Saturday, July 16, 2011

Proletarianization, Les Hinson, News of the World - evidence

Proletarianization in action - the internet, the uneducated and News International

"If Rupert Murdoch asked me to get him his lunch I still will."

Back in the day when I worked for News Corporation's suburban newspapers in metropolitan Melbourne, Australia, Les Hinson was "the man." Or perhaps it was the talisman? He was the standard for success in News Corporation - total, unmitigated loyalty. Like Rebecca Brooks who allegedly started as a receptionist somewhere in the bowels of News (Hinson as a 15 year old copy boy), these executives were uneducated. No university is mentioned in their bios. In fact, Hinson may not have completed high school.

Both Hinson (most recently chief executive of Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal)  and Brooks have resigned from News International.

My first point and I will return to this later, is that Hinson, the outstanding "lieutenant" and Brooks, were  bereft of any theoretical framework with which to view their obligations to the corporation. In polite society where corporations are given carte blanche to do pretty well anything as long as they are not caught, loyalty is the only required quality.

Hinson claimed he was "ignorant" of the hacking at NOW when he was running the London operation.

This is a subset of my theory of proletarianization - the absence of Enlightenment principles like civility and compassion give way to anything that advances the bottom line. Ignorance is just a short hand way of admitting to and absence of curiosity: the condition of the untrained mind. The internet makes thess bottom line objectives of willful ignorance without civility or compassion more possible because it is unregulated - meaning there is no recourse to the standards of civil society. The uneducated can invoke this much better than anyone else because they have no theory, no moral compass. Their compass is loyalty... The banality of loyalty...Hanah Arendt anybody?

Hinson gave a talk on March 10, 2011 at Boston College's CEO Club which is where the epigraph comes from. Titled "News, Information and Technology: The New Age of Collective Intelligence," the talk is full of the kind of self-serving self interest that long term watchers of the internet have come to expect.

In reporting the talk The Boston Globe (July 16, 2011, page A3) drew attention to Hinson's comment, highlighted by the CEO Club: "Everything we know about news and information is changing - what it is, where it comes from how we consume it, and what we can trust."

That's why they pay him the big bucks!

This is why proletarianization theory is a powerful tool for understanding what's happening here. There are no rules and News Corporation used the unregulated, (can I say?) lawless world of the internet to enter the space of change.  This is the "creative destruction" world where business opportunities and new social relations are made and magnified - Joseph Schumpeter was right.  As I noted in an earlier blog, the original News International  blog scandal was in the earlier 2000s, specifically 2005 when there was even less understanding of the new internet domain.

Rebecca Brooks and Les Hinson "oversaw" the use of internet-based activities to hack phone calls and it seems, took private files of everyone from Jude Law, Elle Macpherson and the former British PM Gordon Brown. Apparently Hinson is married to a former adviser to Gordon Brown! This is a study in the culture of loyalty at News Corporation and elsewhere. In the unregulated world of proletarianization, loyalty maximization is always invoked.

But wait - more evidence of what really matters in the highly structured world of the Enlightenment past appears in The Guardian. Rupert Murdoch, on July 15 personally apologized to the Dowlers, the parents of Mill, the murdered girl whose phone NOW's people hacked. Here we get back to basics -    

Lewis (their lawyer) said Milly's parents, Sally and Bob, and her sister, Gemma, had told Murdoch his newspapers "should lead the way to set the standard of honesty and decency in the field and not what had gone on before".
Murdoch had replied that the News of the World's actions were "not the standard set by his father, a respected journalist, not the standard set by his mother", Lewis said.

With the internet, this appeal for going backwards to earlier principles of moral certainty will not have much appeal.

As a Melbourne boy and a former employee of Murdoch's News Corporation, I know how close Rupert Murdoch and his family are. There's a mountain of sentiment there. My experience suggests that his mother has told him to get the house in order. He will try to make Enlightenment principles part of his quest for salvation.

Proletarianization suggests that the internet will put paid to such a quest and to News Corporation as it has been known. Rupert Murdoch will start by hiring educated executives to run his business.

Uprising: The Internet's Unintended Consequences by Marcus Breen