I’m inclined simply to link to this feature article by Harold Evans from last night’s online edition and today’s paper version of the Guardian. Link to it – and then allow you (I guess – I hope) to fume. But I have to do more. I can’t just leave it at that.
This, on Murdoch’s performance at the recent hearing before MPs on the question of phone-hacking, for example:
Observers in the Portcullis room were divided on the efficacy of Murdoch’s testimony. Some thought his answers revealed a doddery, amnesiac, jetlagged octogenarian. He cupped his ear occasionally to ask for a question to be repeated; at one moment he referred to the prime minister, David Cameron, when he meant Alastair Campbell, former prime minister Tony Blair’s press adviser. Others saw the testimony as a guileful imitation of “junior”, the ageing mentor to Tony, the capo in the Sopranos, who feigned slippered incompetence to escape retribution. I thought, on the contrary, that Murdoch was a good witness, more direct than his son James, who unnervingly sported a buzz cut reminiscent of Nixon’s chief of staff, Bob Haldeman. His father was as taciturn as James was loquacious. Murdoch père paused to run each answer through his shrewd mental calculations of the legal implications of his own words, occasionally smiting the tabletop in front in a kind of brutal authoritarian emphasis that began to make his wife Wendi Deng distinctly nervous. She leant forward to restrain the militancy.
And then we have a rather more direct description of exactly how Murdoch is – even now – able to impose without having to take ownership for his “actions”:
How much Rupert Murdoch knew and when he knew it may not be pinned down because he exercises what the sociologist Max Weber defined as “charismatic authority” where policy derives from how the leader is perceived by others rather than by instructions or traditions. The concept of charismatic authority as applied to the Murdoch empire may be best understood – as a concept, I emphasise, and not a personal comparison – in the use made of Weber’s definition by Sir Ian Kershaw, historian of the Third Reich. Kershaw argues that Hitler was not much absorbed by the day-to-day details of Nazi Germany’s domestic policy, but was nonetheless a dominant dictator. Kershaw explains the paradox by adopting the phrase of a Prussian civil servant who said the bureaucrats were always “working towards the Fuhrer”. They were forever attempting to win favour by guessing what the boss wanted or might applaud but might well not have asked for. Similarly, in all Murdoch’s far-flung enterprises, the question is not whether this or that is a good idea, but “What will Rupert think?”. [...]
A couple of more comparisons before I finish with the reality that genuinely shocks me today. On the one hand, on Robert Maxwell – at one point Murdoch’s direct competitor:
Maxwell was the meat axe, a muddler, a volatile sentimentalist, a bully and a crook.
Then, on the other hand, a thumbnail sketch of dear old Rupert:
Murdoch is the stiletto, a man of method, a cold-eyed manipulator.
And, finally, this story, as News International proposes to draw a line under its behaviours – and thus, paradoxically, perpetuate them – through its tried and tested method of buying off injured parties with wads of dosh:
Milly Dowler’s family have been offered a multimillion-pound settlement by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, in an attempt to settle the phone-hacking case that led to closure of the News of the World and the resignation of the company’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks.
It is understood that News International has made a settlement offer estimated by sources at more than £2m, a figure that includes a donation to charity. But the publisher and media group has not reached agreement with the Dowler family, whose lawyers were thought to be seeking a settlement figure of closer to £3.5m.
So that’s all right then.
But how can we possibly contextualise this? Well, we could do it on the basis of annual turnover. The BBC reports $32.7 billion in the year to June 2010 (the profit report here). What does the figure mentioned above of £3.5 million really represent, then, to a man like Rupert Murdoch? You know what I mean: for sorting out the pain and grief to the Dowler family, as far as this may be possible – and as a consequence of a set of behaviours his empire might arguably appear to have been built on.
How about – and as I’m feeling generous tonight – rounding up to a princely sum of 0.02 percent? I think I got that right – maths was never my strong suit, mind. So I’m happy to be corrected by anyone who’d like to doublecheck.
But let’s just say – for argument’s sake – that I am actually right. We then have a figure for compensation for this massively high-profile case – a case which, remember, has led to the closure of Murdoch’s best-selling newspaper – of 0.02 percent of annual turnover.
And yes, that’s the turnover of just one piddling year!
Whilst the phone-hacking and the competitive advantages it brought his newspaper empire have apparently been going on for at least a decade.
Now if you didn’t have that money, that’d be curtains for this company. But since the spare cash is apparently lying around, and the will to pay it out is similarly prevalent, it looks like Mr Murdoch – “the stiletto, the man of method, a cold-eyed manipulator” if there ever was one – will get his own way yet again.
Even in the case of Milly Dowler.
Even in such horrifying circumstances.
Even after everything that’s happened in the past six months.
So do his shareholders really have nothing more to say on this matter?