Notes From the Margins…

Rupert Murdoch’s Little Shop of Horrors

  • April 26, 2012
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Facing commercial disaster and the prospect of a criminal investigation in the United States,  the carnivorous plant that is News International is in deep trouble, and the master florist is coming out fighting in an attempt to save his creation.   Yesterday Rupert Murdoch’s testimony at the Leveson Inquiry was very different from his appearance in parliament last year.

Gone was the faux-humility and contrition.  Instead there was faux modesty, cynicism and disdain, broken by convenient attacks of amnesia.   Asked  by QC Robert Jay whether his newspapers exercised undue influence over British politics to the point when they might even be considered ‘anti-democratic,’ Murdoch dismissed such suggestions as ‘myths’ propagated by his commercial rivals and played down the significance of his political interventions over the years.

Nor had he sought to trade off his political influence for commercial advantage.  Asked by Jay whether his desire to improve the commercial position of his newspapers had led him to overlook ‘the ethical side of its product’ he replied:

[stextbox id=”alert”]A. No. It was always to tell the truth, certainly to  interest the public, to get their attention, but always    to tell the truth.
Q. So the touchstones are: truthfulness and write that
which is interesting to the public. Is that it?
A. Yes. I have great respect for the British public, and
I try to carry that through it.[/stextbox]

And again:

[stextbox id=”alert”]Q. I think your evidence is this, Mr Murdoch. You are
completely oblivious to the commercial benefits to your
company of a particular party winning an election; is
that really the position?
A. Yes, absolutely[/stextbox]

You at the back there with the popcorn: stop sniggering or you will be ejected from the auditorium.  For Murdoch is not the only one who is lying or trimming the truth at the edges, and even as the News International plant wilts, it continues to sprout new buds containing the faces of those it has devoured.

Yesterday there was Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt,  shifty, evasive, and utterly unconvincing as he read out a statement that was surely intended to protect his boss as much as himself.    For all his arrogance and bluster,  David Cameron is sounding increasingly shrill and desperate these days, and his attempts to play down his connections with News International are no exception.

Cameron would undoubtedly have preferred Murdoch not to have told the Leveson Inquiry that they met privately on seven occasions – five more than he himself has  publicly admitted to.  But Murdoch is a man who likes his revenge served up cold, and he has lots of dishes waiting in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, outside the parliamentary theatre, Hunt’s special advisor  Adam Smith, the sacrificial offering  could be seen, being  driven away in a car with the sombre demeanour of a man who has just been selected as a participant in  The Hunger Games.    Then there was the loathsome toady Michael Gove, defending Hunt’s honour and probity on television.

Gove has also defended Rupert Murdoch’s honour in the past, as well he might, since his wife is a Times columnist and News International is keen to take advantage of his academies programme and take advantage of the potentially lucrative market in digitalised classrooms.  

And further north, we find Alex Salmond, denying any political quid pro quo in his attempts to lobby on behalf of Murdoch’s BSkyB bid.    Labour are relishing all this for reasons that are entirely due to opportunism rather than principle, given the number of Labour politicians who also appear in the News International tendrils.

All honourable men no doubt.  But it isn’t a pretty sight, this morbid overlap between a ruthless rightwing media baron and the craven and self-interested politicians who have alternately feared and pandered to him over the years.

All of them have played what Murdoch refers to as ‘the game’ and used each other, or tried to, for their own purposes.   And now the feds broken into the florist’s and they the clientele is trying to get out the back door or pretending it was never there.

But Rupert’s Shop of Horrors is easier to enter than it is to leave, and the plant may still have a lot of political blood to drink and more reputations and careers to shred before it expires.

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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