I don't know about you, but I felt a reflex of nausea as the old rogue, ‘Force of Nature’ Don Rupert Murdoch, intoned: 'This is the humblest day of my life.' Even a day can be humbled by this man. Impatient to rehearse what he clearly intended to make his own headline, his jowls dropped in the British Parliament last Tuesday to form the nearest thing he could manufacture to an expression of regret for the sins of others. 'They must pay!' he snarled, and surely we have. And so the phone-hacking scandal spirals off, embracing the police and the Prime Minister as it goes, leaving no part of the establishment in Britain untouched - a Discredit Crunch all of its own.
Wisely enough, British banks chose this humbled day, too, to reveal that they have paid themselves $20 billion in bonuses with public money, while their financial system shepherds the rest of us over its next precipice.
As 10 million people stumble towards starvation in the Horn of Africa, rarely can a day have been so humbled, or the 'real world' of wealth and power in Britain been quite so brazenly exposed.
We should beware. In this real world, the greatest rewards come from the most – and the least – you can get away with. This humbled day could yet push the boundaries still further, just like the Credit Crunch turns out to have done. A small army of inquisitors inquiring into themselves will do what comes naturally to them – nothing. With time on their side, they will strive officiously to make sure that it stays that way. They will count on a flabbergasted public mood to guarantee that there can be no alternative. After all, no more than a few weeks ago this real world was taken by them as given.
The press in Britain is not free, it is corporate and neoliberal. The Credit Crunch showed where infallible markets lead; the Discredit Crunch exposes where the corporate media would have us go. Wherever else, it is not towards freedom and joy. Fear, intimidation, mendacity, manipulation, greed, callousness, cowardice, ridicule, bombast, violence, self-interest, corruption, revenge, megalomania and impunity are its hallmarks.
No good can possibly come of this unless the rest of us set about making it otherwise. This means straying as far as we possibly can from the corporate media in order to rediscover the only durable purpose that a genuinely free press has - to speak truth to power. In the corporate media, power is simply talking to itself.
Nick Davies, who broke the phone-hacking story, was employed by The Guardian. It comes nearer to a durable purpose than most of the mass media in Britain, which routinely ridicule it and its Guardianista readers as a result.
Again, on new ground that will forever tantalize the corporate gaze, social media are making a small but significant clearing of their own. Among other things, Murdoch's humbled day may turn out to have marked a decisive shift towards more fertile ground.
Though, from time to time, the New Internationalist can be confused with News International, changing just a few letters takes you from one end of the spectrum to the other. The New Internationalist is run by the co-operative that creates it. Never was that alternative more credible – or more sorely needed.
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