Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hacking Extraordinaire

Greetings Friends,

I must admit I've been waiting decades for a scandal of the magnitude of the News of the World phone hacking debacle to befall Rupert Murdoch. I've found that man distasteful since long before Fox News ever came onto the scene, and for very specific reasons.

Back in the late 80s, I went to work for a family owned publishing company; one of two U.S. concerns that placed coupon inserts in the Sunday papers. I was young, impressionable and extremely eager to make a living. I spent my days toiling as a secretary/billing clerk in the area of the office I designated as the "pound". It was funny how all the ethnic employees were relegated to the accounting/finance department while all the sales people looked for all the world like they were carved out of WASPY Connecticut cream cheese. You guessed it: blonde hair, blue eyes and preppier than the models in a J Crew catalog. 

About a year or so into my tenure at this company, we were told that the owners were selling to Rupert Murdoch. He was buying us, along with the freestanding insert, or FSI (that was what the coupons were known as back then) division of the other American company. I later learned that the third player in the world of FSIs was an Australian competitor of Murdoch's, so it was only natural that he'd want to snap up two-thirds of the coupon realm in order to squash this guy. I even met Murdoch, one night after hours in our hip little Chelsea office (back when Chelsea was rather downtrodden); I shook his hand briefly and was on my way. 

After Murdoch's takeover, we were merged with the FSI division of the other company and moved uptown to much swankier digs in Rockefeller Center, 3 blocks north of where the Fox News headquarters is today. It was a glorious time, and we were all very excited at the opportunities were were presented with as part of Murdoch's News America empire - consisting back then of Twentieth Century Fox studios, The New York Post, the fledgling Fox Network and a whack of glossy magazines that included New York, Mirabella and about a dozen or so others. People I'd worked with began jumping ship to more glamorous jobs at these magazines, and when we would go out for beers at some of the area bars after work, it was fascinating to hear what days were like working at hip, fast-paced publications. And then the walls fell...

About 6 or 8 months after we were ensconced in our hoity toity new digs, we got word that Murdoch's SkyTV venture in the U.K. (yes, he was the original majority owner) was about to go belly-up. The Brits weren't too keen on satellite television back in those days, and the venture was hemorrhaging money in a big way. Before we knew what hit us, there were massive layoffs, and Murdoch jettisoned all his New York-based publications, save for the Post. Many people I knew were out of jobs and devastated, wishing that they never left the relative safety of the FSI division. 

Before I finally left in 1992, things got pretty ugly. The accounting "mutts" were treated even more crappy than before; we didn't get raises or much of anything other than work. It became a toxic environment and a very obvious way-station for the Ivy League educated to springboard into the world of media and advertising. No one was willing to teach a "mutt" anything. The writing was on the wall.

After my departure from the News America FSI division, I kept following Murdoch with an insatiable need to watch him fail. Of course, Fox News and its "fair and balanced" bullshit has been under my skin since day one. After Princess Diana died in 1997, I hoped against hope that the British and European tabloid press would wise up and become somewhat respectable. Total respectability was too much to ask, but reigning in the gutter sniping would have been a jolly good idea at the time. Oh well...

When news of the phone-hacking scandal broke, I was simultaneously mortified, disgusted and amused. Mortified for the individuals who had their privacy violated; disgusted by the emerging details of political and legal corruption; amused by the fact that Rupert Murdoch and his tabloid empire were finally getting the comeuppance they deserve. By the way, Back in 1976 when Murdoch purchased the New York Post, he had to become an American citizen. Back then, foreign ownership of U.S. media outlets was not allowed. The abandoning of that edict seems to have created quite the shit storm, hasn't it? 

As I watch this story unfold, I keep thinking about my short tenure as a News America employee and how smarmy it now feels to have worked there. I am even contemplating removing the information from my resume, thinking that it will somehow reflect negatively on me, given the current brouhaha in the U.K. I haven't yet decided what to do. I'm waiting to see what will happen to the man who gave voices to Bill O' Reilly, Glenn Beck, Chris Wallace and the rest of the orangutans over at Fox News. In my opinion, he deserves to live out his days bereft of his empire, stripped of the privacy he denied many in order sell newspapers. It's barely fitting, but it's all I can think of right now. 

Those who think they can rule the world by controlling others are one of the lowest forms of humanity. They deserve to be in the gutter, with all those shameful, disgusting tabloid newspapers.

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