Saturday, May 21, 2011

There is no public interest involved in publishing gossip about sex – only money grubbing and distracting from real issues

Whatever Fred Goodwin's faults, the whole world does not have a right to hear every detail of his private life, or anyone else's

I'm not an admirer of the job Fred Goodwin did as head of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), but who he had an affair with is none of anyone's business except maybe his wife.

There's a ludicrous idea in Britain, promoted by tabloid hacks who profit from it, that if someone is famous, a politician, or was in a high paid job the entire world has the moral right to know about every detail of their private lives. They don't. There's no public interest involved, because 'public interest' does not mean 'anything some of the public are interested in knowing - including gossip about peoples' private lives', it means something that affects the public's interests - i.e which would harm them if they don't know it and/or benefit them if they did.

All this coverage of peoples' sex lives is just a distraction from the real issues - and anyone who thinks the banking crisis was just down to who was running the banks at the time and their personal failings simply doesn't understand the problem.

The problem is deregulation, which results in any executive of a company that doesn't only look to how they can maximise profits this quarter (whatever the long term risks or losses) being replaced by someone who will - or being put out of business, or being taken over by a company that will.

Unless the banks and other firms are regulated properly – which will also require closing down the tax havens that allow enough secrecy to make regulation impossible - this will happen again and again and again.

The money grubbers like Rupert Murdoch, former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie and the bin raking ‘private detectives’ the Murdoch empire hire, like Glenn Mulcaire, pretend that they are upholding moral values, serving the public interest and exposing hypocrisy. No-one could be greater hypocrites than they are, as they peddle gossip to make money, distracting attention from real issues such as how much tax (if any) billionaires, newspaper editors like Kelvin Mackenzie and big firms like News International pay in the UK.

Kelvin Mackenzie

In fact we know Murdoch’s News International used (legal) tax avoidance to avoid paying any net tax whatsoever in the UK between 1989 and 1999.

We also know that in addition to being involved in buying information obtained by illegal illegal phone hacking, Murdoch’s papers have also paid police for information on peoples’ private lives. Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) slipped up in 2003 by admitting as (then) editor of the Sun that the paper paid police for information on celebrities which it then published. Brooks is now Chief Executive of News International (the UK subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp).

We also know MacKenzie and the Sun have often printed outright lies based on rumours, such as their stories about Elton John having had sex with underage rent boys and removing the voice boxes of his guard dogs. John Pilger wrote of one headline in The Sun under Mackenzie referring to Australian aborigines as ‘The Abos – brutal and dangerous’.

In fact MacKenzie has sunk so low so many times in his hate-mongering, lies and gossip about others that he really has no moral high ground from which to criticise other people.

There are some real private investigators who investigate the serious issues by looking at the business and political frauds committed by some of the most powerful people, political parties, governments, criminals and companies. These are people who risk vilification and sometimes death to give people the truth – people like John Pilger, Greg Palast, Robert Fisk, Peter Maass, the late Veronica Guerin and Shane Bauer (currently being held as a highly unlikely ‘US spy’ by Iran’s government.) Kelvin Mackenzie and his associates are a joke compared to them, a sad travesty of what real investigative journalists and editors should be.

Some of the other things you will never see raised in most tabloids are the vast rip-off of taxpayers and the NHS through PFI and PPP contracts, which make taxpayers pay more for cut services; the double subsidy they’re paying to privatised rail companies (above inflation fare rises plus government subsidy), the subsidy to the nuclear industry and the subsidies to arms manufacturer British Aerospace; and tax havens used to avoid paying income and corporation tax, pushing up taxes for the majority.

These are all cases of the majority subsidising the very richest on a scale that makes the expenses scandal look like a baby pissing into the Atlantic. Instead the tabloids will tell you that your money is being “stolen” by the unemployed, even though there have never been enough jobs for everyone in booms or recessions, that “immigrants” are “stealing” it (even though many are fleeing death by starvation, lack of medical care or being tortured or shot – and benefits paid to them are well below the amount paid to citizens) , or that trade unions are. Then they’ll tell you who shagged who (or who some false rumour says shagged who) – and sadly many people are taken for mugs, while Murdoch and friends play them for every penny they’ve got.

I remember as a teenager in 1986 seeing a Sun front page with the headline ‘Freddie Starr ate my hamster’. Not long afterwards Reagan bombed Tripoli in Libya, with Prime Minister Thatcher giving the planes permission to refuel in Britain without even informing parliament never mind having a vote on it. The raid killed a small girl among others. There was a tiny column on this in The Sun that day with a picture of a plane on one side of the page covering this story in two sentences. That sums up the methods of Kelvin Mackenzie and those like him – blind people with bullshit to distract them from the real issues.

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