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17:02

Phonegate and MSNBC's Quiet Car: No War on Uncle Rupert?

I'm writing this from the Acela quiet car (look there's Joe Biden - hiya pal!), which is zipping in whispers past the clear summer beauty of Newark backyards and the Thomas Eakins version of the Schuykill en route to Washington - where, it seems, the Beltway crowd of voices (ever-evolving, always wrong) still doesn't get it.

Latest example: MSNBC's Chuck Todd, who reacted this morning to the metastasizing Murdoch hacking scandal by comparing what News International has done in Britain to the TMZs and National Enquirers in this, our American nation. Surely, posited Todd, the unrolling of Murdoch's empire in the UK was a warning shot across the bow of tabloid culture.

But it's hardly tabloid culture that provides the most shocking elements of the Phonegate horror. The pursuit of sensationalism isn't on trial - nor should it be, to my thinking.

What's on trial is the illegal and immoral encroachment into private data by a hegemonic organization with the evident and sickening power to tell a democratic government exactly what to do.

That this should be lost on Todd isn't surprising, I guess, in the cozy confines of a Washington "journalism" culture that values relationships in the permanent governing class - the willingness to, ahem, play ball - above almost everything else. It's access baby - the location, location, location mantra of political talking heads.

Then too, there was perhaps a frisson of - oh, I dunno - professional courtesy in the conflating of the tabloids with the egregious and more frightening elements of the Murdoch scandal. It was almost like throwing TMZ and the Enquirer into the commentary was a not-so-subtle misdirection play. Yeah, we don't dig the tabs - but they're our black sheep cousins, and it's not ever going to change. Shrug. Sigh. Back to Bachmann.

While you'd expect MSNBC to be going wall-to-wall over Phonegate and Murdoch's hackers - and the implications on these shores, particularly for erstwhile arch-enemy Fox News or the Wall Street Journal - such isn't the case, at least from what I've been able to see over the past couple of days.

Yet it's that corrupt partnership with political actors that's so slimy in Britain, and clearly available for muckraking here in the U.S. Digby quickly recounts three episodes where Roger Ailes sought to use the power of the Murdoch empire to attack political enemies (including MSNBC), and then concludes:

There is a ton of stuff that we already know about Fox News' intrusion into the political process and blackmailing rivals and political foes. That's what's at the heart of the UK scandals as much as the criminal hacking. There's very little reason to believe that an ethos that so closely tracks in the one way isn't likely to have tracked in the other.

Exactly. So where's the fuss among the biggest liberal voices outside the independent and uncorrupted blogosphere? Could it be that Parliamentary inquiries into multi-national media conglomerates puts a pit into the stomachs of even "the liberal media's" overlords. Does an ebbing tide beach all boats? Or to put it less gently: too much face time with ole Rupe in Sun Valley?

And why did it have to be Patrick Buchanan, of all people, who told the Morning Joe zoo yesterday that "this Murdoch crisis is gonna leap the Atlantic like it's golden pond?"

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Schweinderl