Fear, Power and Rupert Murdoch: The neurology of contempt
Yesterday’s majority decision by a British parliamentary committee that Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to exercise stewardship of a major international company is a bombshell, all the more so as the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has stepped in to support the conclusion. But more striking is the fear being expressed on behalf of those like Clegg and others who are daring – for the first time in two decades – to stand up to the all-powerful magnate. In the past this would have meant political death – largely via the Sun newspaper’s capacity to swing millions of votes, under the Murdoch empire’s direction. This fear is a symptom of the power wielded by this organisation, a power that is unchecked by democratic controls and restraints. The release by James Murdoch during last week’s Leveson Inquiry of emails revealing the closeness of links between Minister Jeremy Hunt’s office and News International shows what the Murdochs are capable of. Clearly they have contempt for the politicians they have held sway over. Two examples: Rupert Murdoch is asked whether he thought British Prime Minister was a ‘lightweight‘. A long pause… then the answer .. ‘No, not then…’ Ouch. Second example was James Murdoch’s testimony when told that Minister Jeremy Hunt, who was supposed to be acting in a quasi-judicial role in deciding about a major commercial issue regarding the Murdoch empire, informed Murdoch junior that he had to cancel the meeting because of legal advice. When told that he could still talk to Hunt on the phone, Murdoch snarled “You must be fucking joking. I will text him and find a time.” This was a young man, son of a magnate’s response to a democratically elected Minister of a nuclear power. Think about it. But it shouldn’t be too surprising. People holding absolute power develop a contempt for those – like some UK Ministers – they hold power over. Contempt arises because those they tend to see those they can control as objects, precisely because they can control them. This is going to be a very, very interesting power struggle, but an unfortunate side effect could be a real diminishing of the vibrant British quality press.