Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"I'm the devil and the king of lies."

The Song: "Crime," The Pietasters. Words & music by Todd Eckhardt. Track 9 of Willis, 1997.
When/how acquired: Purchased CD, c. 1998.
Listen/watch here.

I have a lot of work to do. A lot. My apartment is a mess. My kitchen sink is full of dishes. And what am I doing?

Watching the Murdoch hearings on MSNBC. It's not our scandal, it's not even my country, but I cannot look away. "Are you familiar with the term 'willful blindness'?"

The facts of this case are compelling enough, and get more astonishing every day. (The Guardian is the best source of comprehensive coverage, though it can hardly claim to be a disinterested party.) But what's sucked me in is the sharp suspicion that this kind of thing has been happening for quite a while, may even happen all the time, and this is the inevitable product of our society's insatiable greed for gossip. In fact, I've heard a few people say they weren't particularly bothered by the idea of celebrities' cell phones being hacked, as it was part of the price of fame; they weren't outraged until they discovered that private individuals had been victimized.

I don't know where we got this idea that celebrities traded in their basic human rights as the price of fame, but I hope this scandal makes the whole gossip and "reality" industry stop and step back. People have a right to keep secrets, even if they're selling other elements of their personas. The public doesn't necessarily have a right to know, except about public actions being performed with public funds.

Imagine this level of aggressive reporting and national scrutiny being turned on our medical system, or on the Afghanistan campaign, or on any public matter that costs us money and shapes our lives.

The breakup of NewsCorp seems inevitable in light of these hearings, falling hard on the heels of yesterday's announcement of Borders' liquidation. I would like to think this presages an end to the dominance of the global corporation, and a new era of start-ups and small businesses and independent entrepreneurship. I don't know whether one thing necessarily follows another.

The lesson that emerges from this hearing, however, is that as soon as an organization becomes large enough to obscure personal responsibility, it does.

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