When experienced journalists see Rupert Murdoch and his dynasty in operation, they think,:-
Watching Murdoch’s performance reminded me a little of The Godfather. In the gangster genre, the most powerful mafiosi are often elderly, amiable and rather ineffectual-looking figures in bad clothes, who look like they should be living in old people’s homes, and sometimes are. But that belies their power.
No, I’m not saying that Rupert Murdoch is a member of the Mafia, or behaves like one, or that he has done anything improper. But he is, nevertheless, a great study in the charisma of power. When you possess this kind of aura you don’t need to throw your weight about. You don’t need to look threatening, or bark or growl. In fact, you hardly have to do anything at all, because everyone does your bidding, practically before you have even thought about it yourself. So, I’m sure Murdoch told nothing but the truth when he said, “I’ve never asked a prime minister for anything in my life”. At this level, you don’t have to ask.
While more than 30 individuals wait to hear if they will face criminal charges, reputations are in shreds and political careers on life support, Murdoch, like a Marvel Comics villain, puts on the don’s Borsalino at the end of last week’s show, flashes the re-enamelled fangs and is swept from the Royal Courts of Justice looking triumphant. Of course he has been irreparably damaged by the scandal, as he pointed out several times (like all true villains, Murdoch aspires to victimhood). It’s just that he seems to be suffering a good deal less than anyone else who became entangled with his enterprises.
I sat on a sofa, Brooks perched on the arm of another sofa, and Murdoch walked and talked. He was excitable and angry. “You’ve impugned the reputation of my family,” he said at one point. He called me “a fucking fuckwit” and became furious at my bemusement that he should find our campaign so upsetting, given that one of his newspapers famously claimed that it did indeed decide elections.
Brooks said very little, but, when her boss’s rage blew itself out, chipped in with: “We thought you were our friend”. Their use of language and the threatening nature of their approach came straight from the “Mafioso for Beginners” handbook.
His statement does, however, reveal a much wider and more significant truth: the Murdoch way of doing business. If you come to our parties, if you join us on our yachts, if you are at our cosily-arranged dinner table, we might expect something in return, but we certainly don’t expect you act in a way contrary to our interests. And if our largest-selling newspaper supports your political party … well, it’s not difficult to guess the rest.
In retrospect, that incident in the Independent newsroom was the first sign of a fissure in the edifice of News International. Little more than a footnote in newspaper history it may be, but what it betrayed was a breathtaking lack of judgment and discretion, the head of the country’s most powerful media organisation straying on to the sovereign territory of another newspaper to berate the editor over an incontestable truth in an advertising campaign. It’s the same lack of judgment, together with a monumental arrogance in the wielding of corporate power, that has led us to where we are today. Which, of course, is the eve of the appearance before Lord Justice Leveson of Rupert Murdoch, the capo di tutti capi.
(Another blogger spotted this mafia motif before I did).