The Journal’s twisted self-defense

July 18, 2011

By Gregg Easterbrook
The views expressed are his own.

Today’s Wall Street Journal in its lead editorial declares Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation all but saints walking on Earth, claiming “politicians and competitors are using the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corporation to assail the Journal and perhaps injure press freedom.”

If patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, press freedom is the last refuge of tabloid gutter-dwellers. But note two corruptions in that single sentence of the Journal’s embarrassing editorial.

First, casually the Journal acknowledges the scandal’s initial charge is true, referring to “the phone-hacking years ago at a British corner of News Corp.” Just last week, Murdoch was vehemently saying in the Journal’s pages that some of the accusations were “total lies.”

Second, the Journal pretends everything bad happened “years” in the past. Yet just a week ago, before Murdoch’s weekend admission that “serious wrongdoing occurred,” Murdoch and other News Corporation officials were insisting their company was unfairly accused. The hacking was the initial offense. The attempted cover-up was a second and in some ways greater offense, because there is no such thing as a “rogue” cover-up: all cover-ups start at the top.

Nevertheless the Journal pretends everything bad happened “years ago.” How painful to behold the paper’s editorial page sell its soul to engage in obvious boot-kissing for Murdoch and his front-office minions.

If we’d taken the Wall Street Journal’s word for it as recently as last week, all would have been hushed over. Compare this to the Washington Post’s brutal honesty about Janet Cooke, or the New York Times’s brutal honesty about Jayson Blair and Judith Miller. Compare them, and you have the difference between – journalism and the News Corporation.

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