"You don't get it," a member of News Corporation's inner circle in London told me last night, about the phone hacking scandal. "If there was a conspiracy in the company, the conspiracy was to keep Rupert from knowing."
That is called the circle-the-wagons defense. That's called everybody-else-is-expendable. That's called a total freak-out.
The company has been caught as unaware, as unprepared, as incapable of responding, as on the ropes, as it ever has in its 60-year history. News Corp. only knows how to be the aggressor; now it's on the defensive -- and it has to defend itself against the very thing that it has always been, that has always protected it, that is the reason for its fundamental pride: Its newsrooms are down and dirty.
It can only see its predicament in terms of newspapers and what newspapers can do when they are roused to anger. The fault is with the New York Times and how unfair it's playing. Here's what they're obsessed with now at the highest level of News Corp.: How much the Times spent to get its story about how the company's reporters have hacked the phones of anybody who is anybody in Britain.
And while the answer is plenty -- the Times seems to have had reporters on this story for at least seven months -- that does not much help News Corp.'s rebuttal of the charges. Non-Murdoch British news outlets, stymied on this story for more than a year, are in bloom with new investigations and sources, but Murdoch's Times can only bury the story and, with the greatest disapproval, point out that the allegations are being made by its competitors. Harrumph.
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