I remember when I first read about Rupert Murdoch as a kid, how he barnstormed the British media in the 1960s and published anything that might put the nation’s panties in a bunch: its journalistic establishment, its finance establishment, its trade union establishment, its royal establishment. You name it, if it was a pillar of something-or-other, he wanted to chop it down. Then I learned about his blackheartedness, his don’t give a damn attitude and total lack of self-awareness and accountability. God help me, I thought, I love a psychotic.
While I worked at Dow Jones, we all watched as Rupert Murdoch outfoxed the utterly dundering Bancroft family, owners of The Wall Street Journal. Somehow he managed it so that the family’s only representative on the board was a 27-year-old aspiring opera singer. Even then I reckoned, well, if the family that owns this paper doesn’t realize what a jewel it has, maybe they don’t deserve to own it.
We were also sick of the Bancrofts doing things like selling off all their Dow Jones stock while insisting on keeping their controlling power. It seemed dysfunctional and cheap. Despite his faults, Murdoch was never cheap with the paper — in fact, he’s been spending on it like a drunken sailor — and he seemed to genuinely love and covet it. With Murdoch, coveting is the most you can ask for.
Since then, many have left the Journal, as not everyone favors Murdoch’s rarefied brand of journalism. And while he used to go after the establishment, it seems now what he has always desired was to become the establishment.
And he’s succeeded.
But few expected the Murdoch brand of journalism to include hacking phones. For a long time, it’s been known throughout Britain that celebrities’ phones were being hacked. But the tabloid culture in the U.K. has always been off-the-hook absurd. People yawned. Only in recent days have we learned that the phones of kidnapped girls who ended up dead were hacked, the mobiles of dead soldiers.
And yet some of the media has been slow to decry the so-called Last Tycoon. Consider the phalanx of stories over the past week with shots of Murdoch being deluged by flashbulbs with headlines like, “The Murdoch Style, Under Pressure.”
The Murdoch style? Are you kidding me?
If the rising-star, take-no-prisoners Murdoch of yesteryear had faced the ailing Murdoch of today, we have no doubt what he would have done. Shown no mercy.