Rupert Murdoch owns a lot. That sentence doesn’t even need an indirect object. He simply owns a lot. Of newspapers, of movie studios, of television networks, of television programs, of websites, of magazines, of record labels. He even owns fifty percent of Australia’s National Rugby League. Chances are that of the thousands of pieces of content you interact with everyday, a good third to one-half of them link back to him in some sort of gold-plated game of Six Degrees of Rupert Murdoch.
He now owns one hell of a scandal. Murdoch’s News Corporation is the parent company of News International, which published the British tabloid News of the World. It’s recently come to light that News of the World engaged in phone hacking to illegally obtain information. Earlier this month, British prime minister David Cameron called for a massive government inquiry into the affair, hoping to address claims of hacking and police bribery.
High-ranking British police officials are stepping down. Members of Murdoch’s empire are being arrested. The United States is now getting involved: the FBI just began investigating whether or not News Corp’s violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with the alleged hacking and bribery. Oh yeah, and they might have accessed the voicemails of victims of the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 London bombings.
Rather than wade into this quagmire and attempt to report on it (there’s plenty of that going on already), I’d like to speculate on what the world would be like if such underhanded behavior pervaded the furthest reaches of Murdoch’s empire. Cue the dream sequence music.
At the Movies
“Of course I’ve seen Fern Gully!” Cameron can be heard telling his manager in one voicemail. “I cried for the environment three times, but my heart never raced. My eyes never bled from too many dimensions. when it ended, I didn’t feel irrational pangs of loss for a made-up place I’ll never visit. Plus, it needed more knife-wielding robots.”
Law enforcement officers obtained the Cameron tapes after investigators found hacked voicemails on a thumb drive in Cameron’s desk. Recordings on the drive include messages left by Robin Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson, and a phone conversation between Kevin Costner and his agent just before filming began on the modern classic Dances With Wolves:
“I’m really excited for this one, Hank. I can’t wait to play a white guy who gets taken in by non-white guys and then convinces those non-white guys that I, a white guy, am just as good at being a non-white guy as they are.”
Avatar was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, a renowned phone-hacking intelligence agency.
More than a Game
SAN FRANCISCO – Girls gone wild! Police in the Bay Area bust several IGN babes for illegal voice messaging ring. The babes reportedly left sultry and suggestive messages in the voice mailboxes of several prominent members of the games press, primarily targeting major personalities within the videogame blogosphere.
“We just thought it would be a bit of fun,” said veteran babe Jodi O’Connor. “We didn’t think anyone would get hurt. It’s not like these guys have girlfriends or anything.”
Contrary to popular belief, some members of the enthusiast press do have girlfriends, some even have spouses and families. Bad gaming habits can be incredible stressors on even the most solid of relationships, so these guys don’t have much wiggle room when it comes to upsetting the old ball-and-chain.
“I play about 25 hours of Black Ops every week,” said a senior editor at a small gaming blog. Though we can all find his articles online, he declined to comment without anonymity. “Black Ops is my beat. I spend all day at the office writing and editing reviews, but I have to play Black Ops every day at home to keep up to date, even if it means foregoing sex with the wife.”
“So when some girl calling herself HoneyPi starts leaving messages on my phone,” he continued sweatily, “I’m in deep shit. My wife’s a catch, man. She likes Phoenix Wright and Pokémon. I can’t afford to lose her because of this.”
The babes did not act alone it seems. “We don’t know how to do that hacky stuff,” said O’Connor. “Some of the boys from IT helped. We all promised to take pictures with them that they could send home to their mothers. Yeah…that’s not going to happen.”
IGN is a division of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which declined to comment. Murdoch’s chief executive babe Rebekah Brooks was recently arrested in the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
DENVER, Col. – The Colorado Rockies are in need of a new mascot. Dinger, the purple triceratops who has called Denver his home since hatching from an egg at Mile High Stadium in 1994, was arrested last week on charges of illegal wiretapping.
Reportedly distressed by recent allegations that Dinger is not actually a triceratops but a torosaurus, Dinger allegedly tapped the phone lines of several prominent paleontologists in hopes of blackmailing them into dropping the accusations against his dino identity.
“I don’t have anything to hide,” said Ana Gradelby, Associate Professor of Paleontology at Tufts University. “I’m just trying to do my job. Accuracy is tantamount to good science. If we have evidence that triceratops was actually torosaurus, I will not hesitate to share that with the public, no matter how many five-year-old hearts get broken in the process.”
Dinger was not available for comment. His handler, a hippie named Steve from Boulder, did hold a press conference the afternoon of the arrest.
“The Dinger’s just plain tweaked about the whole thing, ya know?” said Steve. “He never meant to hurt nobody – okay, maybe he did. But he was hurting, too, ya know? You wouldn’t wanna get up every morning, look in the mirror and call yourself a human only to go to work and have some drunk archaeologist calling you a monkey, would ya? Didn’t think so.”
Rockies majority owners Charlie and Dick Monfort also declined to comment. Minority owner News Corporation issued the following statement: “Dinger sure as hell didn’t learn that from us! How could he? We don’t even speak Torosaur!”
Snap Back to Reality
Fade out the dream sequence music. Of course I’m just having fun here. The story’s still developing, and we won’t know the full extent of the corruption or the potential ramifications until the investigations have concluded, which could take months or years.
It’s just amazing to me how many pies have been pierced by Murdoch’s wrinkled old fingers. The Rockies, seriously? I didn’t really dig into Fox News because I’m sure The Daily Show will be skewering them better than I ever could over coming weeks. The Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal published an editorial defending itself (and Murdoch a bit) while also pointing a few fingers back at other outlets.
A little bit of mockery won’t change the situation. The impossibly high stakes of this scandal mean it can only be touched by the most powerful branches of relevant governments. News Corp is tied into how millions (perhaps billions?) of people receive news and consume entertainment. If some joking helps you follow such a huge story, then this silliness was well worth it.