We have been asked why we have refrained from commenting on the whole Rupert Murdoch affair. The answer is quite simple. Our focus has always been on American politics and the Murdoch “Crises” has seemed to us a whole lot more like Entertainment Tonight than 60 Minutes. But in light of yesterday’s wall to wall coverage of the Murdoch’s appearance before Parliament we acquiesce.
We watched a bit of the testimony and listened to a number of the after action reports and we came away wondering why this scandal comes as such a surprise.
Rupert Murdoch has built a multi-billion dollar news organization that has wielded huge influence within Great Britain for decades. You can’t govern in England without the backing of Murdoch’s press. It is well documented that Mr. Murdoch rubs shoulders with Prime Ministers and holds great influence among the members of Parliament. Murdoch’s vast holdings within the press provide him with incredible power to make life miserable for any politician who crosses his path. And Murdoch has never been shy about exercising that power. Now that Murdoch’s empire is in trouble we see the same politicians who curried his favor treating him like a leper. No surprise there.
As for the members of Scotland Yard, no surprise there either. History is full of examples of members of law enforcement cutting deals with the press. Again, given Murdoch’s vast empire it is not surprising that the tentacles of his organization extended deep within Scotland Yard; all the way to the highest levels. Murdoch doesn’t deal with underlings.
It has been well documented that Murdoch is a tough hands on type of manager. He is known for calling his editors at all hours of the night to discuss the content of the next day’s editions and to verify sources. Therefore we found it quite entertaining to watch Murdoch play the role of frail octogenarian unable to remember specifics and unaware of the sleaze rife within his empire. To believe that Murdoch was unaware of the tactics being used by his staff or the millions his company paid in out of court settlements strains credulity.
The news business is a very competitive business. As such reporters will often sink to questionable measures to get a story. The swarming paparazzi and the sleaze of the tabloids are an integral part of British society. The Murdoch news organization has been a major player in that arena for decades.
It has been said that the marching orders within Murdoch’s news organization are quite simple: “get the story…I don’t care how you get it, just get it…make it happen.” It is the culture of the British press. It is a culture that is swarming, sleazy and not bound by fact or credibility; a culture that made Murdoch billions.
Yesterday Rupert Murdoch learned firsthand what it feels like to be the target of that culture.