Tuesday 12 July 2011

Is Rupert Murdoch the real Lord Voldemort?

The so-called English summer has barely started, yet there seems to be a distinct feel of autumn in the air. Perhaps because so many recent stories are of endings rather than beginnings: the Harry Potter film franchise, the space shuttle and the News of the World, to name but three.

Perhaps all are linked. It does not take the imagination of a J.K. Rowling to wonder whether Rebekah Brooks might secretly be a Weasley, or to see Rupert Murdoch as a dead ringer for the dark lord Voldemort.


Like many others, I deplore the obeisance paid to Mr Murdoch and his acolytes by politicians from both major parties, and for many years I staged my own, personal and entirely ineffectual boycott of his titles and TV channel.

Yet I also love newspapers, and felt real regret as I flicked through the final News of the World, before placing it in my memorabilia cupboard with the last editions of such titles as the Daily Sketch, News on Sunday and Today.

It is easy to be cynical and point out that this is not so much a death as a temporarily suspended animation. The young women who sleep with Premiership footballers will surely only to have to scrape by on a single source of income for a few weeks before the paper is miraculously resurrected as the Sun on Sunday (the sainted ncjmedia luckily having a long-established prior claim on the Sunday Sun).

The shape of things to come?

Is the Murdoch empire peculiarly wicked? Other newspaper proprietors, from Horatio Bottomley to Conrad Black by way of Robert Maxwell, have included a statistically astonishing preponderance of what can only be described as wrong ‘uns.

Nor, one may suspect, are the methods that got the News of the World into such terminal trouble confined to Mr Murdoch’s stable. Most of the great scoops that have set the media agenda of the last few years have been obtained by legally questionable means, such as the Telegraph paying for computer files of MPs’ expenses claims.

Much of the content of the News of the World I personally found irrelevant, where it was not revolting. And, yes, it is easy to despair of a paper whose readers included some so thick that they attacked the home of a paediatrician during one of its periodic bouts of righteous indignation against paedophiles.

But there is also no doubt that the press, whether operating from the gutter or the lofty moral heights of The Guardian, on balance does us all a great service by regularly revealing things that our rulers would prefer to conceal. Which is why we must devoutly hope that the inexcusable hacking of a murdered schoolgirl’s mobile phone does not provide an excuse for a crackdown on the media that will prevent it from monitoring the institutions of government effectively, from our local parish councils to 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.

It is equally vital that disgust with the warped standards of a few does not hasten the decline of the printed media in this country by turning yet more people away from purchasing a newspaper. You are holding one of the world’s great beacons of liberty and education. It is also incredible value for money. Please don’t give it up.

Meanwhile Mr Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB, for which the News of the World was so ruthlessly sacrificed, looks set to be kicked into grass so long that it bears more resemblance to the Amazonian rain forest than the hallowed turf of St James’ Park. Perhaps the US will resume manned space flight before it goes through, and he is certainly going to need all the powers of a Harry Potter to overcome the obstacles that will be put in his way.

So summer 2011 may be proving a touch disappointing, but at least it isn’t all bad news.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

Well said. The H.Potter/R. Murdock cast
comparison especially good.

Hoping the investigation of Mr Murdock's
enterprises and practices spreads over the pond. He has affected and infected our press and publishing as well.