Parsing the Wall Street Journal's Catastrophic News Corp Defense

Even in the deepest, most gloomy depths of the worst scandal of a lifetime, Rupert Murdoch cannot contain his fundamental not-giving-a-fuck-about-public-opinion nature. It permeates every level of News Corp, the company he made in his image. But it is possible—believe it or not!—for public opinion to overwhelm even the staunchest self-justification.

We say all this as a prelude to, "Hey, how about that fucking WSJ editorial today, eh?" On one hand, a proudly defiant editorial defending something ignoble and privileged is a longtime trademark of the WSJ; on the other hand, everyone kind of expected that the utter destruction of the current scandal would force Rupert Murdoch's editorial writers to, at minimum, keep their mouths closed this time around. But no! The WSJ's version of a corporate defense is here, and boy is it a tone-deaf disaster! The intro:

When News Corp. and CEO Rupert Murdoch secured enough shares to buy Dow Jones & Co. four years ago, these columns welcomed our new owner and promised to stand by the same standards and principles we always had. That promise is worth repeating now that politicians and our competitors are using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp. to assail the Journal, and perhaps injure press freedom in general.

From here, you can almost use your imagination to fill in the rest. The poor, poor media underdog—the WSJ—under assault by liberals, competitors, and opportunists, merely because of the actions of a few dead-enders across the pond. Hey, it's not like the WSJ is some robotic corporate mouthpiece, okay?

The British politicians now bemoaning media influence over politics are also the same statesmen who have long coveted media support. The idea that the BBC and the Guardian newspaper aren't attempting to influence public affairs, and don't skew their coverage to do so, can't stand a day's scrutiny. The overnight turn toward righteous independence recalls an eternal truth: Never trust a politician.

Haha, did Nick Denton ghost write this editorial? This "But someone somewhere else also did something bad" school of defense is not recommended for offenses severe enough to get high-level corporate executives arrested. Save it for when accidentally leave the toilet seat up.

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.

You get the idea. This is standard News Corp newspaper rock-throwing, the type of stuff that—in normal times—can be cute coming from a scrappy tabloid, and is at worst a tolerable annoyance at the WSJ, which has always made up for its idiotic op-ed page with good reporting. But these, of course, are not normal times for News Corp. A scandal of this magnitude does not automatically blow over as soon as the full-page apology runs. And while we would *never* imagine that a distinguished news organization like the WSJ would run an editorial inspired by a simple base desire to defend its own corporate meal ticket, we would suggest that News Corp's highly paid flacks send a gentle message to all of the company's editorial pages: "Hey, shut up."

[WSJ]