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How the mighty have fallen

JOHN WIGHT on Murdoch’s dramatic fall from grace following the conviction of ex-NotW editor Andy Coulson

Following the conviction of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, Scotland Yard is now looking to interview Rupert Murdoch as a suspect as part of its inquiry into allegations of criminal activity within his British newspapers. 

How the mighty have fallen. The change in fortunes suffered by the billionaire owner of News UK — formerly News International — is considerable.

The power and influence Murdoch wielded over the body politic in this country at one time is now no more. 

From being the man in front of whom ministers, politicians and anyone looking to climb the greasy Establishment pole bent the knee, he has now become untouchable, the political equivalent of radioactive waste.

However, lest we forget, the alacrity with which the political class has lined up almost as one to distance itself from Murdoch and the rancid, reactionary ethos of his media empire is an object lesson in the venality with which it once abased itself before him. 

None of the mainstream parties can claim any moral high ground when it comes to Murdoch, as all could be found jangling in his pocket like loose change over the years. 

Indeed, of the many prominent political voices who have railed against Murdoch and his baneful role in British society, scarce few have been able to do so in the knowledge that they were fighting the Murdoch empire and everything it represents during the long years when its influence was at its height and seemed well nigh unbreakable.

The phone-hacking scandal exposed how the political process was corrupted by Murdoch for decades, to the point where his newspaper group assumed the de facto status of a government within a government, operating beyond the law with all the morals of a criminal organisation. 

The public struggle for power that unfolded between News International and the political Establishment only erupted when it came to light that the crimes committed by the NotW extended to violating the privacy and human rights of “ordinary people,” proving that a corrupt and supine executive can only sustain itself on the basis of an apathetic and passive populace. 

Public revulsion over this issue was not manifested in any tangible form, but the fear of it doing so was enough to produce the unprecedented revolt against Murdoch by the political class that ensued in its wake.

While it would be folly to draw any conclusions from events that are still evolving, let’s hope it’s at least safe to declare that Murdoch’s influence over the political process via his media empire has been irretrievably broken. 

The market for the toxic brand of right-wing populism his empire churns out on a daily basis is, however, another matter. This is where the left, progressives and the trade union movement come in.

For, make no mistake, the culture wars that have defined the realm of ideas in British society over the past three decades with the spread of neoliberalism has proved manna from heaven for the right, which has successfully exploited said cultural differences to place a smokescreen over the issue of class, the only divide in society that counts in the last analysis. 

This has manifested in newspapers such as the Sun, the NotW, the Daily Mail, the Express and the Daily Star being able to get away with claiming to represent the interests and values of “ordinary people” without serious opposition.

While Murdoch may now be yesterday’s man as far as political influence is concerned, the struggle does not end there. For if social democracy is to return to prominence as the cornerstone of a civilised society, the reactionary ideas and values he represents must be sent into the night with him.

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