Breaking News: Sex, Lies and the Murdoch Succession by Paul Barry


By Margaret O’Connor

1 November 2013

If you want a quick and telling glimpse of the psychopathology that infested Rupert Murdoch’s power house tabloid News of the World (NoTW), turn to the Leveson Inquiry Hearings for Wednesday, 29 November, 2011. On that day, Paul McMullan, ex-NoTW reporter, reluctantly gave testimony about his work practices there – and, in defence of his and his colleagues’ calculated violations of others’ rights to personal space and boundaries, became globally famous for his take on the concept of privacy, proclaiming ‘privacy is for paedos….privacy is evil… allows (people) to do bad things.’

Then in response to this, Counsel to the Inquiry, Robert jay QC,  asks ‘could I test that?’ and proceeds to skilfully and deftly draw McMullan out into revealing the amoral trade in human vulnerability he and his ilk dealt in. The gist of the questions that follow is ‘What about Jennifer Elliott?”

In the mid 1990s, Jennifer Elliott, daughter of famous actor Denholm Elliott, was homeless and occasionally used sex work to finance her heroin addiction. McMullan bribed a police officer for information about her whereabouts. He tracked her down, and over the following months, befriended her. He then betrayed their friendship by using it as the basis is for a series of articles in NoTW about her situation, ‘golden girl on the red carpet as her dad goes to pick up a Golden Globe…and here she is with dreadlocks covered in dirt….offering passers-by sex in return for money’.

Think of it. A vulnerable young woman in the thrall of addiction is living on the streets. A corrupt copper tips an opportunistic reporter off as to her whereabouts. She becomes a headline. A few years later, the cumulative effect of everything shitful in her life, including, in McMullan’s words, the fact that his media exposure had ‘absolutely humiliated’ her, takes its toll and she hangs herself. Of all the stories of the hacking scandal victims, that of Jennifer Elliott haunts me the most.

The phrase ‘destroyed lives’ has been repeatedly used in reference to the News Corporation hacking scandal. But it did exactly that. The hacking scandal was lethal.  Alexander Mosley, son of Max Mosley (who testified at the Leveson Inquiry on 24 November), escalated his drug abuse and eventually died of an overdose, unable to bear the shame of having his father reported by NoTW as having Nazi-themed sex with prostitutes (heavily emphasising the fact that Mosley’s father was British fascist leader Oswald Mosley). British High Court Judge Eady found the Nazi theme of the reports had ‘no genuine basis at all’, when Mosley sued NoTW for breach of privacy and said ‘no amount of damage can fully compensate the Claimant for the damage done. He is hardly exaggerating when he says his life is ruined’.

Then there was Charlotte Church, who after years of NoTW reports about her, including her family and her mother’s mental health issues, settled her legal action against News Group newspapers in February 2012, out of concern for what a protracted court battle was going to do to everyone’s health and well-being.

Mosley and Church’s stories get the space they deserve in Paul Barry’s book ‘Breaking News: Sex, Lies and the Murdoch Succession’ (Allen and Unwin).  Journalist Paul Barry is currently host of ABC’s ‘Media Watch’ and has written several books on media-related matters including ‘Rich Kids: How the Murdochs and Packers lost $950 million on One.Tel and ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The James Packer Story’.

But the strength of Barry’s book about Murdoch is it tells the whole story – or should I say, stories; the real human beings at the pointy end of the newspaper sales and headlines, as well as the crunchy legal stuff (a big shout out to his editors.)   The book forensically dismantles the ‘one rogue reporter’ claims, for example.  Then there’s the incredible tale of Jeremy Hunt, who was Culture Secretary at the time of the BskyB tender process in 2010, for which News Corp had launched an £8 billion takeover bid,  and who had what was revealed to be rather creative ideas about overseeing was what meant to be a quasi-judicial process.  And as for David Cameron, you won’t believe a Prime Minister of a G8 member state could be capable of composing such cringe-making texts (to Rebekah Brooks).

And for us random scruffy and obsessed media junkies lurking in the community, fascinated by the Fourth Estate intersection of and interplay between power, money, words and vested interests (including ours), Barry’s book is a fantastic resource.

But primarily, of course, it is the story of one man at the very top of this apex of money, power, influence, and scandal. Covering much of in the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, it is fluent yet comprehensive, with a not-too-much-not-too-little approach to Murdoch’s life and his acquisitions: papers, money, wives, children, Prime Ministers and power. Unbelievable power.  Murdoch was, and is, so powerful that all he had to do was crook his finger and Tony Blair instantly jumped on a jet and flew halfway across the world to attend on him and to beg assurances of his support at the height of the 1995 U.K. General Election campaign.

With the trial of Rebekah Brooks (and  others) ramping up,  the most gripping instalments in this monumental saga may be yet to come. For at the end of the day, newsworthy or not, we are all just untidy, vulnerable human beings, Mr Murdoch. We all bleed when we are cut, and we all have messy edges.  All of us.

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  1. Murdoch is less than dog shit.

    And “Slick” Abbott owes him.

    Time for Australians to be a disruptive influence on News Corp.

  2. Tonight … Friday 1/11/13 … Murdoch had a little soiree at Brisbane’s City Hall (which is also owned by him … with the LNP doing the cleaning, look for photo of Murdoch with the cleaning staff couple).

    The knees up was to celebrate the “creativity in News Corp journalism” …. without doubt a big winner here in Australia since Murdoch gained control of 70% of the print media and 2013 has been the nadir of journalistic political creativity, where a useless tit became Prime Minister.

    There was also something called “excellence” supposedly involved …. but everyone knows that Murdoch has no comprehension of that.

    • I can only imagine what sort of cleaning has been undertaken by the LNP.

      The Murdochracy must be utterly destroyed and its leader beheaded (metaphorically, of course although…) and his putrid corpse jettisoned into the sea. And no Murdoch should be allowed to own anything remotely connected with the media.

      I’ll definitely be getting my hands on a copy of Paul Barry’s book and spreading the word.

      Pity The Guardian isn’t also dead tree. At least those of us in Rupert only states would get a chance at an alternative news source. A lot of peeps read dead tree in regional Aust. I no longer contribute to Rupert’s fortune, but many do.

  3. Ah Paul Barry,a breath of fresh air in the stifling cesspit of power manipulatory machinations done by the festering ogres.

  4. Sue Donovan says

    Am about to run to the local bookshop to buy a copy of Paul Barry’s book. Extraordinary to think Murdoch has the nerve to lecture Australia on what our country should be doing. With the revelations from the News of the World hacking trial hitting the headlines, one would think that Murdoch would be travelling incognito. And it’s no coincidence that one of the executives of the Wall Street Journal is in Australia preaching against the evils of public broadcasting!

  5. So true bighead. Courageous work by Paul. Truth is scarce in the area . Power and greed abound. Do what I want OR your future is bleak is the way it works. Enough is enough.

  6. The News Corpse staff commit their excesses & mendacities all with the full imprimatur of their evil supreme leader.

    It is a shame Lachlan Murdoch seems to have returned to the fold. There was some respect for him when he left the family business & wriggled out from under his father’s thumb. Not any more.

    • The power of money, Joy. Return to the fold or you’re on your own. Lachlan could have opened the Murdoch Pandora’s box, but chose not to, I imagine.

      I hope this latest trial in the UK & Col Allen’s trial in the US, marks the beginning of the end for the Murdochracy and his corrupt playthings the LNP

      Followed by stringent media ownership legislation & Canadian style truth in news reporting legislation.

      • Very true, Jane. Regrettably, any tightening up of press regulations &/or ownership will never happen whilst the present government, owned & paid for in full by the extreme right IPA as well as media & mining moguls, is in power.

        Cannot think of anyone who is so sickeningly evil & manipulative as Murdoch whom Abbott worships on a par with his confessor Pell. Makes me nauseous.

  7. When the awful news broke on Murdoch’s British manipulations, I could not get over the fact that some Australians would comment like “just because he’s been found to be phone hacking in England, doesn’t mean he’s doing the same here in Aus.”

    Yes, Murdoch is and does – will we ever hear about it?

    … only if a Labor/Greens coalition head the next federal government… even then I won’t be holding my breath.

  8. If only Murdoch had to front up to another inquiry. Wendy won’t be there to protect him.

  9. I can hear John Roskam saying with a smile, “It’s only the rough and tumble of politics”.

  10. And, of course, we all know that none of these shenanigans would EVER happen here in Australia. NEVER! Here Murdoch (et al) is as pure as the driven snow!!

    Consumers of Murdoch garbage seem to be well and truly brainwashed, there must be a serious ‘educational’ operation under way. I’ve heard that Fox News/Foxtel is the great “savior” of the Australian media, maybe even of Hollywood! Wish I could be more specific but I was far too busy coughing and sputtering to make sense of the argument. But some people truly believe he’s a “GOD”.

    Surely there must be some teeny, weeny bit of dirt to dig up here in OZ!!!

  11. Eva Makowiecki says

    Murdoch’s Australian newspapers and Fox news. Getting hard to tell the difference. Does Rupert actually employ journalists any more? Or have they just sold their souls? Either way, there’s precious little ‘journalistic ethics’ in this country’s (Murdoch) press.. And Sky News – you lost me when you had Graham Richardson and Allan Jones advertising for you! Possibly the two most repulsive men on air – and you think they are an attraction?

  12. truthrevealed says

    Only the good die young, & if this old codger has anything to do with it, he will be around for a long time yet! The old bastard!

    • joy cooper says

      Truthrevealed, I have read the evil old coot travels with his own doctor, longevity specialist (ho hum) & other such idiots, so anything is possible.

      Ewwwww, the thought of having to touch him fills me with horror so these peeps would have to be paid handsomely.

  13. That’s why Wendi Deng should get more. She must have had to earn it occasionally. I must say I was impressed by the “Tiger Lady” when she defended him. You have to look after your assets. How grubby things get when you worship money and power.

  14. The Mr Burns of media world. A sad twisted evil man! I gave up reading News limited to Ruperts Opinions 5 years ago.

  15. Whatismore says