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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.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Thoughts on The News.Corp Phone Hacking Scandal

Latest news in this ongoing disaster is that the newspaper imprint at the centre of the scandal, the News of the World, is being shut down.

Certainly, the paper has been haemorrhaging advertisers since the scandal started breaking, and as the breadth and depth of the depravity involved has been further exposed, the advertisers are running further and faster to put distance between themselves and the newspaper that published the majority of the stolen voicemail data. But I have to wonder: what about the rest of the News International/News Corporation stable?

It's worth noting that the executive who was the editor of The News Of The World at the time when most of the data theft occurred is still employed. She's now the Chief Executive of News International, and while she's offered to resign, that offer has been resisted - apparently she "knew nothing of the crimes allegedly committed when she was editor" (sourced from News of the World shuts amid hacking scandal). Which, to me, doesn't really sound like an outstanding endorsement of her managerial ability, to be honest. Either she didn't know about such things (in which case, what the hell was she doing in order to earn her salary?) or she did know and pretended she didn't (which leads me to wonder whether she'd do the same sort of thing when faced with evidence of an embezzlement), or she did know, and took steps to cover it up (which means she's criminally culpable too). She's still employed by News International.

That Ms Brooks is still considered a valuable employee by News International leads me to question the management and ethical practices of the entire damn corporation. The problem which was "resolved" by data theft didn't start in the newsroom of The News of The World. It started further up the corporate ladder, with the constant push on all the News Corporation properties to obtain ever-increasing profits, ever-growing circulation, ever-climbing advertising revenues.

Another thing which interests me is the way that the various News Corporation properties tend to pass a story around. For example, here in Australia, the Australian newspaper will report on a story which "broke" in the magazine New Idea (both of these are News Corporation properties), or they'll pass on a story which started off on Fox News in the USA, or in the Sun over in the UK. So there's the potential for the scandal to go far further than just this one newspaper. If we examine stories propagated across the News Corporation stable of properties throughout the period in which one News Corporation property was buying information obtained through data theft, how many other stories are tainted with this same brush? How far did the rot spread? How far up did the rot go? Did it go all the way to the top?

(It's worth noting that the Australian head of News Limited has officially denied that such a thing could happen over here:

Today, News Limited chief executive officer John Hartigan told the company's Australian journalists "the behaviour that has been uncovered at the News of the World is an affront to all of us who value the integrity and credibility of good journalism, the reputation of the company and our own reputations as professionals."

"Phone hacking is the antithesis of everything we stand for. It is a terrible slur on our craft," he said in a statement to staff posted online.

"I am confident that the practices that have been uncovered in the UK do not exist in Australia, at News or any other respectable media outlet."
- sourced from Murdoch accused of tabloid closure 'stunt'

If, like me, you're a fan of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, you know never to believe anything until it's been officially denied.)

[I feel I should mention at this point that I have absolutely no monetary interest in seeing the Murdoch family go down. However, I do feel a certain moral and personal interest in the challenging of their ideology that what people are interested in is solely the cheap, the tawdry, the nasty and the unfriendly. The Murdoch family's News Corporation is a big part of the global kyriarchal bully culture, one which glorifies the petty, nasty side of the human psyche to the point where they present this as the only damn option there is. I don't want to read, watch or hear nasty comments about other people, so I don't purchase their products. Now, if only there were a viable alternative.]

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Fandom vs Money-makers: Round the latest.

Oh dear. The latest episode in "Why Making Money From Fandom Doesn't Work For Non-Fans" is starting up. Grab your seats early, and tune in to the fun, as Keith Mander attempts to monetize LOTR fandom.

Mr Manders starts from a bit of a handicap. For a start, he isn't actually a member of fandom. So he doesn't know the first thing about the history, the background, or the little nuances of the place. He doesn't know the politics, and he doesn't know who to believe when they tell him "yeah, you can do this". For seconds, he apparently doesn't know the first thing about the IP holders either. This means he is blindfolded in the ring with the archetypical sabre-toothed-tiger with a toothache, and he thinks he's dealing with a cute, fuzzy kitten.

This guy is, to use a Discworldism, going to be cheesed (like being creamed, but it goes on for much longer, and the results are rotten).

Elf has the beginnings of a linkspam. The affected archive is The main comparison being made is to FanLib.

Musing below the fold )

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Current Mood: cynical cynical
Setting goals

I've been thinking about this for a while, and I've decided I'll be better off with some kind of goal to work toward. However, knowing myself the way I do, I know if I write down a list of everything I want to achieve, I'll immediately try working on it all at once and get depressed when I find I can't do it all; or alternatively I'll set goals which rely on the behaviour of other people to achieve, and get even more depressed when I find them to be unachievable. So, for me, goal-setting is a tricky process.

So I've set myself a few guidelines for setting goals. The first is that any goal I set myself has to be achievable by me, preferably without relying on external assistance or input. The second is that my goals have to fit the basic criterion of being "little decisions" (from the Paul Kelly song of the same name: "Little decisions are the ones I can make/Big resolutions are so easy to break") - things which aren't about making huge changes, but rather about making small ones which can be built on. They also have to be things which I can be clear about having achieved or not achieved - the answer to "have I succeeded at this?" has to be expressible as a clear "yes" or "no", rather than "it depends what you mean by succeeded". I've also set myself a maximum number of things I have to be working on at any one time.

Below I've listed my preliminary aims.

Short - Medium term goals:

End Date: between 22 JUN 2011 and 21 DEC 2011 (ie between winter and summer solstices) I want to:

* Complete the knitted pashmina/poncho/wrap thingy I'm working on.
* Manage at least 80% compliance long-term for thyroid medication.
* Complete MAS167 at Murdoch University.

At some stage I want to:

* Try out Lauredhel's recipe for slow-rise bread
* Have a proper massage by a proper masseur
* Get my hair trimmed by a hairdresser.

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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
In Recovery

Started 31 MAY 2011

As those of you who've read the piece below this know, I got rather majorly triggered today. As a result, I'm currently attempting to recover from it, and regain some of my mental balance. For those who don't know what it feels like to have been there, feel free to read on. For those who have been triggered before, I should provide a warning: I'm going to be discussing the aftermath of being triggered, and it may be triggering in and of itself.

Potentially triggering stuff below )

Overall, I'm recovering. It's not an easy process, and it's certainly not a fun one, but it's a process and it's ongoing.

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location: The usual
Current Mood: recovering recovering
Bullying: It's Not Just For Primary School

Parents welcome ruling on bullying victim's suicide

The article I link to above is about a determination by a coroner in Victoria that a young man who killed himself had done so as a result of being bullied. It's an interesting enough article, and it raises some interesting issues about bully culture as it surrounds people.

It ends with a note that "If you are experiencing difficulties with bullying contact Lifeline on 13 11 14."

And I started to weep, because I'm a bullying survivor.

I was bullied by my peers, socially and emotionally, for twelve years. I was taunted, teased, degraded, abused, stalked, and pushed constantly throughout primary school and high school. I survived it, but mainly because I grew up in a family which had a strong history of chronic depression, and thus had a strong intra-family cultural taboo on suicide, self-harm, or any other form of behaviour which might bring the family to the attention of the authorities. Keep your head down, suck it up, and see whether you can fly under their radar; that's the family mantra.

I grew up thinking there had to be something inherently wrong with me, something which made those other children pick on me, something which made me a target. I grew up learning from my age peers the "normal" response to my existence was either outright aggression, masked aggression, or just outright denial of my humanity. If I had any friends at all, they were mistakes, errors, only putting up with me because they were outcasts too. If someone was being friendly to me, it wasn't going to last. If someone had my back, it was only so they could stick a knife in it more effectively. I grew up knowing this had to be the case, because if it wasn't... well, if it wasn't this meant that people were getting away with being deliberately cruel to me, for no other reason than "because they could". Easier to believe in my own inappropriateness than to believe in generalised acceptance of malice.

Bullying broke me.

I don't trust people even now. I particularly don't trust other women (and if you're a "popular" woman, you're going to have a lot of trouble winning even the slightest particle of trust from me, because I spent too many years being the target of the malice of the popular girls in school), I don't trust good-looking men, I don't trust people who have any sort of power over me, and I don't trust people who say they're my peers. I live my life on the lookout for the next knife in my back, the next attack out of the dark. I shadowbox my way through relationships. The closer a person gets to me, the more danger I'm in.

I expect to be bullied as a default state these days. It was the cause of a near-breakdown in my second year of university study, because I was so strung-out waiting for the other shoe to drop... prior to starting uni I'd never been in any educational environment where I hadn't been subject to some form of bullying, where picking on me because I was there hadn't been just an accepted part of the day.

I still wear the target on my soul. I found that out when I got my first full-time job in the public service, and was put in the charge of a manager who proceeded to play mind games, most likely with the deliberate intent of breaking me down. That job brought me as close as I've ever been to actual suicide, and I can still recall the absolute despair I felt at the thought of having to endure something like that all day, every day, for the rest of my life. The only reason I'm still here now is because my instinct for self-preservation overrode my lower-middle class upbringing (and led me to quit the job with no idea at all what I was going to do next). What that experience did for me was reinforced the half-understood lesson of my university days - that what had happened to me for twelve years of schooling wasn't a result of "kids being kids".

This is important: children don't bully because they're children. Bullies bully because they're allowed to get away with it, and they don't "grow out of" their bullying behaviours. They keep at it for as long as they're able, and they'll leave a trail of victims behind them. Oh, and they generally don't see themselves as doing anything harmful, either. They were "just having a bit of a joke" or "taking care" of their victim, or carrying out their actions "in the interests" of their victim.

I've never actually called Lifeline. I don't think they'd be interested in what I have to say. I doubt calling them would change anything, and it won't make the pain I still carry go away. I'm broken, and I doubt I'll ever be able to be fixed. I can paper over the cracks, I can pretend I'm functional, but underneath, there's still the little girl who doesn't understand why people are being so nasty to her without any reason. She's crying, and she's probably going to keep crying for the rest of my life.

My name is Meg, and I'm a bullying survivor.

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location: In tears
Current Mood: triggered triggered
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