The Rich Are Different

wedding-cakeCall me a hopeless romantic, but there’s something seriously icky about Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall getting married last week.  I’m not one to deny anybody happiness, and if it makes you happy to throw a big party and invite Bob Geldof — knock yourself out.  (Murdoch? Geldof? There’s some irony there!)  My problem is they called it a wedding.  WTF?

People get married for all kinds of reasons, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out even one for these two.  Murdoch is the king of the sleazier suburbs of the media world, and Hall was an A-list celeb whose best-before-date expired when Mick tossed her ass.  Murdoch recently weaselled his way out of jail time (it helps to have a roomful of lawyers and 12 billion dollars) and Hall appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, the supermodel equivalent of doing Depends™ commercials.  What could these two possibly have in common?  Well, I guess that depends.

Geriatric sex aside (which is so kinky even I don’t want to contemplate it) both of these folks have enough money to find far more supple bed partners — and in the past, they haven’t exactly been shy about doing just that.  Besides, Murdoch is rich enough to buy Viagra™ — all of it, including the patent — and rebrand it Halls Sugar-Free Warm-ups™ if he so desires.  So it ain’t lust, folks.

Nor is it money.  Rupert might be rich, but Jerry’s no slouch herself. When you’re worth north of 15 million, it’s not like you’re looking around for lunch money.  Besides, I would think Rupert and his kids had a couple of pre-nups up their sleeve before anybody walked down the aisle — and if they didn’t, that roomful of lawyers I mentioned earlier probably did.  So, the most recent Mrs Murdoch might be a gold-digger, but she’s not using a very big shovel.

Personally, I think Rupert and Jerry just wanted to throw an in-your-face party to show the world exactly how don’t-give-a-shit rich they are.  However, in our Post-Kardashian universe, one more glitzy party isn’t really news now, is it?  So, Rupert, (remember, this guy owned News Of The World) found a headline to hang it on: “I Thee Wed.”  Honestly, if they really are in love and want to live happily ever after, why don’t they just buy Wales and go live there?

Summer: A Time to Wonder Why

Sometimes, reading the news is not the best way to start your day.  I’m not going to recap the body count of disasters pending on our planet, but there seem to be a couple of bucketsful.  So much for the dog days of summer!  Remember when summer was a time when nothing much happened?  When the whole country painted itself into a Norman Rockwell corner and spent the next couple of months lying around, waiting for the colours to dry?  Summer was a time when the beer was cold, young girls were beautiful, old men sat in the park and hot dogs were haute cuisine.  A person could grab a book (that didn’t plug in) and read it or just sit on the grass and contemplate the wisdom of the world.  I’m not lamenting the passing of a former age.  I understand that Rockwell made up those Saturday Evening Post covers, Dennis the Menace was a brat and Father didn’t always know best.  But, however false it might have been, there was a certain security in summer.  It was warm and sleepy.  And there was a vague idea that the bad guys were taking their kids to the beach or something and wouldn’t be plotting our destruction again until after Labour Day.  We had time and leisure to stop and be serious, ask ourselves those insolvable questions or just wonder why.  Nobody ever wonders why anymore.  We all seem to take what we’re given and tough it out.

There’s a famine in the Horn of Africa.  People are starving to death where they stand.  At last count over 10 million folks in Somalia were on the endangered peoples list, and it’s only going to get worse.  It’s common knowledge that Somalia is a basket case country.  Nobody’s in charge, nobody knows what’s going on and nobody cares who does what to whom.  By all accounts, even the Mad Hatter’s is looking around and texting WTF.  But do you ever wonder why we can’t feed these people?  I don’t mean just today or for a while; I mean in the long term.  Why, with all the resources at our disposal we can’t face this human crisis and get things straightened out once and for all? I don’t mean to be flippant, but famines in Africa seem to be one ongoing event.  In my lifetime, millions have died, billions have been spent trying to save them, and nothing ever changes.  We can theorize and chatter all we want about neo-colonialism, addressing the root causes of poverty and blah, blah, blah.  But the reality is we’re doing something wrong.  Do you ever wonder why we keep doing it?

The bottom half of Europe is about to go under.  Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are financially fast tracking themselves into Debtor’s Prison.  They’ve borrowed and spent more money than they can possibly pay back in ten generations.  Panic is no longer optional.  Currently, the best financial minds in Europe are wearing out calculators, trying to figure a way out of this economic crisis– and they aren’t having much luck.  But they better hurry because if things get any worse, it could possibly destroy the Euro and even the EU itself.  Do you ever wonder why responsible governments get themselves into these financial problems?  It’s obvious to everybody else on this planet that you can’t spend more money than you make.  Why hasn’t it occurred to any politicians?  Aside from times of war or natural disaster, governments should never be in debt.  I’m not saying governments should make a profit but they might try managing their citizens’ money a little better.  National pride alone should kick in somewhere.  It always amazes me that people who manage their own money responsibly allow their governments to act like drunken sailors.  (No offence to the nautical among you.)  And this has been going on since Nebuchadnezzar II borrowed millions to build The Hanging Gardens for no apparent reason — other than prestige.  But do you ever wonder why?

Finally, Rupert Murdoch was summoned to answer a few questions in front of members of the British Parliament.  This is the final act in a scandal that’s probably been going on for over a decade.  Murdoch is certain he’s ashamed of his organization, but he’s just as certain he’s not responsible for it.  To be fair, he probably isn’t.  I don’t think he has the technical knowledge to hack a phone.  And I doubt very much that the old boy stood in a shadowy alley and handed an envelope full of money over to Constable X for the police records.  However, the last time I looked hacking private telephones and bribing policemen were crimes.  Somebody is responsible for them, and the money had to come from somewhere.  It’s pretty cut and dried.  Unfortunately, in this case, although everybody admits villainy was involved, nobody admits to being a villain.  Don’t you wonder why somebody from Parliament didn’t just ask Murdoch who did it?  It’s a simple question: “If you didn’t do it, who did?  Where did the orders come from, and who carried them out?”  There are no complications here.  The guy was sitting there for a couple of hours.  He had time to get a pie in the face.  Yet nobody bothered to ask him who actually committed the crimes his company is accused of.  This is unbelievable!  Nobody has that much influence.

Tomorrow, I’m going to take my electronic newspaper out on the deck.  I’m going to sit in the morning sun — with my coffee — and wonder why.  Why with all our technology, knowledge and problem-solving ability, we can’t figure out how to feed people, manage our finances or convict criminals.  I’m going remember lazy summers, long gone, and try to figure out if I have any answers.  Maybe the folks who run the world should give that a try, as well.

It’s Time to Judge Journalists

There’s been a tectonic shift in the cosmic balance on earth this week.  Less than a month ago, Rupert Murdoch was the name mothers used to frighten little politicians.  “Eat your vegetables, Tony, or Rupert Murdoch will get you!”  Today, British lawmakers are skipping through the halls of Parliament, singing “Who’s afraid of the big bad Murdoch?” and have actually invited the bogeyman to come and see them.  (Personally, I thought he’d tell them to go take a hike.)  The reason the Members of Parliament from all points north of Land’s End have found their cojones is that in the great game of sleaze, Murdoch blinked.  He admitted he had his fingers in the cookie jar when he shut down News of the World.  Had he brassed it out, I’m not so sure the honourable members of Her Majesty’s realm would be talking quite so tough this morning.  However, they are, and it’s a new world.  The King of Tittle-Tattle, whose very name used to scare the bejesus out of elected officials in Britain, is going to be judged.  And as sure as eggs is eggs, he’s about to get a thrashing – six of the best, trousers down.  Paybacks are… you get the idea.

However, this brings us to an interesting point.  For more than a century, journalists have been collecting, categorizing and rating everything they could get their grimy little mitts on.  Theatre critics pan plays at their leisure.  Food critics can make or break a chef’s Cordon bleu, and movies flare or fade depending on who gets invited to the Premiere After Party.  Plus, every media outlet has an Op-ed section where editors or anchors blow forth on everything from scientists to celebrities.  No one is safe from journalistic judgement.  If you happen to step into the spotlight, expect somebody with a laptop or a camera to peek into your underwear drawer and critique your selections.  They do this because, in general, the public – us — want somebody (in this case journalists) to sift through the crap of life – books, plays, politicians — and tell us what’s good enough to waste our time on.  It’s easier than hunting this stuff up for ourselves.  Unfortunately, as we’re finding out, things have gotten way out of hand.

Of course, journalistic judgement is all just a matter of opinion, but some critics actually start believing their reviews.  They write and speak as if theirs is the lost testament of the prophet Ezekiel, and wield power like a cut-rate Oprah on Book Club day.  In short, the audience goes to their head.  They expect respect, and when they don’t get it, they become savages.  Cross a journalist too many times and you’ll find yourself playing Lord of the Flies, The Home Game – and you’re Piggy.  Rupert Murdoch’s employees are just the major league version.  Believe me, it works the same with the Willow Bunch Shopper or the North Nowhere Weekly Bugle.  This is how Murdoch got so scary.

However, now that the mob has turned against him and his minions, maybe it’s time we quit relying on journalistic opinion.  Perhaps we should even come up with a rating system for journalists.   After all, they’ve been doing it to the rest of us for years.  Some celebrity gains five pounds and he’s over the hill.  Somebody else makes an unsubstantiated charge of sexual harassment (or worse) and the roof caves in.  And there hasn’t been a politician since 1945 who wasn’t compared to Adolf Hitler at least once.  (Currently, Barak Obama is rated two Hitlers wide and four Hitlers high.)  Maybe it’s time we turned the telescope the other way on these gasbags, cracked out the Sleaze Meter and did some comparison shopping.

The problem is how would you rate them?  Like fast food: sleazy, extra sleazy and super-sleaze-me?  Or maybe like movies, except instead of stars, we could use buckets of slime?  That way we could talk about three and four slime journalism.  Or perhaps we could just use an inverted triangle with Rupert Murdoch upside down at the bottom and the rest of them clawing their way down to get there.  Personally, I like a straight number system; International Murdoch Units.  For example, a newspaper that hacks the phone records of teenage murder victims could be assigned 100 International Murdochs.  A television network that convicts a lacrosse team of rape — without any evidence  – could be given 99.5 Murdochs.  Radio stations that blather on about President Obama’s birth certificate could be given 99 units and so on and so forth.  Journalists themselves could also be assigned numbers starting with Rebekah Brooks who could be 100 Murdochs, Nancy Grace could be 99.999 and guys like Glenn Beck 106.  Then a simple formula of accumulated International Murdoch Units divided by the journalist’s own Murdoch Number would reveal just how sleazy each media outlet is.  Eventually, we news consumers could get a pretty clear picture, and we could adjust our reading, viewing and listening habits accordingly.

This is a great idea whose time has come because, while I do NOT advocate censorship, some really despicable characters have been hiding behind freedom of the press for years.  And somebody better take a good, hard look at what journalists have been up to lately — and not just in Britain, either.