STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Murdoch Goes Off
By Staff News & Analysis - April 23, 2010

Staff at The Independent newspaper have been stunned by an unexpected and angry visit to their offices by the rival newspaper proprietor James Murdoch (left), chief executive of News Corp Europe and Asia. On Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Murdoch walked into The Independent's newsroom in Kensington, central London, carrying a copy of the newspaper. He was accompanied by Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, which publishes The Times and The Sun among others. The newspaper he was carrying was one of 300,000 Independents being distributed for free in the UK that day with a special wraparound front page advertising The Independent's claim to freedom from proprietorial interference. The advert stated: "Rupert Murdoch won't decide this election – you will." The younger Mr. Murdoch reached the busy editorial desk where The Independent's editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner, was planning the following day's edition with colleagues, and brandished the newspaper in his hand "What are you f–king playing at?" Mr. Murdoch asked Mr. Kelner in a loud voice and in front of dozens of bemused journalists. – Financial Times

Dominant Social Theme: Facing down innuendos.

Free-Market Analysis: There are many reasons why James Murdoch, the son of perhaps the most powerful media mogul in the world, might have wanted to confront his father's detractors. It could simply have been personal pique or perhaps he could have had some sort of professional or competitive motivation. But we prefer to think that, at least partially, the younger Murdoch's outburst is evidence of the pressure being felt by the powers-that-be as regards their role in society and various exposures of it.

Thanks in large part to the Internet, there has been over the past several decades an amazing outpouring of information and analysis having to do with economic and political structure of Western governance. A sizeable minority of citizens in both Europe and America may now believe that the civil structures of society do not necessarily represent the underlying truth. These individuals, and their numbers have likely been growing thanks to the latest economic crisis, may believe that their societies are manipulated secretly by the powers-that-be in ways that are not immediately apparent.

From our point of view this is a perfectly reasonable assessment of modernity. And as a corollary, It is perfectly possible, in our estimation, that the power elite is growing increasingly sensitive to such charges. Here's some more from the article:

The incident astonished experienced journalists who witnessed it. "In 30 years, I have never seen anything like it. It was so utterly bizarre," one senior journalist said. News Corp declined to comment.

"If Rupert Murdoch's private life had been under attack, I could understand why it would excite so much anger, but to suggest that by saying he tried to influence elections you were damaging his reputation does seem quite extraordinary," said Steve Barnett, professor of media at the University of Westminster.

He said: "[Rupert] Murdoch himself told a House of Lords committee [in 2007] that he influenced what was in the editorial comment sections of his tabloid newspapers and in 1992 The Sun claimed that it had won the election on behalf of John Major."

In this election campaign, The Sun and News of the World have come out in favour of the Conservative party. In the past week, both papers have reacted very strongly against a surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, which could see David Cameron's Conservative party failing to win a majority in parliament. Last month, The Independent papers were bought by Alexander Lebedev, the Russian multimillionaire who also owns the London Evening Standard.

We have often wondered what it would be like to be part of an increasingly visible power elite, given the amount of attention that is paid to it on the Internet. We believe the power elite, possessed of enormous wealth and influence, functions best behind the scenes. But increasingly those who make up its ranks do not have the option of anonymity. Instead, they have been subject to intense scrutiny, almost daily. There are thousands of sites and chat rooms devoted to analyzing the elite, its methodologies and plans for the future.

Is it possible that Murdoch's outburst was a yelp of frustration over how his father and his family are being perceived – and profiled? It cannot be easy to read articles impugning your motives, morals and business strategies on a day-to-day basis. Murdoch in fact, comes in for a sizable amount of opprobrium, and we imagine, in fact, that it must be quite tiring. Maybe Murdoch, the son, just snapped, at least momentarily.

After Thoughts

There is no doubt that the Internet has upped a certain level of scrutiny. And if the economy sours further, or movements like the Tea Party continue to grow, then further challenges could be mounted to power elite dominance. At some point, public identification with such an elite might become a positive hindrance and generally a detriment. It is certainly possible that young Murdoch (whatever the real, underlying reasons for his outburst) in denying his father's influence and authority, was acknowledging that possibility.

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