What is the real difference between the WikiLeaks and News of the World stories aside from the presence of The Evil Rupert Murdoch?
Here’s what we know thus far:
News of the World was an immensely popular tabloid newspaper in England. Several of its editors allegedly hired private investigators to dig up salacious information about famous figures, politicians, and even a teenage murder victim. The investigators most often used various common exploits to get into the voice-mail systems of their targets’ cell phones, and brought that information back to their employers, who then worked it into stories to sell more papers. The scandal has enveloped the British government and law enforcement as information continues to emerge on those who ordered the hacking and their relationships with police and public officials. So far, Murdoch has not been accused of a crime, but it could happen as the investigation progresses.
What we have in each case is a group of people who stole (or arranged to steal) private information so they could make it public and thereby enrich themselves. However, the presence of Murdoch, who has become a looming bogeyman to the Left because of his ownership of Fox News, has caused progressives to twist themselves into knots to condemn Murdoch so soon after they praised Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America has led the charge to tie News of the World to Fox News, but they are far from the only ones.
The progressive double-standard was best illustrated by Larry Flynt. In December, he took to The Huffington Post as a champion of free speech to explain why he was going to donate $50,000 to the WikiLeaks defense fund.
“Here’s what I know about censorship: The free flow of information is ultimately less harmful than the impeded flow of information. A democracy cannot exist without total access to the facts.”
Just last week, though, Flynt changed his tune. Now he’s the voice of moderation and responsibility.
“One cannot live off the liberty and benefits of a free press while ignoring the privacy of the people. People such as Murdoch and I, as heads of publishing conglomerates, have a responsibility to maintain and respect this boundary.”
And it’s not just Flynt whose opinion on privacy and the law has turned completely inside-out. The New York Times is quite divided on the issue as well. In an editorial printed earlier this month, the newspaper said, “Investigations into criminal behavior must be taken to their conclusions, wherever they lead. Honest journalists—and they abound in England, as elsewhere—should not fear those inquiries.” However, just months ago, Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, said that “American journalists, and other journalists, should feel a sense of alarm at any legal action that tends to punish Assange for doing essentially what journalists do. That is to say, any use of the law to criminalize the publication of secrets.”
The hypocrisy is dizzying, but not out of the ordinary for the brighter lights of the progressive movement. What makes their flip-floppery so egregious this time is that while the methods used in these stories are virtually identical, the results are as far apart as east is from the west.
The secrets uncovered by the investigators hired by News of the World, though certainly embarrassing and personally sensitive, were fairly mundane. Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that the snoops listened in as concerned family members left messages on the answering machine of a missing 13-year-old girl and erased some of them so that they could get more. While we all recoil from the petty evil that would drive someone to do such a thing, the information they got didn’t put lives at risk.
The WikiLeaks documents, according to the New York Times, gave out identifying information about “dozens” of informants and others who were cooperating with our soldiers against the Taliban. Indeed, once the Taliban heard of the leaks, it pored over them in the hope of finding enough information to kill those named in them, or any members of their families they could find. As the Taliban spokesman said, “We know how to punish them.” We do not know how many people are dead right now because Bill Keller and his newspaper broadcast the material stolen by Julian Assange’s supplier, Bradley Manning, but we can reasonably estimate the number was more than zero.
This type of document dump, then, is what the Left defended months ago, though today they excoriate a man who could be accused, at most, of sifting through the electronic version of some people’s mail. Again, let me say without equivocation that what happened at News of the World, if true, was criminal and those guilty of breaking the law should be punished without hesitation. However, those on the Left can spare me their self-righteous pontifications.
The only thing Rupert Murdoch ever killed was the Left’s stranglehold on the mainstream media.