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Giovanni Vimercati

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The Disarming Honesty of Rupert Murdoch

Posted: 2/05/2012 20:03

"If you want to judge my thinking, look at The Sun"

-- Rupert Murdoch

With Warhol-ian sarcasm, the sly and powerful 81-year-old media mogul told the Leveson Inquiry that he basically has nothing to hide, let alone fear from this farcical tirade against his corporate stranglehold on public opinion. Mr. Murdoch even told the Inquiry what hyperventilating liberals wanted to hear: that he did fail investigating the hacking scandal properly. He was even asked by a panel of Establishment men (they should know slightly better, shouldn't they?) whether he has ever asked politicians for favors. The answer quite obviously being that it is the other way around as the hilarious exchange between Labour and Tory proves (Labour: "you slept with Rupert!" - Tory: "you did the same 10 years ago!")

If the free press is all about democracy and freedom of speech then News Corp is the contemporary agora, since the demos flock in overwhelming majority to its tribunes, where sexual depravity, meaningless violence and celebrities merrily cohabit under The Sun.
The lurid diet of tabloids (a quintessentially Anglo-Saxon tradition just like democracy...) has never constituted an ethical challenge for the so-called quality newspapers but always a strictly economic one given the disproportionate divide between the respective readerships. Given their culinary habits perhaps it is no wonder that civilized Anglophone readers can stomach pictures of heinous crimes right next to ones depicting voluptuous topless ladies.

What is the point of 'guarding the guardians' when what they provide us with merely satisfy our pathological need for gossip as well as a market demand? Why being so surprised by the extent to which media would go to make their news catchier after having given free rein to the rule of profit and the commercialization of all human spheres?

It is precisely this morbid need for gratuitous violence, prurient details and assorted perversions that should shock a civil society way before the debatable means through which this cultural carnage is assembled (phone hacking, bribes and so forth).
The social and moral degradation that presupposes this vicious hunt for perverted violence and instant justification is never questioned. Even worse, it is benevolently considered part of the national folklore.

To blame Murdoch's empire for the pathetic state of the press and the blood-chilling tactics adopted by his employees is not only naïve but frankly ridiculous. Good old Rupert is a businessman and like every good businessman he satisfies a market demand, no more no less. He is particularly good at it, enjoys the unbridled freedoms of neo-liberalism plus a total lack of awareness or dissent from the general reader.
News of the World, despite what indignant liberals would say, really was part of the English identity, from Winston Churchill to William Hague its columnists were, so to speak, a little bit more than ordinary hacks...

Those who accuse Murdoch of pursuing a right-wing agenda may have forgotten that 18th day of March 1997 when The Sun's front page blessed New Labour's leader Tony Blair and endorsed his nomination for supreme commander of Cool Britannia.
That front page marked what at first seemed to be the most unexpected political switch of the century and today appears to be the masterstroke of a true right-wing genius.
Foreigners might be unjustly depicted in Murdoch's newspapers but they are no strangers to his family when it comes to business. In fact Kingdom Holding Company, a firm controlled by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud from Saudi Arabia's ruling dynasty, is the second biggest shareholder in News Corp, behind Murdoch's family.
Saudi Arabia accidentally enough never makes it to the list of evil nations constituting a threat to mankind. Its female population apparently does not undergo the tormenting vexations that its Iranian counterpart has to endure. One wonders why.

The Leveson Inquiry will sink without a trace as did the Chilcot Inquiry, none will of course be charged and people will still be craving for more gutter news. Had it been a popular jury to put the media magnate on trial, he would have been probably covered with flattering comments about how pleasant he made our lives thanks to his immaculate infotainment. Unfortunately this is a "members only" debate, and what is being debated is serious and expensive business (the acquisition of BSkyB among others) although the feeble pretence is that of showing us how democracy functions. If you make a mistake, we will make you say sorry in front of everyone. That is precisely what Murdoch did and that is precisely why in Murdoch, we still trust.

 

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