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By Tim Dickinson August 3, 2011 9:05 AM ET
As CEO, Murdoch not only tolerates employees and executives who push the boundaries of legality and good taste, he celebrates them — at least until the cops show up.
Rupert Murdoch would like you to believe that the voicemail-hacking scandal at the News of the World "went against everything that I stand for." In his recent testimony before Parliament, the 80-year-old billionaire insisted that the criminal wrongdoing at the London tabloid betrayed the 53,000 "ethical and distinguished professionals" he commands from the pinnacle of News Corp. — the world's second-largest media empire. Besides, he claimed, the scandal at the News of the World involved "a tiny part of our business," which he helpfully quantified as "less than one percent of our company."
At first glance, the systemic campaign of bribery and wiretapping at the News of the World certainly does seem extraordinary. Reporters and editors at what was the largest-circulation Sunday paper in the English-speaking world stand accused of bribing police, hacking the private voicemails of everyone from the royal family to the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and paying more than $2 million in gag settlements to victims — allegedly with the full knowledge of Murdoch's son and heir apparent, James.
But the corruption exposed at the News of the World is not the work of a "rogue" element within News Corp. — it's a reflection of the lawless culture that defines the company. As CEO, Murdoch not only tolerates employees and executives who push the boundaries of legality and good taste, he celebrates them — at least until the cops show up. "There's a broader culture within the company," Col Allan, editor of Murdoch's New York Post, crowed in 2007. "We like being pirates." Whatever veneer of integrity News Corp. may have accrued after its purchase of The Wall Street Journal the very same year masks an ingrained corporate ethos that believes integrity is for suckers. The attitude passed down from the top, says one veteran of Murdoch's tabloids, is aggressive and straightforward: "Anything we do is OK. We're News Corp. — so fuck you and fuck your mother."
Indeed, an examination of Murdoch's corporate history reveals that each of the elements of the scandal in London – hacking, thuggish reporting tactics, unethical entanglements with police, hush-money settlements and efforts to corrupt officials at the highest levels of government – extend far beyond Fleet Street. Over the past decade, News Corp. has systematically employed such tactics in its U.S. operations, exhibiting what a recent lawsuit filed against the firm calls a "culture run amok." As a former high-ranking News Corp. executive tells Rolling Stone: "It's the same shit, different day."
HACKING AND HUSH MONEY News America Marketing, a News Corp. subsidiary based in Connecticut, has been accused of engaging in "illegal computer espionage," repeatedly hacking a rival firm's computer system between 2003 and 2004 — a period that happens to coincide with NOTW's voicemail hacking in London. According to a lawsuit against News America, which dominates the lucrative market for ads on