09/13/2010 10:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Can the Brits Get Rupert?

Even just a few weeks ago, who would have doubted the outcome of a competition between Rupert Murdoch and the New York Times?

The Times' many-months investigation of illegal phone hacking by Murdoch reporters in Britain is a reminder that while everybody is accustomed to quaking before Murdoch's bullying power, the Times' power, which it tends to use in an awkward fashion (all the more so when it's on its own behalf), is quite a bit more formidable. Murdoch can destroy reputations; the Times can move governments (which is why Murdoch so hotly wants to buy the Times).

Still, as the British Sunday paper, The Observer, asked yesterday, what happens in Britain now that the New York Times has gone home, not just shifting its attention, but, in the American manner, refusing to extend Scotland Yard a helping hand by giving up its research and sources?

This is one of the things the Murdochs are still counting on, that, left to their own devices, the Brits are fairly helpless. So many of the people in government and law enforcement have reputations to protect from the wrath of the Murdoch papers, and, indeed, so many people in media have careers that, at some point, will need a paycheck from Rupert (or from his eagerly vindictive son, James) that push quite purposefully never comes to shove.

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