Tuesday, July 19, 2011

murdoch scandal and new technologies

The Murdoch scandal which has been going on for the last two weeks has many aspects: the cosy relationship between politicians and the media, the corruption of the British police, the limitless appetite of the public for titillating gossips. However, one point is rarely stressed, the impact of new technologies on the fabric of information, any kind of information.

Muckracking press is not new. Before the French Revolution, outrageous pamphlets circulated in France and in neighbouring countries. On the beginning of the 20th century, a yellow press was highly successful in the US and in France. Well before Murdoch, the Bild in Germany or, yes, the News of the World in the UK manipulated shamelessly the opinion and the politicians.

And yet, new technologies have drastically changed the game. It is very easy to listen to voicemail and private conversations on cell phones. As it was described in the bestseller Millenium, talented hackers can penetrate the intimacy of any owner of a computer and a mobile. Last but not least, the most vicious gossips and pictures are spread in a few minutes on the Web, thanks to Twitter and Facebook.

The way information worked in the 80's was closer to the Ancien Regime circulation of news than to the present day. But, the rule of law and the ethics of journalists, this dirty word, have never been adjusted to the new world of the media. When a cynical, omnipotent boss is in charge, you can easily imagine what happens. We are right in the middle of a terrible mess that shakes our democraties. We'll discuss the possible solutions in another blog.