Much has been written about the bizarro, those-who-live-in-glass-houses-shouldn't-throw-stones editorial in today's Wall Street Journal that gets all righteous on the anti-Murdoch minions over the News Corp. hacking scandal.
Suffice to say, all the WTF comments from the likes of Jay Rosen, Staci Kramer and Keith Olbermann are predictable if justified.
The editorial is weird, even by WSJ standards. Sure, it's nice to stand up for the old man and his company who issue your paychecks. But the grapes peeled on page A12 aren't sour; they're putrid rounds of multi-colored mold.
In braying for politicians to take down Mr. Murdoch and News Corp., our media colleagues might also stop to ask about possible precedents. The political mob has been quick to call for a criminal probe into whether News Corp. executives violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with payments to British security or government officials in return for information used in news stories. Attorney General Eric Holder quickly obliged last week, without so much as a fare-thee-well to the First Amendment.
Of course, it's the Journal, so the "political mob" is code for Democrats, though Journal fave Peter King has also whispered about the need to check out whether News Corp. was hacking phones of 9/11 victims.
Fare-thee-will to the First Amendment? Please. The problem isn't just what was written. It's with how that information was obtained. And even, as the editorial suggests, the "foreign-bribery law has historically been enforced against companies attempting to obtain or retain government business," so what?
There's nothing wrong with prosecutors getting creative to prosecute a felony so long as they have the law on their side. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. This priggish self-righteousness is beyond the pale, even for the Journal editorialists, who make one last gasp in saying:
Applying this standard to British tabloids could turn payments made as part of traditional news-gathering into criminal acts. The Wall Street Journal doesn't pay sources for information, but the practice is common elsewhere in the press, including in the U.S.
No sale. And that's what this is about anyway. If journalists want to engage in checkbook journalism, that's their business, however sordid it might be. That's not forbidden. But if that information is illegally obtained, then it's go time in the criminal docket. It's all too easy to wonder whether the Journal would get as uppity if the name in the spotlight was Sulzberger instead of Murdoch. All too easy indeed.