Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Fall of the House of Murdoch

As anyone who reads UK news and many who do not by now know, there has been an enormous flap over media mogul Rupert Murdoch, set off by revelations that people working for one of his newspapers had been acquiring information in ways that were not only illegal but arguably very reprehensible—in one case apparently destroying evidence relevant to a murder investigation in the process of accessing the voicemail of the victim. Results at this point include his shutting down the newspaper in question, cancelling, at least for the moment, his attempt to expand his ownership of an important satellite TV firm, and much else.

And as anyone who interacts much with people from the U.K. probably also knows, Murdoch is not merely a random media mogul. He is viewed by everyone in Britain left of center, and probably some who are not, as the diabolical ally of Margaret Thatcher and several of her successors in their project to destroy Britain. Hence quite a lot public gloating at his difficulties.

Which started me thinking about the miniseries.

The puzzle is why all of this happened when it did. The various misdeeds occurred years ago, and although not all were revealed publicly, enough were to send two of the people responsible to jail. The most offensive—the hacking into a child murder victim's voice mail—only became generally known recently, and seems to have been the spark that set off the current conflagration. But if I read the accounts correctly, pretty much everything important was known to at least some people other than Murdoch's, and in most cases to some law enforcement people—one part of the scandal is the strong suggestion of corruption or incompetence by Scotland Yard. So why now?

The obvious explanation is that it is not an accident. Someone has been plotting against Murdoch, accumulating scraps of evidence, lining up allies, getting everything prepared—and the trap has now been sprung. But who?

There is a simple and obvious answer, although for some reason it does not appear to have occurred to anyone else. Early in Murdoch's rise to power he clashed with, and I gather ultimately defeated, his predecessor, media mogul Robert Maxwell. Men like that hold grudges.

Maxwell was born in 1923, so is not yet ninety, so not too old for political and financial intrigue. It is true that he is reported to have died about twenty years ago. But it was a very convenient time for him to die, since his empire was collapsing around him, so perhaps one ought not to rely too confidently on his being actually dead.

The plot outline for the miniseries is now clear. Robert Maxwell, having faked his own death, has been patiently intriguing for twenty years from the shadow of the grave to get his revenge on the man who supplanted him. The plot has finally reached its culmination, leaving Murdoch struggling for financial and political survival.

Only in the final episode do we discover the real truth about Maxwell. Considered as a plot device, faking your own death is so Twentieth Century. Nowadays we have ... other alternatives.

(The assistance of research by posters in the newsgroup, none of whom have any responsibility for my conclusions, gratefully acknowledged.)


jdgalt said...

My first reaction was to say something sarcastic involving tinfoil hats and Illuminatus! But the more I look at today's politics, on both sides of the aisle, the more I think we should at least consider believing in some conspiracy theories.

While the Left's demonization of the Koch brothers is certainly overblown and ridiculous, there are certainly groups on their side that make the Medici look like amateurs. I can name at least three: George Soros and his dozens of foundations; SEIU/ACORN and the hundreds of front groups it operates; and the eco-terror groups detailed at

By comparison, I don't much fear the half-dozen conglomerates that now provide most of the rich world's phone, Internet, TV, movies, and music -- they're just out to make money, and anyone who pays them enough can use their services. (Though I'm very wary of any regulatory proposal that would make it harder for new firms to enter those markets.)

People whose drive is power naturally want money as a means to power, but people whose drive is money don't care about power -- they can achieve their ends quite well simply by being useful to the powerful.

Jonathan said...

Nice idea!

Andrew said...

By US standards everyone in the UK is left-of-center.