ENDORSEMENTS always ring, for some reason, but condemnation can only wither.
If such is the language of the tabloids, all bells are muffled in the Murdoch empire and careers are dying on the vine. Just to complete our cliche collection, a lot of names are mud in the gutter press.
It couldn't be otherwise. Yesterday, the Commons culture, media and sport select committee joined a queue of those eager to quote that old, infamous Sun headline: Gotcha. The Murdochs, father and son, along with some hirelings, were treated to what the redtops know as a monstering.
Despite the usual divisions within a cross-party committee – its Tory members witlessly keen to spare the Murdochs – reputations were laid waste. If disgruntled News Corporation shareholders needed to be reminded, 81-year-old Rupert "is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company". As the politicians will never admit: better 40 years late than never.
James, the son, meanwhile managed a "wilful ignorance" of phone hacking that would beggar most versions of belief, especially where it concerns the individual who signed the biggest pay-off cheques. Les Hinton, former executive chairman of News International and Rupert's right-hand man for decades, was accused outright of complicity in a cover-up. Others were charged with evasion, deceit and a failure to co-operate.
Fine. So what now? There will be more excitement when the police are done with the likes of Rebekah Brooks, formerly Murdoch's favourite editor. The Met having ambled into action with operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta, there could be fascinating days ahead in the criminal courts. There will certainly be more dramas as Lord Leveson plods through the moral maze of press standards.
In the end, however, some decisions will have to be made. Yesterday, the media select committee brought that day closer, but it answered none of the big questions. Naming and shaming might have been one of the favourite News of the World techniques when Ms Brooks was in charge, but it resolves nothing. Certain of the Murdoch crew could be brought before Parliament to apologise for fibbing. That'll teach them.
A lot of people would like to believe that this is the end of an era. The facts say otherwise. Rupert Murdoch has been exposed and humiliated, it is true. The "corporate culture" was made in his image: who guessed? He will have fresh problems on his hands with shareholders and, almost certainly, with American authorities capable of imposing fines running into hundreds of millions on companies involved in corruption.
But what has he lost materially, thus far? He has been denied the chance to own BSkyB outright, but he holds what he had before the scandals broke. He closed a Sunday newspaper in an apparent act of penance, but opened another, less costly replacement in short order thanks to the great, dozy British public. He still dominates print journalism and rivals the BBC – in certain regards outguns the BBC – in broadcasting.
Yet this individual is "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company"? How does that square? Which politician, especially among the Tories, is prepared to make amends for the outrage perpetrated by Margaret Thatcher in the late 1980s when she blew a hole in cross-media ownership rules to give Mr Murdoch, his papers and his "non-domestic satellite", their dominance?
Part of the fun of the last fortnight has been observing each of the parties accusing the others over their dealings with Rupert Murdoch. It's like watching a surreal game of snap. Ed Miliband hectors David Cameron over Jeremy Hunt and the BSkyB bid. The Tories dredge up grovelling Gordon Brown and bashful Tony Blair. Alex Salmond is accused of offering a free-calls, jobs at-any-price policy towards Rupert Murdoch and counters – I summarise – that everyone else was at it.
All parties are devoted to a free press – we should try it some day – and all are shocked, deeply shocked, to discover the real nature of the Murdoch empire. To hear them tell it, they had no inkling about Rupert until Milly Dowler's phone was hacked. They have since been in hiding, each of them, behind Leveson, the cops, select committees, debates over the ministerial code, and weird versions of due process.
It won't last forever. In time, his lordship will report and recommend. In due course, the courts will have done their work. Parliament will have voted on the select committee's report. Mr Murdoch's international investors might by then have forced him to step aside or give up his antique interest in newspapers, but the questions will remain. Chiefly: what now?
Media regulation has become a popular idea among politicians who claim they believe in press freedom yet say they have cowered before one foreigner for four decades. The people who spent Christmas with Rebekah, or staged "slumber parties" with Mrs Murdoch, or attended Rupert's agreeable receptions, are the ones who will have to decide how to prevent phone hacking, police corruption, corporate intimidation and the rest from happening again.
You can see the problem. You can therefore see why journalists wince at the word "regulation". By that lot? Politicians care more about favourable coverage than they ever will about press ethics. Personally, I might favour a privacy law. On the other hand, I can predict exactly how such a law would be used by a minister with a small problem involving, say, speeding tickets. Ofcom might – might – have something to say about Mr Murdoch's fitness to hold a broadcasting licence. Journalism is a different matter.
Britain has a poor record in demonstrating a capacity for independent regulation: who picks the regulators? Corporate Britain is not keen, either, on diversity: it tends, like Murdoch, towards monopoly. Our "press freedom" is meanwhile hedged around by state security, defamation laws for the rich, a debased freedom of information regime, and by government's habit of hoarding and suppressing truth.
Rupert Murdoch didn't spring from nowhere. The political class made him possible. You might almost say they made him inevitable. They now have a duty to clear up the mess: hope springs eternal. Now count the ones looking for favourable headlines.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.