June 2012


Murdoch & Company

By Robert Manne
Rupert Murdoch after facing the Leveson inquiry, 26 April 2012. © Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Rupert Murdoch after facing the Leveson inquiry, 26 April 2012. © Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Rupert is finally reaping what he sowed

For very many years Fleet Street newspapers employed private detective agencies in their search for ever more salacious stories. They provided them with valuable information obtained through bribing public officials including police, conducting surveillance, and hacking into computers and mobile phones. Many London papers were involved in these activities. However, the leaders of the pack were Rupert Murdoch’s two most important tabloids – the Sun and News of the World.

Since July 2011, the existence of this criminal culture has become clear. In the campaign that led to its exposure no one played a more vital role than the Labour MP and one-time junior minister, Tom Watson. On the eve of the appearance of Rupert and James Murdoch before the Leveson inquiry into the British press, Watson and his co-author, Martin Hickman of the Independent, published Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain (Penguin; $29.95), a nearly definitive insider account of what the authors call “the worst scandal in British public life in decades”. Because we live in a country where News Limited accounts for between 65% and 70% of statewide and national newspaper circulation, we are unlikely to see much reference to this book. For this reason, the story they tell needs to be widely known.

In 2003, the British police became aware that a private detective, Steve Whittamore, was supplying a string of British newspapers with information he obtained by bribing public officials. One of his clients was News of the World, then edited by one of Rupert Murdoch’s favourites, Rebekah Wade. Even though the detective leading the investigation, Alec Owens, discovered that Whittamore had received £1.8 million between 2001 and 2003 for his information, his superiors instructed him not to investigate Whittamore’s newspaper clients – “We can’t take the press on. They’re too big for us.” Only Whittamore and three of his informants were prosecuted. Owens was ordered not to interview the 305 journalists who had received illegally obtained information.

In November 2005, it became clear to the Metropolitan Police that Clive Goodman, the royal correspondent at News of the World, had access to information on the mobile phones of princes Harry and William. Because of fears about terrorism, this represented a dangerous security breach. The Metropolitan Police soon discovered that Goodman had received this information from a private detective on the News of the World payroll, Glenn Mulcaire. Police raided News International’s headquarters at Wapping and Glenn Mulcaire’s office on 8 August 2006. At Wapping, their work was openly obstructed by staff at News. From Mulcaire, however, they obtained crucial information – 11,000 pages of notes containing the names of 4375 individuals and more than 2000 phone numbers. Eventually, the police concluded that 829 individuals had been active targets. Twenty-eight journalists had asked Mulcaire for information obtained through phone hacking. Four were major clients. Mulcaire had received from News of the World more than £100,000 and a retainer from Goodman of £500 per month. Strangely, the police decided to prosecute only Goodman and Mulcaire and not even to alert the overwhelming majority of Mulcaire’s targets to the fact that their phones had been hacked. Did the police regard phone hacking as relatively trivial? Or were they instinctively frightened of challenging the power and inciting the wrath of Rupert Murdoch and News International?

Both Mulcaire and Goodman pleaded guilty to charges in the Old Bailey in November 2006. Mulcaire had been charged with hacking into the mobile phones of not only the princes but five other individuals, including the trade union leader of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor. He received a six-month sentence. News International, the British arm of News Corporation, continued to pay him his stipend. For his part, Goodman received a four-month sentence. News also continued paying him his salary. In addition, he was promised he would be able return to his old job when released.

Following the Old Bailey case, a feisty Manchester solicitor, Mark Lewis, approached all five of Mulcaire’s targets with an offer to represent them in a civil suit against News International. Only Gordon Taylor accepted. In early 2007, under its new editor, Colin Myler of the New York Post, who had replaced Andy Coulson, News of the World broke their promise to Clive Goodman and sacked him. Goodman mounted an unfair dismissal suit against his old employer. Taylor’s and Goodman’s civil suits, in combination, would precipitate a chain of events that would tear at the reputation of Rupert Murdoch and threaten the future of the world’s most powerful media corporation.

On 2 March 2007, Goodman wrote to News International’s legal counsel, Tom Crone, outlining his grounds for action in the unfair dismissal case. Goodman argued that phone hacking “was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference” at News of the World. He pointed out that “on many occasions” he had been promised that he would be able to return to his job “if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea”. Goodman had kept his side of this deal. At the time this letter was written, one of Rupert Murdoch’s oldest and closest Australian mates, Les Hinton, was chair of News International. Goodman’s letter was copied to him. Four days after receiving it, Hinton appeared before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee which had interested itself in the question of the News of the World’s phone hacking. He assured the committee that Andy Coulson had absolutely no idea about the hacking. He agreed that Goodman “was the only person who knew what was going on”. He argued that this was a “one-off case”.

The cover-up had begun. It was by now obvious that if News was to be successful large sums of money would have to be spent to buy the silence of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. Hinton sanctioned a payment of £80,000 to Mulcaire and £153,000 to Goodman. Shortly after, he left the chairmanship of News International to become the head of Dow Jones following the Murdoch takeover of the Wall Street Journal. He was replaced by James Murdoch. From March 2007 until April 2011, News International would maintain its “rogue reporter” defence. Many key executives at News always knew it to be a lie. As Tom Crone admitted to the Leveson inquiry on 14 December 2011, “I can’t remember when and by whom the rogue reporter explanation was first put out, but I was of the view that it was erroneous from the start.”

After Gordon Taylor initiated his civil action for breach of privacy, a judge of the British High Court required the police to hand over the transcripts of Taylor’s hacked-into mobile phone messages. When News received the transcripts they realised that in the Gordon Taylor action the game was up. The original internal email with the transcripts was written “for Neville”, that is to say for the news editor, Neville Thurlbeck. On 24 May 2008 Crone sent Colin Myler a copy of the ‘for Neville’ email. He explained that it was “fatal to our case”. He also emailed the names of News of the World journalists who had been involved in phone hacking. One was Rebekah Wade, by now editor of the Sun, News’s politically influential daily tabloid. On 7 June 2008, Myler emailed James Murdoch regarding the remaining loose end, the Gordon Taylor matter: “It is as bad as we feared.” Three days later he and Crone met with Murdoch and talked for about half an hour. Crone almost certainly brought the ‘for Neville’ email and Michael Silverleaf QC’s legal opinion. Together they agreed to pay Taylor several hundred thousand pounds for his silence.

For the next year News International believed its phone-hacking cover-up had been successful. Goodman, Mulcaire and Taylor held their tongues. There was no continuing police investigation of consequence. The House of Commons media committee’s interest in the matter lapsed.

But at the Guardian, the investigative journalist Nick Davies had received information from a whistleblower about the massive Gordon Taylor settlement and about the very large number of people whose phones had been hacked by News of the World. On 8 July 2009, his story was published. News International’s cover-up began to unravel. A renewed police inquiry was ordered by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, to be led by his deputy, John Yates. Even though investigations remained desperately inadequate until a new officer, Sue Akers, eventually assumed control, at least the police no longer systematically concealed the names of those who had been hacked from the victims. As a consequence, News International now faced a string of civil suits brought by famous, furious and courageous celebrities and politicians who had been targets of News of the World phone hacking. These suits were frequently pursued by two lawyers – Gordon Taylor’s solicitor, Mark Lewis, and a Manchester colleague, Charlotte Harris.

In the following months, through the reporting of Davies, who had the total support of his editor, Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian broke a series of new phone-hacking stories. It was revealed, for example, through a successful Freedom of Information request, that Mulcaire’s hacking lists had “thousands” of names. In the New York Times, a former News of the World journalist, Sean Hoare, now admitted that he had hacked phone messages with the active encouragement of senior staff. An anonymous informant claimed about phone hacking at News of the World: “Everyone knew. The office cat knew.” Although the “rogue reporter” defence was now effectively dead, News Corporation dismissed the story with its two standard lines of attack – character assassination and claims about the bias and distortions due to the Times’s “commercial rivalry” with Murdoch’s recently acquired prize, the Wall Street Journal.

The Guardian story revived the interest of the Commons media committee. By now Tom Watson had joined the committee. Because he had been involved in a move to hasten Tony Blair’s retirement, Watson – that “treacherous … tub of lard … known without affection at Westminster as ‘Two Dinners Tommy’”, as the Sun had described him – had some years earlier been the target of two vicious campaigns orchestrated by Rebekah Wade. News now sought to have him removed from the committee and brought before the Parliamentary Commissioner for alleged misconduct. Not everyone collapses before the bully. Watson became the committee’s most fearless and tireless member. The committee summoned several senior journalists and executives of News International. Rebekah Brooks (formerly Wade) declined the invitation. Some of her colleagues appeared. Given the almost universally evasive nature of their testimony, the committee published a report suggesting that the senior staff at News were suffering from “collective amnesia”. Written in the unmistakable trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific house style of the Murdoch empire, the News of the World’s response was what Watson describes as “apoplectic”: “We’ll take no lessons in standards from MPs – nor from self-serving pygmies who run the circulation-challenged Guardian.” At this time the struggle between News and its enemies was tense. Watson captured the mood in a speech he delivered to the Commons:


In this House we are all, in our own way, scared of the Rebekah Brookses of this world … [The press barons] are untouchable, they laugh at the law. They sneer at parliament. They have the power to hurt us, and they do, with gusto and precision, with joy and criminality. 


Perhaps the most instructive dimension of Dial M for Murdoch is the evidence presented about News International’s attempts to intimidate its enemies in the two years following Davies’ original article. News hired private detectives to conduct surveillance over Tom Watson, Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris. As Neville Thurlbeck later explained to Watson, the aim was to dig up dirt on secret lovers. News hoped they might discover Lewis and Harris were having an affair or even that Lewis was the father of her children, so they might be removed from acting in the civil suits on the grounds of improper exchange of confidential information. Among the main players everyone was now almost certainly frightened. Nick Davies asked those with whom he spoke to remove the batteries from their mobile phones. Alan Rusbridger had his home swept for bugs. Tom Watson admits that he feared for his life when he learned that, under Andy Coulson, News of the World had once employed a private detective, Jonathan Rees, who the police were convinced had murdered his business partner.

The intimidation of those leading the campaign to unmask News’s criminal behaviour did not succeed. With the police it seems that it might have. Watson thinks the timidity of two very senior officers, John Yates and Andy Hayman, might be explained by the fear that their infidelities would be revealed in one or other of the Murdoch papers. John Yates visited Rusbridger with the Metropolitan Police’s director of public affairs in the hope of convincing him that he ought to pull Davies into line. As the evidence mounted, Watson reveals that he was approached by someone close to Rupert Murdoch with a weird kind of offer. News was willing, he was told, to sacrifice Andy Coulson. Rebekah Brooks, however, was “sacred”.

By June 2011, there existed an utterly determined group prosecuting, in one way or another, the phone-hacking scandal. The group was led by Nick Davies and the Guardian, by Tom Watson and the Commons media committee, and by the solicitors, Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris. By now they were working closely with several enraged celebrities and politicians who had fallen victim to phone hacking and/or defamation at the hands of News of the World or the Sun. The anti-News group had scored several victories. The police had awakened to the gravity of the phone-hacking case and to the fact that News International (and other Fleet Street tabloids) had also engaged in computer hacking and widespread bribing of public officials. By now three separate police inquiries – Operations Weeting, Tuleta and Elveden – had been opened. Belatedly, News had abandoned its “rogue reporter” defence. Its lawyers no longer paid their victims hush money and settled several civil suits in the open. The first News of the World arrests since Goodman and Mulcaire – Neville Thurlbeck and Ian Edmondson – had been made. Despite all this, however, it was still by no means certain that the larger purpose of the anti-Murdoch team – to expose the criminal behaviour of News International to the world – would succeed.


In June 2011, Rupert Murdoch probably still regarded his British phone-hacking troubles as little more than an irritating side issue. Far more pressing and interesting to him was the fact that News Corporation was very close to sealing in the United Kingdom the largest business deal in its history – the more than £7 billion total takeover of the satellite television company BSkyB, in which it already had a 39% stake. Over the years, News Corporation had steadily built its influence inside the Conservative Party. In 2007, the former editor of News of the World, Andy Coulson, was appointed communications director to David Cameron, the new leader of the Conservative Party. In August 2008, Rupert Murdoch had met Cameron on a family yacht in the Mediterranean, the apparent equivalent to Tony Blair’s 1995 round-the-world trip to Hayman Island to prove his worth before Murdoch and address his senior staff. On 30 September 2009, as Gordon Brown addressed the Labour Party, the Sun dramatically announced its abandonment of Labour and support for the Conservative Party as Britain’s “only hope”. Prior to the May 2010 election every Murdoch newspaper in Britain supported the Tories. Shortly after it, Murdoch visited 10 Downing Street, entering by the back door at Cameron’s suggestion. Between May 2010 and July 2011, Cameron met News International executives or editors on 15 occasions. Cameron supported unequivocally News Corporation’s bid for total control of BSkyB.

Inside the coalition government, the most important opponent of the bid was the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable. When Cable imprudently told two undercover Daily Telegraph journalists that he was “at war with Murdoch”, Cameron handed the BSkyB matter over to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who described himself on his website as a Murdoch “cheerleader”. It is now known – on the basis of emails tabled at the Leveson inquiry on 24 April – that in the critical months of the bid, Hunt and his staff worked closely with News Corporation’s BSkyB lobbyist, Frédéric Michel, to ensure the bid’s success. In March 2011, for example, Michel emailed James Murdoch at 3 am: “Urgent. JH decision … He is minded to accept … and will release around 7.30 am to the market. He said we would get there in the end and he shared our objectives.” Indeed he did. At the Leveson inquiry in May, Rebekah Brooks produced another Michel email, revealing Hunt had requested News International’s cooperation in his struggle to ensure the hacking scandal did not undermine the BSkyB bid. In their common cause, the Culture Secretary and News Corporation seemed to have triumphed. On 30 June, Cameron finally announced that News Corporation would be allowed to take over all of BSkyB. One of News’s staunchest enemies, the Labour MP, Chris Bryant, asked the House, “How on earth did we … become so spineless …? No other country in the world would allow somebody to have so much power.” A member interjected: “Apart from Italy.” No one thought to mention Australia.

On 4 July 2011, Nick Davies reported that News of the World had hacked into the mobile phone of a teenage girl murdered in 2002, Milly Dowler, and (incorrectly, as it turned out) that the hacker had deleted voicemail messages, which had afforded her parents false hope. The British nation was united in indignation, perhaps the strongest collective emotion of contemporary democracies. With news of the Milly Dowler phone hack, the long Indian arm-wrestle between the friends and enemies of Murdoch was finally resolved.

Rupert Murdoch told the Leveson inquiry that he now “panicked”. Moreover, advertisers fled the News of the World. In the circumstances, Murdoch felt that there was no alternative but to shut it down. Murdoch flew to Britain on a mission of damage limitation. Improbably enough, his priority seems to have been to save his favourite, Rebekah Brooks. News announced an inquiry to be led by Brooks. Rather unkindly, a Murdoch celebrity victim, Hugh Grant, said that was like giving Hitler the task of investigating Nazi crimes. Brooks could not be saved. Both she and Cameron’s communications director, Andy Coulson, were arrested; within weeks so were most of the senior editors and executives of News of the World. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, and his deputy, John Yates, both resigned.

Rupert Murdoch and James were summoned by the Commons media committee. At the hearing Rupert Murdoch interrupted his son’s evidence to describe this as the “most humbled” day of his life. But he did not accept any responsibility for what had happened. His people had let him down. For his part, James argued that at the time of the Taylor payout he was not aware of the ‘for Neville’ email. Tom Watson is only slightly exaggerating when he argues that “the future of the Murdoch dynasty would turn out to hang on the truthfulness” of these words. Rupert Murdoch issued an abject apology, whose inner meaning was nicely parodied by the British satirical news magazine Private Eye: “We are sorry that we have been caught.” The man prime ministers would only shortly before travel across the world to see now visited Milly Dowler’s parents.

Vince Cable thought the events of July 2011 resembled the atmosphere at the end of a tyranny where everyone discovers they had always been opposed to the dictator. Even David Cameron felt obliged to bow to the inevitable. He described News International’s behaviour as a “disgrace”; he eventually agreed to the establishment of a judicial inquiry; finally, he announced his government’s opposition to News Corporation’s bid for total control of BSkyB. Very reluctantly, News Corp announced the bid’s withdrawal. For Rupert Murdoch this was probably the most bitter moment of the whole affair, even worse than the loss of Rebekah Brooks or the subsequent retirement of his son and heir apparent from the chairmanship of both News International and BSkyB.

In October 2011, the board of News Corporation decided finally to cooperate fully with the police. Two millions emails were handed over. As a consequence, in two raids in late January and mid February 2012, the Sun’s executive editor, deputy editor, news editor, deputy news editor, former managing editor, crime editor, chief reporter, picture editor and foreign correspondent were arrested on charges of bribery and corruption. To cheer up the non-arrested staff, Rupert Murdoch announced the launching of the Sun on Sunday. For the first time in 40 years British politicians now fell over each other not to be associated with Murdoch. An inquiry was initiated on the question of whether News was a “fit and proper” owner of its 39% BSkyB share. For the moment, Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation were damaged goods.

Rupert Murdoch’s humility did not persist. He soon took to badmouthing David Cameron and his government on Twitter and using his newspaper, the Scottish Sun, to support not merely the Scottish National Party but the cause of Scotland’s independence in the coming 2014 referendum. At the Leveson inquiry Murdoch spoke of how his emotions were stirred by Scotland. He sounded sincere. Yet five years earlier the Scottish Sun had likened voting for the SNP to voluntarily putting one’s head into a hangman’s noose. There was probably an additional dimension to his newfound interest in Scottish independence. For the descendant of nineteenth-century Scottish immigrants to Australia, participation in the break-up of the UK was no doubt an appropriate revenge for his betrayal at the hands of the Tory Party and the insufferable English establishment he had been forced to endure. Stalin once said of Tito that he was convinced that the oceans only came up to his knees. The same might be said of Rupert Murdoch.


Concerning Rupert and James Murdoch there are now two questions of responsibility for the phone-hacking scandal, one relatively narrow, the other of broad cultural significance.

In his evidence before the Commons media committee, James Murdoch claimed that when he agreed to pay Gordon Taylor £700,000 in 2008, he was not aware of the reasons for the payment. It was, of course, vital for him to say this. Otherwise he would have been required to admit that during the four-year period of the “rogue reporter” defence he had known all along that News International, the company he chaired, had maintained an outright lie.

Murdoch’s claim is almost impossible to believe. Firstly, the lack of curiosity defies common sense. The Taylor payment was not merely very large, it was 30 times greater than any previous settlement in Britain for a breach of privacy civil suit. But there is more to it than this. Following James Murdoch’s testimony to the Commons media committee mid last year, Tom Crone and Colin Myler released a statement:


We would like to point out that James Murdoch’s recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation is mistaken. In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers.


Crone and Myler’s evidence is well known. Unknown till now is some additional evidence in Dial M for Murdoch. After his arrest, Neville Thurlbeck asked if he could see Watson in secret, in hope of clearing his name. They met on 10 October 2011. Thurlbeck told Watson that he had urged Crone not to show James Murdoch the ‘for Neville’ email, which he thought would damage his reputation. Crone told him this was impossible: “Nev, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to show him because it is the only reason why we’re having to settle.” Thurlbeck assured Watson he could not have misremembered the conversation: “I was absolutely on a knife edge.” A week later he and Crone talked. Crone told him that he had indeed shown James Murdoch the ‘for Neville’ email.

At the Leveson inquiry James Murdoch speculated that details of the phone-hacking scandal might have been deliberately withheld from him by Crone and Myler because they believed that if he had been informed he would have acted decisively to cut out “the cancer” at News of the World. It is not impossible that James had by now talked himself around to believing this nonsense. As Nietzsche once wrote: “‘I did that,’ says my memory. ‘I could not have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually – the memory yields.” In their last report, the Commons media committee rather generously stopped short of accusing James Murdoch of lying to it. His supposed failure to inquire into his company’s payment of £700,000 to Gordon Taylor was described as “wilful ignorance”. For his general indifference to the hacking scandal, they accused his father of “wilful blindness”. A majority of the committee – with their eyes upon the inquiry into News Corp’s 39% stake in BSkyB – thought such blindness rendered him unfit to run a major corporation.

At the Leveson inquiry, Rupert Murdoch revealed News Corporation’s latest official line on the hacking scandal. Just as Clive Goodman had for years been described as a “rogue reporter”, News of the World was now to be cast into the shadows as a “rogue newspaper”. Murdoch piously expressed the wish that he had shut down the UK’s most successful Sunday paper years earlier. He absolved his son, the chair of News International during three years of the cover-up, and his beloved Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive for the paper’s last 18 months, of all responsibility for what he readily conceded had been a four-year-long cover-up at News of the World. He informed Lord Leveson that it was principally Tom Crone, but also by inference Colin Myler and even his old mate Les Hinton, who were to blame. Crone had no intention of now becoming the fall guy, describing this as “a shameful lie”.

It is impossible to know when Rupert Murdoch learned of the details of the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World. It does not really matter. For there is good reason to argue that, even if kept in ignorance until very late, he bears the greatest responsibility for the scandal that has tarnished his own reputation and his son’s, and has at least temporarily diminished his political influence.

It was Rupert Murdoch who chose the most flamboyant, ruthless and unethical journalists – often plucked from the show-business pages of his papers, like Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Piers Morgan – to edit his Fleet Street tabloids. It was Murdoch who did more than any other proprietor in the English-speaking world to whet an appetite in the public for salacious and titillating stories. And it was Murdoch who more than any other proprietor transformed Fleet Street tabloid journalism into a profession where success depended on indifference to both the wellbeing of targeted individuals and the means that were routinely deployed to get stories – blackmail, duplicity, surveillance, phone and computer hacking, bribery of police and public officials. After the scandal broke, one News of the World journalist claimed, probably truthfully, that he had not realised that phone hacking was illegal. This is telling of just how toxic the culture at the Murdoch London papers had become.

The extraordinary impact of the phone-hacking affair on the reputation of News Corporation represents a kind of poetic justice. For the specific ethical and criminal issues it raises do not take us directly to the most troubling issues connected with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – the profound influence its coarse populist-conservative house style now exercises over the politics of the English-speaking world; the deeply tangled relationship that has developed between its proprietor’s passions for power and business, where power serves business and business serves power; and the manner in which he determines the political direction of his newspapers directly through intervention and indirectly by appointing editors who internalise his worldview and then, by working towards their owner’s wishes, produce the newspapers they know he would approve of.

There is an additional, deeply interesting dimension to the News of the World affair. The struggle to expose the criminal behaviour of News International was successful not because of the key institutions of the UK – the parliament, the courts or the police. It was successful, rather, because of the actions of a handful of individuals. Aside from the main players – Nick Davies, Tom Watson, Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris – there was a string of very angry victims of Murdoch’s London tabloids – the right-wing motorsport magnate Max Mosley; the publicist Max Clifford; the actors Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller and Jude Law; the politicians Chris Bryant, David Blunkett and John Prescott.

Not all the main players were driven by an abstract concern for justice. To judge from Watson’s book, the relentless solicitor, Mark Lewis, seems to have been mainly interested in obtaining massive payments for his clients. While negotiating a £2 million settlement for the Dowler family, he was happy to describe Rupert Murdoch’s demeanour as “very humbled and very shaken and very sincere”. Meanwhile, one of the campaign’s most formidable members, Max Mosley, the son of the Fascist Oswald Mosley, had indeed organised a sadomasochistic sex orgy but not, as the News of the World had claimed on its front-page splash, with a Nazi theme.

Yet there was one attribute of character that linked the small group who struggled to expose the criminal activities. At a time when many of the most powerful members of British society seemed frozen by an unspoken fear of the Murdoch press, there were at least some who did not capitulate to its intimidation. The truth is that the Murdoch empire has been unsettled by a handful of individuals who behaved as if they were not frightened. Here then is the most important lesson to be learned from the phone-hacking scandal chronicled so brilliantly in Dial M for Murdoch. In contemporary democracies, of all the great political virtues, courage is now not only perhaps the rarest but also the most consequential.

Robert Manne

Robert Manne is emeritus professor of politics and vice-chancellor’s fellow at La Trobe University. His most recent books are The Mind of the Islamic State and On Borrowed Time.

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