Wall Street Journal attacks News Corp. critics, invokes First Amendment

If you want to get a sense of how desperate things have become in Rupert Murdoch's empire, take a look at this editorial in today's Wall Street Journal.

To cast what is happening in the UK -- and what certainly seems headed for the US -- as the work of Murdoch's commercial and ideological enemies might seem mad to reasonable journalists. But not to Murdoch and his chieftans. That is all they seem to know: attack, attack and try to destroy your opponents.

Providing reliable and trustworthy information to citizens so that they can make reasoned decisions about their lives is not on this gang's daily to-do list. So, maybe it is not so surprising that they try to spin this incredible scandal as the work of ideological opponents at The Guardian and elsewhere.

But what is truly beyond the pale to me in this editorial is the Journal team trying to use the First Amendment as a shield to avoid News Corp. being investigated for possibly bribing foreign officials.

Reporters and editors have gone to jail and risked their lives for the First Amendment. For Murdoch's bought-and-owned editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal to invoke it now is shameless. The First Amendment doesn't give any of us license to break the law.

Here's a bite from the Journal's rotten apple of an editorial today. This truly is one of the most incoherent arguments I have ever read. I wonder how many hands were involved in writing it and if any of them belonged to journalists who actually understood the history, values and ethics of the American press. Read the full version here.

... We also trust that readers can see through the commercial and ideological motives of our competitor-critics. The Schadenfreude is so thick you can't cut it with a chainsaw. Especially redolent are lectures about journalistic standards from publications that give Julian Assange and WikiLeaks their moral imprimatur. They want their readers to believe, based on no evidence, that the tabloid excesses of one publication somehow tarnish thousands of other News Corp. journalists across the world.

The prize for righteous hindsight goes to the online publication ProPublica for recording the well-fed regrets of the Bancroft family that sold Dow Jones to News Corp. at a 67% market premium in 2007. The Bancrofts were admirable owners in many ways, but at the end of their ownership their appetite for dividends meant that little cash remained to invest in journalism. We shudder to think what the Journal would look like today without the sale to News Corp.

In braying for politicians to take down Mr. Murdoch and News Corp., our media colleagues might also stop to ask about possible precedents. The political mob has been quick to call for a criminal probe into whether News Corp. executives violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with payments to British security or government officials in return for information used in news stories. Attorney General Eric Holder quickly obliged last week, without so much as a fare-thee-well to the First Amendment...

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