People keep accusing Fox News of running a blackout on the hacking scandal that recently buried the News of the World, a fellow subsidiary in Rupert Murdoch's media empire. Not true! In fact, it just had on a PR man, Bob Dilenschneider, to explain how NoTW was the real victim, subjected to an inexplicable "piling on" by its enemies.
Bob: The NOTW is a hacking scandal, it can't be denied. But the real issue is, why are so many people piling on at this point? We know it's a hacking scandal, shouldn't we get beyond it and deal with the issue of hacking? Citicorp has been hacked into, Bank of America has been hacked into, American Express has been hacked into, insurance companies have been hacked into, we've got a serious hacking problem in this country, and the government's obviously been hacked into, 24,000 files. So we've got to figure out a way to deal with this hacking problem.
Host: The company has come forward to say that it happened a long time ago, at a tabloid, in London, someone did something really bad and the company reacted. They closed the newspaper, all those people got fired, even though 99 percent of them didn't do anything.
Bob: And if I'm not mistaken. Murdoch, who owns it, has apologized, but for some reason, the public and the media going over this, again and again.
Host: The piling on!
Bob: It's a little bit too much. The bigger issue is really hacking and how we as the public going to protect our privacy and deal with it. I would also say, by the way, Citigroup, great bank. Bank of America, great bank. Are they getting the same attention for hacking that took place less than a year ago, that News Corp is getting today.
[They recap other news; China, martians, debt default, etc.]
Host: … We're teetering on default, and what to they do? They're talking about this.
Bob: … and we're dealing with something that happened in London over a decade ago. I don't quite understand it.
Indeed not. But I'm happy to explain it to you, Bob.
Murdoch's newspaper, the News of the World, was the perpetrator in its hacking scandal, whereas the Pentagon and the banks were victims in theirs.
Whereas the Pentagon hack is claimed to be an example of state-sponsored espionage conducted by foreign spies, the News of the World's hack was a simple caller ID spoofing trick used to listen in on a murdered child's voicemail messages; one among countless similar events so exploited.
Though we all use the term "hacking" broadly, punching in a default PIN number isn't quite the same thing as the skills required to hack into banks and governments. You can't pretend these are the same class of problem, unless you're happy being ignorant of the crisis management issues on which you are being presented as an expert.
Also, it's about more than "someone who did something really bad", and it did not end "over a decade ago." These are the specific lies, told to investigators, that have now ensnared Murdoch executives. The discovery that these claims are untrue is why the scandal flared up again! It's why three former editors of the newspaper (forgive me if I have lost count) have been arrested.
Fox's smarmy whitewashing of its sister company's escapades will get a lot of flack, but Bob also embodies an approach to PR that's failed Murdoch so spectacularly these last few weeks: "All the right things have been done from a crisis point of view," he says, so immaculately clueless that you have to wonder if Murdoch's fall, such as it is, was precipitated by spending too much time in rooms full of Bobs.