Cameron & Company, finding themselves sinking fast in the Murdoch cesspool, are now talking about the need to REGULATE the news media! As if the solution is to rechannel the so-called 'hacking scandal' into debates over how much to restrict freedom of the press! As you presumably already know, this scandal is exploding; it's now being called 'Britain's own Watergate' on BBC news.

This first diary will deal with a peculiar situation where no one seems to have even noticed the Murdoch factor at work. It's a very minor footnote... or is it?

For Shelley, ‘poets...are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary, and painting; they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society...’ ...In short, "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world"..
- Wikipedia

The Murdoch empire extends not only downwards into the gutter (News of the World, the Sun, Fox News, etc), and rightwards into Wall Street Journal, but also up into the rarified highbrow realms of the TLS (Times Literary Supplement) by far Britain's most prestigious amd powerful organ for arty-literary-intellectual subjects (think of the NY Times book review and the New York Review of Books rolled into one, and double it).

As the non-Murdoch media expresses genuine amazement at how Newscorp has corrupted and undermined British institutions - obviously the media itself, but also the main political parties, the police, even to some extent the military - there's a curious sideshow unfolding that no one is yet connecting with the main story. The Poetry Society, founded many decades ago by T.S. Eliot and friends, is currently breaking apart due to some mysterious resignations, coups, factions, etc. Probably the most influential member of the society's Board of Trustees is the Deputy Editor of TLS. A number of major poets (including the current and previous Poet Laureate) have signed on to an effort to get to the bottom of the situation and demand accountability of the Trustees, whose secret meetings (presumably to change policies and redirect funds) have set alarm bells ringing. But many more poets and literary types have abstained from getting involved. The same deep pockets of the Murdoch empire that have bought off and intimidated politicians and police are possibly now determining the fate of one of Britain's most respected (and surprisingly useful) arts organizations. (The Poetry Society is engaged in some really good work in schools, putting poems on posters in the Underground stations, hosting readings by organizations serving the serving the mentally ill, etc. These 'populist' exercises have been nicely balanced by its influential efforts to preserve and promote the highest 'elite' standards.) The deputy editor of TLS decides who gets reviewed and who doesn't; to some extent he decides who gets published and who doesn't, who becomes a noted literary figure and who is regarded as marginal or mediocre.  The financial power of the Murdoch empire ensures that TLS, possibly the most respectable Murdoch publication anywhere, will always have more influence than its worthy competitors (e.g., the relatively left-wing London Review of Books). If the Murdoch empire (in the person of this TLS deputy editor) decides the Poetry Society will change its direction, and will do so in a way that is secretive and non-negotiable, the majority of people who make their living directly or indirectly through literature, or hope to do so in the future, will think twice before they challenge that decision. No one wants to get on the wrong side of the Murdoch empire, not the coppers, not the politicians, not the poets!

As of today, it looks like the poets may be the last ones to join the general uprising against Murdoch and his minions. I guess they figure the TLS will somehow manage to keep its power and prestige even after the rest of the Murdoch empire crumbles into dust.

In reality, most of those staying on the sidelines just don't want to be known as troublemakers, and don't want any guilt-by-association with troublemakers. Perhaps few have even consciously thought about the presence of a TLS editor on the board, and fewer still have thought of the TLS-Murdoch connection. But conscious or not, I think the intimidating Murdoch Effect is real -- and if there is any truth at all in Shelley's view of what poets really do, this should concern anyone who cares about politics in general, whether or not you read or write poetry.


True or False: Poets are the founders of civil society and the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

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