No Surprise Here: A New Scandal at News Corporation

No Surprise Here A New Scandal at News Corporation

(Photo: Kitra Cahana / The New York Times )

I see that the Murdoch empire is facing another scandal — this time involving misleading advertisers rather than readers, by inflating circulation numbers.

Nick Davies reported in an article for The Guardian published on Oct. 12: “One of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior European executives has resigned following Guardian inquiries about a circulation scam at News Corporation’s flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. The Guardian found evidence that The Journal had been channeling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about The Journal’s true circulation.”

Wow. And yet we should have expected something like this to come to light.

My sense, after 11 years of punditizing, is that people are complicated, but gangs of people less so. Individuals are often mixed in their behavior: incorruptible politicians may cheat on their spouses, political scoundrels may have impeccable personal lives. But groups, like a politician’s inner circle or the management team of a media empire, tend to behave similarly on multiple fronts. If they lie and cheat routinely in one domain, they tend to do it in others as well.

In fact, that’s how I knew early on that the George W. Bush gang was cooking up a fake case for invading Iraq. I knew that they routinely cooked up fake cases for their preferred economic policies; I could verify that by doing the math. And the way they were making the case for war sounded just the same as the way they made the case for cutting taxes on the rich, with an ever-changing rationale for an unvarying goal. At the time I got a lot of grief; people clutched their smelling salts and asked how dare I suggest that the president would mislead Americans on matters of national security.

Well, you know how it turned out.

So the Murdoch people lie routinely about politics and policy; they breach all normal rules of conduct by hacking into people's phones. They really should curb their proclivities when it comes to advertisers — I mean, truth and justice are disposable, but this is business!

But they really can’t help themselves, because this is who and what they are.

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Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.

Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007). Copyright 2011 The New York Times.