Tuesday 5 July 2011

The routinisation of corruption

The worst aspect of corruption is its routinisation. It can become so normal, so taken for granted that those who practise it no longer have any idea that they are doing anything wrong. Rebekah Brooks, in charge of NotW when the Milly Dowler hacking took place, and now chief executive of News International, says she knew nothing of the newspaper's illegal and immoral activities while she was in charge. She further says that she therefore has no reason to resign. In my view she has every reason to resign, although she won't.

We don't know, and quite possibly never will know, the truth of who knew what at NotW. But not knowing does not always absolve managers of responsibility. Two things are clear. Firstly that people at and around the NotW had completely lost their humanity to the extent that they took no account of the pain and suffering they might cause to a family in the mist of incalculable distress, and secondly that they were able to interfere with a police investigation into a murder (or, as it was then, a potential murder) with no thought that they might have been doing anything wrong, or might have prevented a killer from being caught. That level of corruption is not benign, not forgiveable, not ignorable. It eats the soul and taints everything it comes into contact with.

Secondly, that kind of behaviour had become so routinised that it had come to be regarded as normal. Possibly one of the most shocking indicators of the state of affairs at the time was the admission by Surrey police that they knew something was going on, but there was so much corruption and interference happening that investigating this one example seemed pointless. It had become routinised, accepted as normal behaviour, even by those who are supposed to guard us against it.

Whether or not Rebekah Brooks knew anything specific is beside the point. Even if she (incredibly) did not know the facts, the air at NotW must have been foetid. The fact that she could breathe it, let alone not notice the stench, indicates that she is unfit for any office which requires a moral compass. Apparently Rupert Murdoch, in his own corrupt judgement, intends to keep her. That is his privilege. But I hope that our government now has the balls to say that his empire should not be allowed to extend its tentacles any further into ownership of either print or broadcast media. It would not be in the public interest to let an organisation capable of such cavalier corruption to expand. It's quite painful to have to say that that is the best I can hope for.


Jacqueline said...

Interesting post Rob. Unfit for any office which demands a moral compass: many offices that once demanded this are now quashing that compass with increasing emphasis on performativity and lack of any autonomy within professions....

Rob Parsons said...

True, but "Everybody does it" doesn't count as an excuse.