Over the decades, each phase in Rupert Murdoch’s rise to media dominion has taken on a dreamlike quality, with the central players acting and speaking in ways that are simply incredible.
A lordly British minister would describe his decision to let Murdoch gobble up The Times and Sunday Times of London as quite independent of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, though colleagues could plainly see the lady alongside, urging him on.
Reagan officials, examining U.S. media law, could see no obstacle to Murdoch becoming the boss of Fox—though the relevant provisions were perfectly visible to informed observers.
More recently, Britain’s culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has made a habit of claiming that his decision to let News Corp turn its effective control of British satellite TV into a 100 percent monopoly had nothing to do with Prime Minister David Cameron’s close links to certain squalid outriders of Emperor Rupert’s horde. Until a week or so ago, no one but Hunt’s mother could believe it; now even Hunt himself has reconsidered.
The standard explanation for these unpersuasive performances is that political movers everywhere are peculiarly terrified of Murdoch. But that’s misleading nonsense.
Politicians aren’t usually cowards. Fear does play a role, but chiefly as the aversion all political elites feel for authentic journalism—and from which Murdoch actually protects them by anesthetizing those media enterprises that fall into his hands.
Political figures such as Britain’s Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minister David Cameron fear not Murdoch himself but the threat that he would unleash his media enterprises to commit authentic journalism. (…)