Timothy Garton Ash: Can Britain Survive Tabloid Fever?






Timothy Garton Ash, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of European studies at Oxford University. His latest book is "Facts are Subversive: Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name."

Britain's drama has penetrated even the carapace of American self-preoccupation.

Legendary reporter Carl Bernstein compares it to Watergate. Hugh Grant appeals to Americans to wake up to Rupert Murdoch's pernicious influence on their own media. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) calls for an inquiry into the activities of Murdoch's parent company, News Corp., and whether Americans' phones were hacked. If it turns out that 9/11 victims were targeted, as suggested by the campaigning British MP Tom Watson, then this will no longer be just a foreign story. Only on Murdoch-owned Fox News is it as if none of this had happened. A clip from "Fox News Watch," filmed during a commercial break, shows the panelists joking about the one story they are not going to discuss. News watch indeed....

I'd put it like this: The Murdoch debacle reveals a disease that has been slowly clogging the heart of the British state for the last 30 years. This is the heart attack that warns you that you are sick but also gives you the chance to emerge healthier than you were before. The root cause of this British disease has been mighty, ruthless, out-of-control media power; its main symptom has been fear....



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