Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Do We Hate Rupert Murdoch?

I've really never understood the amount of animosity towards media mogul Rupert Murdoch and now that he dealing with the current scandal in the UK over phone hacking, some of these "Rupert haters" are now dancing with glee. The New York Time's Joe Nocera, who usually is an even keeled columnist, is enjoying how the hunter has become the hunted:
Let’s be honest here. There is something undeniably rich about seeing the tables turned like this. When I see photographs of Brooks, or Murdoch, or his son James (who until a few weeks ago was his father’s heir apparent at the News Corporation), sitting in their cars, staring blankly ahead, I can just picture the paparazzi horde jostling to get a decent shot of its prey. Murdoch’s papers have always feasted on scandals like this, picking the bones of their victims. Now Murdoch’s the one whose bones are being picked...

“The schadenfreude is so thick you can’t cut it with a chainsaw,” wrote The Wall Street Journal in an editorial on Monday, defending Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation. (That’s right. After woefully undercovering the scandal in its news pages, The Journal’s editorial page is now leaping to the defense of its owner. Proving, yet again, that The Journal knows where its bread is buttered.)

Well, yes, the schadenfreude is pretty darn thick. Who would deny it? The whole thing reminds me a little of the ending of Ian McEwan’s wonderful novel “Solar,” in which the many awful things the central character has done in his long life suddenly come together to bury him in an avalanche of comeuppance. I’m O.K. with that.
Nocera then lists the sins of Rupert Murdoch, number being Fox News:
Although I generally admire entrepreneurs who build giant companies, Rupert Murdoch, despite giving us Homer Simpson, generally has not been a force for good over the course of his long career. His Bill O’Reilly-ed, Glenn Beck-ed Fox News has done a great deal to coarsen the political discourse. His tabloids have lowered the standards of journalism on three continents — and routinely broken the law on at least one of them. He had dumbed down his prestige papers, like The Times of London. He has run roughshod over cross-ownership rules meant to prevent one man or company from having too much power — and then used his lobbying might to get those rules diluted. He has put kowtowing to China ahead of freedom of the press, even killing a book set to be published by his HarperCollins unit that the Chinese authorities objected to. He has consistently used his media properties to reward allies and punish enemies. It’s a long list.
While I think it's important to look into the phone hacking mess to find out how far up the corporate chain it went, I think it's a tad premature to tar Murdoch with all of this, as if he order folks to hack into phones.

One of the sins that Nocera mentioned is the advent of Fox News and how it has cheapened the public discourse. I'm not a fan of Fox News, but I have always said it has to right to exist. If people don't like Fox they can just ignore it. Also, its not as if political discourse was some kind of Eden before Fox. Fox News is just a symptom of a greater disease, and if it were to disappear tomorrow, we wouldn't all go back to being nice with each other.

All of this hate and schaudenfruede is a bit much. And frankly, at the end of the day it makes those that enjoy it look somewhat small and petty.

Maybe Murdoch is guilty. Maybe he did know what was going on at News of the World. If so, then he should pay the penalty.

But we don't know all the facts. Instead we want to see someone squirm simply because we don't like them.

I don't think that's right.

1 comment:

Simon said...

While we don't know to what extent he knew and countenanced the phone hacking, we do know that he makes his money from unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of individuals, often causing them considerable misery in the process, and that some of those stories (such as the medical details of the former Prime Minister's children) simply could not have been achieved through legal means.

So, yeah, I can understand why some people have a problem with him.