In a move some might interpret as a cynical attempt at damage limitation, Rupert Murdoch has apologised to the Dowler family. But he didn't have to do it.
Rupert Murdoch may be one of the most powerful men in the world media, one of the most powerful in the world per se, but unlike many people lower down the food chain, including apparently his trusted lieutenant Rebekah Brooks, he appears to appreciate the value of humility. This afternoon he made a personal apology to the Dowler family for the distress they had suffered after the recent shocking revelation that the mobile phone of their murdered daughter, Amanda, had been hacked and messages deleted by some lowlife private investigator at a time when the girl was missing rather than presumed murdered.
When BP was excoriated for the tragic Deepwater Horizon spill, a Doomsday scenario, all the company's Chief Executive Tony Hayward could think of while mouthing an insincere apology was: "I'd like my life back". When the banksters blew billions and were bailed out by the US and other governments, they took their unwarranted bonuses and ran. When Tony Blair was exposed as lying about weapons of mass destruction, he grinned and lied his way out of it. Rupert Murdoch though has said sorry. He didn't have to; it is unthinkable that the man at the top of such an enormous empire would have sullied his hands with what actually went on, but unlike other, smaller men (and woman) he has at least been big enough to admit that ultimately the buck stops with him. The apology has come too late to rescue his media takeover bid, but it has been made.
This must not end here though, and now that David Cameron has finally shown some substance to go with his style and ludicrous talk about a nebulous big society, it won't. This is a story that will run and run, but as Opposition Leader Ed Miliband said, it is not about one man nor about one - thankfully defunct - newspaper, it is about changing the culture. A media tycoon whose underlings engage dodgy characters to hack the mobile phones of teenage murder victims is one thing; police officers who take bribes or sell information to tabloid journalists is another entirely.
We have no doubt seen so far only the tip of a very large iceberg; no one should be surprised if the new investigation in the United States, and other investigations yet to come in other countries as yet unknown, reveal that every tabloid newspaper in the world has been at the same game since the last Millennium.
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