BEVERLY HILLS—It didn’t take long for blogs and editorial pages throughout the realm to react to Larry Flynt’s weekend editorial in the Washington Post on the Rupert Murdoch/News Corp phone hacking scandal. Most made the point that it has to be a pretty bad scandal for a pornographer to take the high road.
But it is that bad, and maybe much worse. As controversial as Flynt and his main publishing organ Hustler magazine have been over the years, one would be hard-pressed to recall a time when the top police commanders in either New York or Los Angeles had to resign because they were too cozy with either pf them. The fallout from the hacking scandal, on the other hand, is only escataling, and now Murdoch himself may have to go, or at least recede into the corporate background. The question, Flynt wonders, is the extent of the damage already wrought.
In a screed titled, “Rupert Murdoch went too far,” Flynt took Murdoch personally to task for publishing “what he wants, apparently regardless of how he gets information and heedless of the responsibility associated with the power he wields.”
Flynt further expressed his concern that the advances brought about by a “new generation of reporters striving for raw, honest journalism” are threatened by “Murdoch’s minions,” and posed the question, “Will his alleged machinations further degrade what little faith people have in what they read in their newspapers?”
Flynt’s main concern seems to be with Murdoch’s apparent disregard for people’s privacy, which he believes is for all intents and purposes nonexistent.
“Murdoch’s enterprises have consistently published stories about people who did not give permission to have their private lives dissected in the media—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he wrote, listing a number of allegations levied against the seemingly indomitable Fox News parent. One of the more egregious charges that the medical records of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s infant son had been compromised has since been detracted by the Guardian, but the totality of the remaining accusations nonetheless indicates an utter disregard on the part of News Corp staff for the very concept of privacy.
Indeed, as far as Flynt is concerned, privacy is all but disappearing from our daily lives anyway, and he blames social networking giants, with the blessing of the political class, for the dismantling of our expectations of privacy.
“Our political leaders allow companies such as Google and Facebook to continually infringe on this right,” he wrote. “Both of those companies serve as data mines, selling information about their users. Facebook, behind a mask of individual privacy settings, has almost single-handedly killed privacy; founder Mark Zuckerberg has actually stated, according to reports, that he doesn’t believe in privacy.”
As a dyed-in-the-wool leave-me-the-fuck-alone libertarian, Flynt can’t help but see a connection between a right to privacy and his right to conduct his business without being under a constant threat of an obscenity charge.
“The government,” he insisted, “needs to get back to its roots: protecting the privacy of its citizens while encouraging the individual freedoms on which this country was founded.”
But Flynt also strongly asserts that as “offensive or distasteful” as some people may find his publications, the difference between how he has run his “publishing conglomerate” and the manner in which Murdoch has run his is the difference between night and day.
“I do not create sensationalism at the expense of people living private lives,” he wrote. “Yes, I have offered money to those willing to expose hypocritical politicians — one of those offers, in 1998, resulted in the resignation of Bob Livingston, a Republican congressman from Louisiana who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton despite his own extramarital affairs. I focus not on those who are innocent, but rather on those who practice the opposite of what they very publicly preach. This may be considered an extreme or controversial practice in getting a story, but it is far from criminal.”
It is precisely this point, that Hustler’s journalistic morals soundly trounce those of News Corp. that got the mainstream media’s attention.
“Is there any media mogul who doesn't now have the moral high ground on Rupert Murdoch,” asked the Daily Beast. “Larry Flynt is the latest publisher to chastise the head of News Corp.”
“Larry Flynt may be the king of smut publishing, but don't get him wrong,” said Newser. “The man still respects some good, old-fashioned boundaries when it comes to the press.”
The Sydney Morning Herald opened its piece with, “You know you're in the wrong when Porn king Larry Flynt is questioning your morals.
Even Bill Maher got in on the act the other night, asking the guests on his show, “What’s the difference between Rupert Murdoch and Larry Flynt?” The answers can be found here.