The weirdest part of the whole Fall of the Murdoch Empire was not the pie Rupert Murdoch took in the face while testifying before a committee of Parliament. No, it was earlier in that session, when he interrupted his son, James, mid-sentence to say, for the record, that it was “the most humble day of my life.”
Suddenly it all became clear. This wasn’t about wrongs done to families of victims in their lowest moments, or payoffs to crooked cops, or the politics of personal destruction, played out via illegally hacked cellphones and his newspapers’ front pages. No, this was about Rupert having a bad day. We, the world, were being instructed to feel sorry for him, the real victim in all this mess.
Wow, what a moment of insight.
You didn’t have to be Dr. Phil to see a narcissist revealed — a man so self-involved and so trying to make up for some shortcoming that he’s consumed with the pursuit of power. But if he could have seen himself in the mirror right then, like old Narcissus, he wouldn’t have seen the king of the world. No, the picture was of a sad old man, reputation ruined.
The self-involvement runs so deep that when asked if he took responsibility for the actions of the companies he controls and profits from, he simply answered “no.” Hey, there’s a profile in that culture of responsibility his minions like to preach. Later, by many accounts, James Murdoch lied to the committee. Apparently the normal rules don’t apply to them.
Oh, but they do — as many of his current and former executives will soon be able to ponder from behind bars.
For me, Murdoch’s biggest crime is what he did to journalism — he has trashed a precious institution. The wedges his media drive between us prevent us from agreeing on basic facts of the world — and keep us hating the people they tell us to hate. As a result, too many people are just tuning out the whole mess and don’t trust journalism, which the Founding Fathers believed to be our most important tool to create progress as a society.
For a journalist or a newspaper, the crucial commodity is the trust of the people. It’s something that must be nurtured by following ethical standards, common sense and the laws of the land. In an explosion of the hubris that had powered News Corp for years, Murdoch lost that trust. There may be no getting it back. n
Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.