Schadenfreude: that wonderful, uniquely German word that means to take pleasure from another’s misfortune. It is a feeling that we should not entertain very often, but I have certainly been feeling it lately as details continue to roll in over the ongoing phone hacking scandal that has caused the closure of News of the World, Britain’s most successful newspaper.
The scandal, in case you have not been following it, boils down to the king of British tabloids hacking into thousands of private voice mail accounts, including those of politicians, celebrities, various murder victims and possibly even 9/11 victims, all in a bid to get juicy scoops to sensationalize. The scandal first broke when it appeared the News had hacked Prince William’s voice mail to report on a knee injury he had. Since then, the scandal has broken wide, resulting in Parliamentary hearings in the UK and FBI concerns that wiretapping laws were broken in the U.S.
The hacking scandal has sidelined the career of former News top editor Rebekah Brooks and resulted in jail time for numerous News staff, including Brooks herself and Andy Coulson, Brooks’ successor at the News and former media advisor for PM David Cameron. And most of all, it has seriously tarnished the reputation and the legacy of News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch (and his son, James), one of the modern age’s most powerful media moguls. The scandal has also tanked Murdoch’s bid to take over BSkyB, one of the UK’s top satellite television operations. And it has cast doubt over how all of Murdoch’s other media interests are run. That Murdoch himself insists that he had no knowledge of such a widespread hacking practice is laughable, were it also not so cowardly. Citizen Kane has become Citizen Cain, and rightly so.