Murdoch and Cameron: Symptom or Cause?

Some time ago, when I first moved to the UK,  it was common to see and hear wide-ranging condemnation of the United States from just about everyone in the UK, or so it seemed.  The criticisms were also usually completely general.  It would be horrible to live in America, for example, because there is no place to walk, the sweet librarian at one of the Oxford colleges maintained.  American universities are not really what you’d call universities, the man repairing a plug in my bedsit explained.  Never mind American politics, culture and food, along with the fact that we all seemed yellow, apparently.  Unfortunately, what with Nixon, the Viet Nam war and all, one could hardly disagree with a lot of it.

I think the op-ed from Roger Cohen in today’s NYTimes is the first time I’ve seen a comparably breathtakingly vicious attack on the UK in a contemporary US newspaper. 

But it is not only Cameron who is in the sewer. The culture of the United Kingdom as a whole has been reeking pungently of late — its venal, voyeuristic, reality-show-obsessed, me-me-me nature thrust under the magnifying glass by revelations about what the tabloid press would do to satisfy the prurience of its readers, hacking into phones at any price, even the phone of a 13-year-old murdered girl.

It may be debated to what degree Murdoch created this culture, or reinforced it, through his ruthless, no-holds-barred approach to journalism — and its ultimate deviation into criminal activity….

The United States, after all, has been doing its own good impression of life in the political sewers recently. Republican ideologues with no notion of the national interest do their brinkmanship number as the country hovers near an unthinkable default. The only thought in their heads seems to be: How will all this play next year in the election and how can we hurt President Obama without being blamed for it?

Is the calculation of these Republicans that different from Cameron’s? It’s all about the next news cycle, and spin, and ego, and where the money for political campaigns is, and a total absence of judgment. What it’s not about is responsibility and the commonweal. …

Something deeply insidious and corrupt is at work that has been on view in both Britain and the United States. It involves the takeover of politics by money and spin and massaged images and privileged coteries. It is the death of statesmanship.

And the US equivalent of the purient readers?  What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Murdoch and Cameron: Symptom or Cause?

  1. Oh, the mirror reveals more about NYTimes journos.
    “its venal, voyeuristic, reality-show-obsessed, me-me-me nature ”
    welll…that’s the pot calling the kettle dirty!
    My impression is that Brits like lots of gossip, and Brit journalism is known for wonky ethics and intrusive photography (thinking of fergie and the toe sucking episode), but ‘reality show obsesssed’? and, particularly ‘me-me-me nature’ – describes North Amercians (US) better than brits.

  2. Anne, I’m sorry to hear that you have suffered such continual rudeness from us Brits who rather lazily like to condemn everything about the US but a lot of it is not really personal, partly its letting off steam against a very strong target that we think cannot be really shaken by us, partly its a certain resentment of the way the UK and British people are continually portrayed in American films, which we love to watch but feel disrespected by. Underneath it all we love the US like a rather annoying and patronising big brother. Do you remember how we reacted to 9/11, ‘we are all Americans now’ and the stars and stripes was raised at in Horseguards Parade? We have to plead guilty to the NYT criticisms, but unfortunately we share these vices with the rest of the Western world as far as I can see. Gutter press and reality shows are pretty universal now I believe. Strangely, even though NOTW was our best-selling newspaper, I have never read it and I don’t know anyone else who ever read it.

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