass of this data. That there was a back-door left not only unlocked, but practically gaping wide open, is not decent data security. So the phone companies bear some responsibility, too.
The journalists who paid for the stolen data bear responsibility, because they knew this data wasn't coming from kosher sources. They knew they weren't respecting the privacy of the people involved. They knew they were effectively breaking the spirit of the law, if not the actual letter of the law, by using this data in order to create their stories. They knew they were encouraging further breaches of the law by paying for the data.
The private eye who figured out how to hack into the phone message banks, and then sold on the data to the News of the World, also bears responsibility, as the one who committed the crime. According to reports, he was paid 100,000 UKP for his services.
There's the politicians who permitted the Murdoch family to purchase so much of the world's news infrastructure (the world's largest news gathering organisation is a privately owned family company). There's the police, who didn't understand the magnitude of the crime when it was presented to them (not to mention the police who were bribed into silence). There's the various managements and journalists of other news organisations, who let their concerns about their own profitability over-ride their interest in the privacy and rights of the people they purport to represent. All of these people are responsible, and all of them will probably be mentioned in articles regarding the whole scandal.
But there's one responsible group the news media won't mention. One group who will be allowed to skate by scot free. One group who won't ever be expected to look their responsibility in the face and name it for what it is. And that's us.
If you've ever bought a newspaper, if you've ever clicked on a link to a news site, if you've ever listened to news radio, or watched the news on television, you bear some responsibility for this as well.
As viewers, listeners, readers, we create the demand for news articles. As viewers, listeners and readers, we've fed the Murdoch machine, given it the money it needed to create a monolithic view of the way news "should" be, a monolithic view of "what sells newspapers, what sells advertising space". We have allowed our news to become tawdry, cheap, nasty, vicious, invasive, insensitive. We have allowed this, because we haven't spoken up and said no. We have allowed this because we've purchased the products the advertisers sell. We have allowed this because we've bought the papers, listened to the radio stations, clicked the links, watched the programs, bought the magazines. We have allowed this, we have facilitated this, by demanding more and more and more and more from the news media; by not criticising it enough; by continuing to feed the maw.
If you feel sickened by the actions of the News of the World; if you feel angry about the actions of the Murdoch family; if you feel self-righteous about the way the advertisers are fleeing the sinking ship, remember: we asked for it.
We asked for it. Now we have it.
Maybe we should start asking for something different.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/18706.htm